Rural Tourism in Focus

The attractiveness of India as a rural tourism destination is hard to be missed, acknowledges an international conference highlighting rural tourism.

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The conference discussed various aspects of rural tourism.
The conference discussed various aspects of rural tourism.

As the interest of visitors is increasing in rural tourism, many destinations around the world and India have incorporated rural tourism products in their current range of product portfolios and have integrated it into their overall tourism strategy to attract more tourists to their country.

Considering the industry around rural tourism could generate additional revenue of around Rs. 4,300 crores, the contemporary research in the area of rural tourism becomes pertinent.

Exploring these aspects, a three-day international conference on ‘Rurality, Ruralism, and Rural Tourism – Challenges and Coping Strategies’ took place in the Capital recently.

This conference discussed future tourism trends, ideas, implications, and methodologies, theoretical and practical approaches for rural tourism development. Alongside, the conference offered perspectives on both inbound tourism from these markets to India and outbound tourism to these markets.

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The attractiveness of India as a rural tourism destination’, ‘Real vs staged debate in rural tourism’, ‘Rural tourism governance and community stake’, ‘Role of NGOs in development of rural tourism’, ‘capacity building for rural tourism’ etc. were some of the sub-themes on which research papers, policy documents and case studies were invited from the interested participants.

Organised by the Department of Tourism & Hospitality Management (DTHM), Jamia Millia Islamia, and sponsored by Ministry of Tourism, the conference was attended by delegates from eminent tourism institutes from India and 25 other countries.

The conference aimed to benefit the local community economically and socially as well as enable interaction between tourists and local population for a mutually enriching experience.

“Incredible India is now a globally recognised brand. The brand is augmented by the Ministry’s new “Explore Rural India” sub-brand,” the panellists noted.

Rural tourism development models were proposed based on the case studies taken up in the French Massif Central, China, Thenmala Village, Kanda, Haryana and Pingla. The panel discussed the meaning of the word Rural Tourism in the broader sense, defining it as a non-specific term that encompasses the spectrum. There were also pointers from the panellists on the choice of target tourists and customers as well as the implementation of set programs.

Inaugurated by Vinod Zutshi, Ex Secretary Ministry of Tourism and Nagesh Singh, Ex Additional Secretary, Ministry of Rural Development Govt. of India (GOI), the valedictory function was presided over by Manish Sisodia, the Deputy Chief Minister and Minister of the Tourism, Government of Delhi.

The event showcased rural life, art, culture, and heritage at rural locations and in villages, which have core competence in art and craft. Handloom, textiles, and also an asset base in the natural environment was highlighted. The event also discussed the possibilities of launching Association of Rural Tourism in India (ARTI).

One of the sessions also focussed on sustainable tourism literature and the various coping strategies to promote tourism in rural areas. It explained in detail that rural local residents have an undeniable right and gains and losses of planning and development in their living places where the people practiced a symbiosis with their environment. Attention was knuckled down on the ways rural tourism can assist the local residents of the areas thus contributing to rural development as the main objective of basic research in the field was to offer guidelines for which the tourism industry and the society can enjoy bilateral benefits in this long-term contribution.

“All the speakers underscored ways of succour, the kind of tourism provided as a remedy against the economical difficulties while also bringing to the limelight the pros of it as an industry that is labour-intensive and has a multiplying effect in the economy and significantly has no environment degrading factors involved.”

M. P. Bezbaruah Ex Secretary (Tourism) GOI, S. K Mishra Ex Secretary (Tourism) GOI, Sujit Banerjee Secretary General ,The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) India; Ex Secretary (Tourism) GOI attended the event.

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Some of the other notable guests who attended the conference include Prof. Tanja Mihalic, University of Lijubljanna, Slovenia; Steve Borgia, Chairman, Rural Tourism Society of India; Raj Basu, Founder and Director, Help Tourism and Advisor, Rural Tourism, Govt. of Arunachal Pradesh; Jeevan Verma, Owner Rose Home Stay and Volunteer Director, Rural Organisation for Social Elevation among others.

It is to be noted that the DTHM Department which was established in JMI in 2012 aspires to launch itself as a center for study and research on rural tourism and through it the rural development. ‘While the conference helps identify various issues of concern for rural tourism in India, the department aims to strengthen links with similarly placed academic units around the world which will form the basis of continued research on issues relevant to rural tourism.’