Did you take a holiday? Not yet. Then you unusually miss the fun that ‘Rural Tourism’ essentially provides. To refresh and unwind the stress of the urban lifestyle, escaping the maze of the city landscape to the pristine beauty and silence of a village becomes an appealing prospect.
It is seen that tourism is likely to be a growing industry in India. Many national and international tourism-based companies understood the tremendous potential the industry has. It’s simple. People’s interest in travel and desire to explore nature and religious sites which India is rich off.
“Tourism is likely to be a growing industry in India for some time. Tourism in India is expected to play a key role in the country’s economic growth, human resource, culture, wealth of the country in terms of foreign exchange earnings, etc,” says AK Mohapatra, Orissa Tourism Head.
To make things more comfortable for the tourists and the tourism industry, WanderMust, a Delhi-based tourism company, came up with the concept ‘visit a native place’. The concept signifies to attract and involve the tourists in the activity which takes place in the countryside. It is multi-faceted and may entail farm/agricultural tourism, cultural tourism, nature tourism, adventure tourism, and eco-tourism.
WanderMust is in talks to develop the Lahaul-Spiti region for the Buddhist Circuit in far-flung monasteries of Himachal. It will have a direct bearing on local culture, socio-economic patterns of life, traditions, food habits, language, values and ethics of the local people due to frequent visits of national and international tourists to attractive tourist destinations.
Raja Chatterjee, MD, WanderMust, shares, “It is the villages where the soul of India resides. If you wish to experience India, come and see it at its utmost simplified best – the rural Indian village life. It has taken centuries to develop and achieve the tranquil rural Indian lifestyle. And what better resort you may have than staying in complete solitude bliss, far from the madding crowd.”
People often visit tourist locations with a mind-set to have a flavor of pilgrimage, cultural heritage and nature. Sometimes they simply wish to get away from the monotony of routine life. People not only rejuvenate from these visits but also directly contribute for the growth of the local economy through the hospitality, handicraft industry and secondary occupations including tourists guide, carriers, etc., adds Chatterjee.
“Personally, a small sabbatical in the solace of Himalayas, or in the laps of Lahaul-Spiti can relieve all mundane worries and general chores of your daily routine,” he says. Not surprising then, this very arduous Lawyer of the Supreme Court of India has been doing the same for the past decade. These ways not only does he work but enjoy doing his passion – travelling.
Kumar Rahul, a professor at Ramjas College, Delhi University, has been an avid rural traveler and explorer. For the past couple of years, he has been known to travel off the beaten track. “People throng the main-stay hill stations like Darjeeling, but how many actually back pack to the remote villages of Kalimpong and Kurseong nearby. The majestic view of Kanchenjunga and the peace of the place take from you all the humdrum of city life. I stay in villages often mixing with village folk and relishing the local lifestyle. Just a couple of books, a nice cup of tea, and yes, the clean air, detoxifies all from within, as you savour all the goodness of pace in the hills,” he shares.
A national tourism policy was introduced in 2002, with rural tourism identified as a focus area to generate employment and promote sustainable livelihoods. According to this policy, special thrust should be imparted to rural tourism and tourism in small settlements, where sizable assets of our culture and natural wealth exist.
“As a part of the National Tourism Policy 2002, the Ministry of Tourism is developing and promoting rural tourism sites which have core competency in art, craft, culture, heritage, handloom, etc.,” says Chatterjee.
As part of its 2002 plan, the government partnered with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) for an Endogenous Tourism Project. Some 30 rural sites were selected in 20 states to develop as destinations for rural tourists. The UNDP pumped in an initial US$2.5 million. The government asked the states and union territories to submit proposals. Those that were selected got an allocation of US$100,000.
On the other hand, Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) is focusing on targeting leisure and MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions)segment in India. The organisation is expecting about 1.2 lakh Indians travelling to Korea this year. KTO recently organised a two-city roadshow in Delhi and Mumbai in order to promote the destination’s tourism offerings.
Positive about the growing number of Indian visitors to Korea, KTO is hopeful of welcoming half a million Indian tourists to the destination within 10 years. Last year around 1,44,000 Indians visited Korea, recording more than 20 percent growth compared to 2013. KTO is aiming for similar growth numbers this year and is tapping different traveller segments mainly MICE and leisure. As a part of its effort to draw more of these traveller segments, KTO recently organised its annual incentive roadshow for MICE travel in Mumbai to push Seoul, Busan and Jeju Island as ideal MICE destinations in the Indian market.
Much of the employment potential will be concerned with rural tourism where unemployment and lack of occupation are key issues for the local people and a large number of people live below the poverty level. Rural tourism has been neglected in India for a variety of factors including lack of infrastructure, civic amenities, lack of publicity, and peoples’ awareness and accessibility to tourist locations. As a result, tourists from the home country and overseas prefer to visit urban tourist sites.
Ranjan Kumar Sahoo, an assistant professor of Rural Management, shares, “Rural tourism is a form of tourism in which the guests get to enjoy the unique culture of village life through participation in events, or experiencing the local cuisine, or buying ethnic goods, and in the process also improve the welfare of the local people.”
One of the success stories is Hodka village in Gujarat. A village tourism committee owns and operates the Shaam-e-Sharhad (“Sunset at the Border”) Village Resort. Among the attractions: specially organised workshops in embroidery and leather work; interactions with other artisan communities; wildlife including flamingos, pelicans, foxes and leopards; and nearby archaeological sites of the Indus Valley Civilization. They even organise a pashu mela (cattle fair).
Far away from Hodka, in the northeastern state of Meghalaya, is Mawlynnong. A magazine along with the Union Ministry of Tourism anointed it the cleanest village in Asia. It has retained its charms. “Mawlynnong’s reputation for cleanliness has even earned it a place on the state’s tourism map. Hundreds of visitors from all over India now visit the village throughout the year,” says Zhuang Wubin, member of North-East Tourism . Mawlynnong also attracts tourists from around the world.
The Tourism Industry is heralding a new dawn altogether. By conserving what nature has best to offer and reintroducing the increasingly urban population to their roots, Rural Tourism seeks to bridge the gap between ‘Nature and Nurture’. And in this new perspective, India is opening the doors of its distant and remote villages to the tourists who wish to experience an authentic experience.