Ru­ral Tourism with clus­ter vil­lages

In­te­grat­ing the lives of ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties with tourism to de­velop sus­tain­able and re­spon­si­ble forms of tourism is the new watch­word. And, it is es­sen­tial to sus­tain the cul­tural her­itage to help de­velop Ru­ral Tourism.

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“The process of iden­ti­fy­ing the clus­ter is an im­por­tant task. This clus­ter then needs to be ap­proved by the travel trade as well. Thus, Pun­jab Tourism had in­vited ADTOI and IATO for a reiki check be­fore the project took off,” he in­formed.

Ru­ral Tourism is not mass tourism. The chal­lenge lies in ready­ing, the ex­ist­ing as­sets of the re­gion, to suit the trav­ellers in­ter­ests. There is a need to de­velop ‘rain­bow tourists’ who want to travel the whole spec­trum for niche and ex­pe­ri­en­tial tourism ex­pe­ri­ence, feels Sud­hir Sahi, Con­sul­tant for Pun­jab Tourism and ex- Con­sul­tant for UNDP for their ru­ral tourism project. Ac­cord­ing to Sahi, in­te­grat­ing the lives and oc­cu­pa­tions of ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties with tourism to de­velop sus­tain­able and re­spon­si­ble forms of tourism is the new watch­word. “Tourism and de­vel­op­ment are two sides of the same coin. How­ever, we for­get the rim of the coin – the en­vi­ron­ment. Go­ing for­ward, it is es­sen­tial to sus­tain the cul­tural her­itage of the area and this is cru­cial for de­vel­op­ing Ru­ral Tourism in In­dia,” he says.

The con­cept of de­vel­op­ing a clus­ter of vil­lages rather than pro­mot­ing a stand-alone vil­lage for tourism is now gain­ing its ground. Talk­ing about the re­cent ini­tia­tive of Pun­jab Tourism in this re­gard, Sahi in­forms that the Pun­jab Gov­ern­ment has iden­ti­fied a clus­ter of four vil­lages in Rup­na­gar dis­trict, on the banks of river Sut­lej, to boost Ru­ral Tourism. These four vil­lages - Katli, Ba­hadarpur, Tibba Tap­par­ian and Ran­jit­pura Bas will be de­vel­oped with in­fra­struc­ture, to pro­vide a new ru­ral ex­pe­ri­ence to the tourists. Boosted by the 5.29 per cent in­crease in tourism in 2011 in Pun­jab, the prime ob­jec­tive of pro­mot­ing Ru­ral Tourism is, to bring the vis­i­tors closer, to the rich cul­tural her­itage of Pun­jab.

Sahi fur­ther spoke re­gard­ing, the role of the travel trade fra­ter­nity, in bring­ing aware­ness in Ru­ral Tourism.

Giv­ing in­for­ma­tion about the United Nations De­vel­op­ment Pro­gramme (UNDP) for Ru­ral Tourism, he re­veals, “The Min­istry of Tourism had kick­started a ru­ral tourism ini­tia­tive with the UNDP in 2002 at 36 sites in 20 states. The idea was to en­hance the ca­pac­ity build­ing in these sites.”

One of the key pre­req­ui­site for the suc­cess of any ru­ral tourism project is community in­volve­ment, the ru­ral tourism spe­cial­ist opines. The Hodka vil­lage in Gu­jarat, one of the suc­cess story of the project, also re­flects the same. A vil­lage tourism com­mit­tee owns and op­er­ates the Shaam-e-Sarhad (Sun­set at the Bor­der) Vil­lage Re­sort. Tourists can stay in tents or tra­di­tional mud huts. The re­sort can ac­com­mo­date up to 30 peo­ple. Among the at­trac­tions, there are spe­cial or­gan­ised work­shops on em­broi­dery and leather work and in­ter­ac­tions with other ar­ti­san com­mu­ni­ties.

Sud­hir Sahi

Con­sul­tant for Pun­jab Tourism and ex-Con­sul­tant for United Nations De­vel­op­ment Pro­gramme (UNDP)

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