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