By Manoj Aggarwal, Rang De Social Investor
India, it is said, resides in villages. Therefore to discover its soul, feel its pulse, look into its eyes one needs to visit its villages and live with its people. Rural tourism has seen a lot of interest in the recent past from both the travelers as well as stimulus from the Government. With related themes of eco-tourism, nature holidays, learning focused around local artisan traditions and performing arts, farm based activities ranging from fruit picking or processing to riding or cheese making, this trend is only likely to grow.
Tourism potential in local communities is virtually a treasure trove of economic opportunity as it helps to facilitate travel, showcase skills, access to markets and generate much needed incomes in the local communities. The interest in rural tourism is getting rekindled not only from the incredible range of opportunity and variety of activities that it offers but also recent initiatives such as focus on Homestays, Vacation Rentals and Adventure Tourism. These trends are indicative of a yearning for experiential tourism that brings home a ‘feel’ experience rather than just a ‘see’ experience.
Capitalizing on the trend, in many places people have often with very little aid have been able to start businesses that tap this opportunity and help local people stay on in their areas doing work in line with their skills and traditions and generating sustainable incomes in return. Innovative providers of experiential tourism such as ‘The Other Home’, aid the trend by highlighting the tourism offer of offbeat places with their charming communities and also working with the communities to shore up their tourism potential. It is interesting how micro tourism opportunities spring up, once tourism potential of a community is highlighted. Take the example of ‘Mawllynnog’ village in Meghalaya, where the community with the help of a local leader has spruced up their village and created a significant tourist attraction. The community restored its church, created a bamboo watchtower providing a panoramic view of neighboring Bangladesh and focused on cleaning up their dwellings.
Brooms made by the community members
The result is that almost everybody in the village can earn a sustainable livelihood through a homestay, a local cuisine eatery, a nature walk guide in the surrounding forest and the like. What is more that all this is achieved in the most sustainable manner. These trends can become much wider with a little help to enable these micro entrepreneurs through access to credit that ‘Rang De’ and such other initiatives can facilitate and help with ideas implementation where local volunteer and NGO activities can assist. The potential for initiatives like this exists in all areas and communities. The challenge is to identify the potential and realize it by sprucing up the tourism offer of the area for a million flowers to bloom in the form of micro entrepreneurs.