Rural Tourism in India

Globally recognized Incredible India brand, now supported by the Ministry's new Explore Rural India sub-brand, is now strengthening a foreign visitors' attraction to India as a multiple-interest, all-season destination targeting higher yields. The objective is to showcase rural life, art, culture and heritage at rural locations and in villages, which have core competence in art & craft, handloom, and textiles as also an asset base in the natural environment. Besides, the intention is to benefit local communities economically and socially as well; and enabling interaction between foreign tourists and local population for a mutually enriching experience.

Rural tourism adds value through packaged programmes in art & craft imparted by skilled local artisans within each state. Village entertainment groups unveil local history and culture, natural and oral treasures. The visitor thus comes face to face with India's rural traditions. So far, 153 rural tourism projects in 28 States/Union Territories have been sanctioned by the Ministry of Tourism including 36 rural sites where UNDP has supported for capacity building.

The Village Level Council (VLC) is the main interactive forum for local community participation in work plan implementation, which is further supported by other community level institutions. The development of infrastructure in rural areas having potential for tourism is being supported under the existing scheme of destination development. Under this scheme, the major thrust is to promote village tourism as a primary tourism product to spread tourism and its socio-economic benefits to rural and its new geographic regions, thereby stopping the exodus from rural to urban areas.

Community participation in rural tourism has been strengthened through the site artisans' structured involvement in DilliHaat, Mega Craft Mela in cities such as Bhubaneswar, Aurangabad etc.; India@60 Roadshow in Singapore and Volvo Ocean Race in Cochin. During the India@60 event in Singapore, as part of a unique first-time highlight, eight skilled artisans from four of the Ministry's UNDP-partnered rural tourism locations showcased their site attraction through impressive on-site art & craft demonstration and display. The eight participating artisans, many of those who travelled overseas for the first time, gained first-hand exposure to international competitive, merchandising and promotional practices. This enabled their extensive direct interface with the tourism trade, consumers, craft stores, corporate organizations, and the media.

Wide media 28 Annual Report 2009-10 and trade focus were also shared at the World Tourism Mart (WTM) and International Tourism Bourse (ITB), the world's principal tourism forums. The artisans from 5 rural tourism sites participated in the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Travel Mart held in September 2008 to showcase their arts & crafts.

15 rural tourism sites had been selected as rural eco-holidays sites for Visit India Year 2009. Under this marketing campaign of Visit India Year 2009 foreign tourists were offered one night stay with breakfast on complimentary basis in any one of the chosen rural eco-holiday site. A few years back CNBC Awaaz Travel Awardwas awarded to Village Hodka, Distt. Kachchh, Gujarat for Best Tourism Income Generating Community and Village Naggar, Distt. Kullu, Himachal Pradesh for Tourism site under the category of Best Demonstrating Women Empowerment.

Ministry of Tourism (Incredible India) won the Global SASI (Shop America Salutes Innovation) Award Presented by National Geography Society for innovation in creating long lasting sustainable authentic shopping opportunities for travellers as well as residents of India. Also World Travel Award for most Responsible Tourism Destination was won by India at WTM-2008, London.

For a visitor, whose expenditure creates revenue for host community service providers; this further helps in building the community stronger on economic front and also allows them to contribute at a better level towards country's GDP, besides promoting tourism on global map. The project website www.exploreruralindia.org was upgraded, showcasing the first 29 sites of the Project's 36 sites which are now ready for marketing.

Ostensibly, these milestones have firmly established India's presence on Global charts, thus paving a path for promulgating rural tourism, most commendably.