It is not that the concept is not workable. In absence of any promotional activity for rural tourism, thousands of foreign tourists visit rural areas in Rajasthan, Gujarat and south India every year. This itself is the proof of viability of the concept of rural tourism.

The government, of late, has realised what the rural India can offer to the world. The Tenth Plan has identified tourism as one of the major sources for generating employment and promoting sustainable livelihoods. The Union ministry of tourism in collaboration with UNDP has launched the Endogenous Tourism Project linked to the existing rural tourism scheme of the government. The UNDP has committed $ 2.5 million for the project. UNDP will help in areas of capacity building, involvement of NGOs, local communities and artisans, forge strong community-private and public sector partnerships. The the government has decided to develop necessary infrastructure for facilitating rural tourism.

So far the government has identified 31 villages across the country as tourist spots. These are - Pochampalli in Nalgonda district and Srikalahasti in Chittor district in Andhra Pradesh, Durgapur in Golaghat district and Sualkuchi in Kamrup district in Assam, Nepura in Nalanda district in Bihar, Chitrakote and Nagarnar in Bastar district in Chhattisgarh, Hodka in Kachchh district in Gujarat, Jyotisar in Kurukshetra district in Haryana, Naggar in Kullu district in Himachal Pradesh, Banavasi in Uttar Kannada district in Karnataka, Aranmulla in Pathanamthitta district and Kumbalanghi in Kochi district in Kerala, Chaugan in Mandla district and Pranpur in Ashok Nagar district in Madhya Pradesh, Sulibhanjan-Khultabad in Aurangabad district in Maharashtra, Pipili and Raghurajpur in Puri district in Orissa, Rajasansi in Amritsar district in Punjab, Neemrana in Alwar district, Samode in Jaipur district and Haldighati in Rajsamand district in Rajasthan, Lachen in North District in Sikkim, Karaikudi in Sivaganga district and Kazhugumalai in Thoothukudi district in Tamil Nadu, Kamlasagar in West Tripura district in Tripura, Bhaguwala in Saharanpur district in Uttar Pradesh, Jageshwar in Almora district and Mana in Chamoli district in Uttaranchal, Ballabhpur Danga in Birbhum district and Mukutmanipur in Bankura district in West Bengal.

This does not mean that India has only 31 potential tourist spots in rural areas. There are many more. These spots have been selected on pilot basis keeping in view available infrastructure. There are many other spots of potential tourist interest where adequate infrastructure needs to be developed.

Some state have by their own initiatives have begun promoting rural tourism. For instance the forest department of the Uttaranchal government has set up ‘Centre for Ecotourism and Sustainable Livelihoods’. This centre aims at capacity building of local communities and promotion of rural tourism.

The pilot project on endogenous tourism is rightly conceived with the involvement of central and state governments and all stakeholders. Concerned district administration and the local NGOs are partners. The central government has pledged assistance to the states amounting to Rs 0.5 million for developing a site for rural tourism.

The project conceives to establish common facility centres for craft persons and village ‘Kala Kendras’ (arts & craft centres) to showcase the arts and crafts, history and culture, nature and heritage of the identified sites. The project will facilitate construction of ‘Vishram Sthals’ (rest houses for tourists). These ‘Vishram Sthals’ will be made using locally available materials and traditional skills and knowledge of building and construction. With a view to provide services of global standards, local communities will be trained in different aspects of hospitability, lodging and cuisine.

Tourism is one of the major earner of foreign exchange for the country. Rural tourism will definitely add more to what we earn in foreign exchange. Rural tourism will hasten the process of development and give a chance to the village folks to interact with the outside world. It will also boost employment opportunities in rural areas and the products of rural artisan will find a ready market.

India resides in village and for the world to know the real spirit of India, it is essential to have a peep into the rural areas. The government had earlier conceived of a Buddhist Tourism Circuit comprising of places of pilgrim interest. This project is in progress. Rural India has a lot to offer to the world!

Read full article at Hyderabad News