“India is not Calcutta and Bombay; India lives in her seven hundred thousand villages.” – Mahatma Gandhi
India has always taken pride in its rural areas. The rural economy constitutes 46% of national income. However, contrary to popular belief, in rural India, according to a 2017 NITI Aayog report, about two-thirds of income is now generated in non-agricultural activities. It is witnessing a transition from agriculture to non-farm sectors. These include manufacturing, construction, and service sectors.
The Ministry of Tourism and the Central Government has been hard at work to promote domestic or rural tourism, due to the potential it has. From the Swadesh Darshan Scheme to Dekho Apna Desh, the initiatives aim at promoting rural-based tourism in the country, to boost the rural economy and the tourism sector of the country.
What is Rural Tourism?
Any form of tourism that showcases the rural life, art, culture, and heritage at rural locations, benefits the local community economically and socially and enables interaction between the tourists and the locals is termed as rural tourism.
It can be in the form of agricultural tourism, cultural tourism, nature tourism, adventure, or ecotourism. Rural Tourism is also on a rise due to ‘experiential tourism’ culture among the tourists.
Rural tourism offers great opportunity to promote sustainable and responsible tourism. There are several unexplored places in the country that have tourism potential. For instance, on Jan 16, 2022, India tourism, Imphal organized a village tour under the campaign of “Dekho Apna Desh” to explore the unexplored Yangkhullen village of Manipur, also known as the Hanging Village.
Rural tourism boosts the rural economy, provides employment opportunities, and infrastructural growth in the related areas. Moreover, it can help revitalize local art and crafts and prevent viable traditional occupations from being displaced. For eg, Odisha’s Raghurajpur is famous for its Pattachitra art and attracts tourists from all over.
It is also a way towards attaining Atmanirbhar Bharat, vocal for local products, and has been empowering the rural population by way of recognition and employment opportunities.
The Ministry of Tourism is promoting rural tourism through various initiatives. It launched the Swadesh Darshan Scheme for Integrated Development of theme-based Tourist Circuits for the development of tourism infrastructure including last-mile connectivity in the country.
Further, the Ministry has identified Rural Circuit as one of fifteen thematic circuits identified for development under this scheme. The Swadesh Darshan scheme aims at creating employment through active involvement of local communities and promoting community-based development and a pro-poor tourism approach.
Development of Bhitiharwa-Chandrahia-Turkaulia in Bihar and Development of Malanad Malabar Cruise tourism in Kerala are few of its examples.
The Ministry has also instituted a National Tourism Award in the category of ‘Best Rural/ Agri/ Plantation Tourism projects’ to motivate the stakeholders in the tourism sector for implementing such projects.
Then, the Shyama Prasad MukherjiRurban Mission (SPMRM) of the Ministry of Rural Development is identifying village clusters that preserve and nurture the essence of rural community life. Under the Mission, 300 clusters are being developed across 28 States and 8 Union Territories.
In addition to the above, the Government has actively been engaging in public platforms, conducting awareness interactions, and holding contests for popularising domestic tourism in India.