(The Gist of Kurukshetra) RURAL TOURISM- SHOWCASING INDIA’S RURAL HERITAGE [APRIL-2019]


(The Gist of Kurukshetra) RURAL TOURISM- SHOWCASING INDIA’S RURAL HERITAGE

[APRIL-2019]


RURAL TOURISM- SHOWCASING INDIA’S RURAL HERITAGE

Introduction

  •  The tourism industry the world over is going through a great shift in ideas and beliefs. Today, fuelled by a massive increase in purchasing power and development of faster and cheaper modes of travel, more and more people are travelling across the world. The purpose of travels now tends to be more of leisure and increasingly so for getting to know new things and experiencing cultures, cuisine, traditions, etc. This kind of travel is y called 'experiential travel'.
  •  Today, the discerning traveler is prepared to go greater distances and to previously unknown places to get the unique experience and to also cater to her own special interest. The tourist is also looking at being a responsible traveler, about giving back to the community and interacting with the host community so that they have a visible stake in the whole development of the region. India's tourism attractions, as we know, are large and varied.
  •  Our culture, which is both syncretic and dates back to ancient times, is our most visible attraction. The great monuments ranging from that symbol of eternal love, Taj Mahal to the great temples of South India, the majestic forts of Rajasthan as well as the wide and varied landscape of snowcapped mountains, golden beaches, rich forests and verdant deserts all make India an 'Incredible' destination.
  •  India also has many products to offer to the tourists who travel keeping a special interest in mind be it Medical and Wellness Tourism, be it Golf courses and be it Adventure Sports, India has it all. India is well known for its unique cultural heritage, in which lies its competitive strength. India clearly recognizes the inherent relationship between tourism and its cultural assets.
  •  India has a vast array of arts and craft spread through the length and breadth of the state.
  •  The conservation, preservation and integrated development of the areas around these art and crafts not only provides an additional opportunity for growth and expansion of rural and heritage tourism in India but also enhances the experience of the tourist - domestic and foreign visiting such sites.

Tangible heritage

  •  While tangible heritage has been in the mainstream of tourism development in India, the intangible or living tourism has tremendous scope for increasing India's tourism offering not only to the world, but also to its own citizens.
  •  The intangible heritage includes folklore, cuisine, customary practices, etc.
  •  Almost all districts of India are endowed with these intangible heritages which can be identified and developed for providing new cultural experiences to tourists opportunity for growth and expansion of rural and heritage tourism in India but also enhances the experience of the tourist - domestic and foreign visiting such sites.
  •  While tangible heritage has been in the mainstream of tourism development in India, the intangible or living tourism has tremendous scope for increasing India's tourism offering not only to the world, but also to its own citizens.
  •  The intangible heritage includes folklore, cuisine, customary practices, etc. Almost all districts of India are endowed with these intangible heritages which can be identified and developed for providing new cultural experiences to tourists.

The National Tourism Policy

  •  The National Tourism Policy of India recognizes that special thrust should be imparted to rural tourism and tourism in small settlements, where sizeable assets of our cultural and natural wealth exist.
  •  Rural tourism is defined as, 'any form of tourism that showcases the rural life, art, culture and heritage at rural locations, thereby benefiting the local community economically and socially as well as enabling interaction between the tourists and the locals for a more enriching tourism experience'.
  •  This concept of Rural Tourism is definitely useful and holds significance for a country like India, where almost 69 per cent of the population resides in about 7 million villages.
  •  The concept has now been taken forward by many states as well. Kerala has been at the forefront of developing the Rural Tourism model and evolving it under the greater ambit of

Responsible Tourism.

  •  The award winning Kerala Responsible Tourism projects in Kumarakom, Wyanad and other locations combine a unique model of involving the local community and getting the visitor experience the village life with the local stakeholders as the story tellers.
  •  This instills a great pride in the villagers who would otherwise have abandoned their traditional way of life for the city.

Flowed example

  •  Another success story is in Sikkim which has empowered many village communities to develop tourism experiences including homestays thus spreading the tourism product evenly and away from the traditional destinations.
  •  This also helps in increasing the carrying capacity of the tourism product. Sikkim is also leveraging its rural tourism product with its distinction of being India's first organic state.
  •  Such a development model has the communities' involvement at the grass roots level and everyone gets a equal stake in the whole process.
  •  Following the success of such public sector initiatives, there have been some notable initiatives
    coming up from the private sector. The projects in Rajasthan including in Samode and Mandawa have come up on a public-private model.
  •  A noteworthy mention is of the Govardhan Eco-Village in Maharashtra which won the UNWTO Ulysses Award for Innovation.
  •  The institution has developed the village into a community that has a symbiotic relationship with the visitors and has increased both community participation as well as helped in raising income levels and education in this once backward area.

Scope of rural tourism

  •  There is, therefore, immense scope for development of the concept of Rural tourism and Village Life Experiences across the country. However, some challenges still remain. Chief amongst the challenges are that of marketing.
  •  The communities by their very nature have very little avenues for marketing of the products both nationally and internationally. Therefore, with the lack of sufficient marketing infrastructure, those projects which are not very well linked with the traditional tourism circuits have not been able to do well.
  •  The Rural Tourism Kerala Mission is an example of a successful marketing effort by the State Government of Kerala. More such efforts are required both at the international level and at the domestic levels.
  •  Awareness is being created about the various products and destinations including Rural Tourism amongst the trade and consumers by participating in exhibitions and by organizing road shows etc. as part of ongoing promotional activities.

Conclusion

  •  India's rich cultural, historical, religious and natural heritage provides a huge potential for development of tourism and job creation in the country and it would be fit to quote Mahatma Gandhi again, "India perishes if her villages perish".
  •  Therefore, it is imperative on our part to nurture the villages and preserve that simple way of life for future generations. Rural Tourism therefore, goes a long way in keeping that tradition alive.

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