The diverse terrain of India allows its tourism to be diverse. One very distinct and lucrative form of tourism among these multiple forms of traveling modules is Rural Tourism. Madhura Roy writes in Kurukshetra that, Rural tourism is, “experience oriented, the locations are sparsely populated, it is experience oriented, the locations are sparsely populated, it is pre-dominantly in natural environment, it meshes with and local events and is based on preservation of culture, heritage and tradition.”
Since 1991, the idea of Rural Tourism has steadily made its way in India– starting from West Sikkim in the form of a demo project by Help Tourism. Initially, a system was developed out of the resident families of the village whereby they catered to the lodging and food requirement of the tourists. Over the years the system has been replicated in several other areas of North-East. Farther places like Chettinad of Tamil Nadu and a number of zones in Rajasthan have also developed several systems in this direction, especially from the private sector.
Rural tourism has developed its various wings – Agricultural Tourism, Cultural Tourism, Nature Tourism, Adventure Tourism, Food Routes, Community Tourism and Ethno-Tourism. Most of these manifestations of Rural Tourism have already been explored or rather harnessed pretty well in India, but largely in an urban context or in the context of the usage of external agents. What is interesting is the wing of Agricultural Tourism.
Agricultural Tourism is a way of getting in direct touch with the processes involved in agricultural industry. If we look at this logically, then this kind of a sector has a lot of scope in India, since India is primarily an agricultural country. The variable topography of the country allows the usage of a variety of farming methods and that is precisely what acts in favor of the expansion of this kind of an industry. These places of tourism not only allow an insight into farming activities but also into bird watching, local walks, fishing, hiking, boating, folk shows, educational activities, camping, excursion and so on.
Due to the culmination of these two sectors, i.e. tourism and agriculture a new lucrative field has come up out of the existing resources, at minimal investment, thereby diversifying the areas of sources of income for the rural population. As we speak of the usage of existing resources, it is important to refer to the features of rural areas which can be treated as resources in this project of Rural Tourism in India. Dr Arvind Kumar Dubey of Indira Gandhi National Institute of Open Learning has highlighted these places in Kurukshetra.
According to him, natural reserves, Prehistoric Sites, Palaces, Wood Carvers, Mass Production Goods, Transport attractions, Theatre and street plays, Historical Fairs, Processions are some of the features which act as the resources out of which the whole plot of Rural Tourism as an industry comes together. From the economic point of view, the rise of Rural Tourism adds to the benefit of the rural areas. As the tourism sector will expand in the rural areas it will demand more labor and provide for more employment opportunities.
At the same a lot of exposure is brought to the local handicrafts industry. This potential of the Rural Tourism has been very well recognized by the government. The Government of India has proposed a number of schemes for the development and growth of Rural Tourism. Swadesh Darshan- Scheme Guidelines for Integrated Development of Theme Based Circuits, PRASAD (Pilgrimage Rejuvenation for Spiritual Augmentation Drive), Special Tourism Zones and e-Tourist Visa Facility being some of them [Kurukshetra].
Despite such efforts and possibilities, there are numerous impediments with which Rural Tourism is infested. The first is the lack of infrastructural facilities and financial support. Another issue is that of education and skill associated with the management of tourism and hospitality in a streamlined business format in certain rural areas. Since the potential of the ample amount of resources in such areas has already been recognized, hence the areas we need to focus upon might primarily include more effort in the direction of providing for more skill by means of training programmes and workshops. Moreover, a lot of focus is to be laid upon improving the infrastructural facilities and investment both from public and private sector.
-Contributed by Richa Bhatt
Picture Credits: holidify.com