How rural tourism will help save India’s ghost villages

Manju Gill

Tourism has always been one of the largest and fastest growing industries in the world, with both developed and developing countries relying on the industry for economic growth. Although urban and mainstream travel destinations have always been popular amongst travel enthusiasts, the demand for offbeat destinations and rural tourism has increased exponentially in the recent past.

Although, urban and mainstream travel destinations come with excellent service and amenities along with skyscrapers that never fail to glamorize our eyes, however, every city dweller longs to run away from the madness of the city every now and then. We search for a place with serenity and peace where we can get away from work and connect with our roots. Although rural tourism in India is booming, there needs to be better connectivity and amenities to help it realise its true potential and attract even more visitors, as it can become a source of sustainable livelihood for the rural communities.

Sustainable Rural Tourism

India, which saw a record number of Foreign Tourist Arrivals (FTA) of 10 million in 2017 and 17 million including NRI’s is already planning to double this number in the next three years. There is a need to develop an open platform around the concept of Sustainable Rural Tourism in India, wherein almost 74% of the population resides in 7 million villages as it can open up income channels for the rural population.

In the past few years, we have been that lack of employment opportunities and poor farming have prompted people to migrate to urban areas. In fact, a report prepared by the Rural Development and Migration Commission illustrated that about 138 people migrated just from Uttrakhand every day in the last 10 years. A combination of rural push and urban pull factors are prompting people to abandon village life, leading to the creation of ghost or uninhabited villages at an increasing rate. Undoubtedly, the development of rural tourism will provide a valuable contribution to the rural economies.

There should be a “holistic approach” towards the creation of a sustainable rural tourism platform, whereby, locally sourced materials, people and experiences are all incorporated to give tourists a “local taste.” Creating such a value chain will create job opportunities for the rural masses. Increasing tourism will prompt the creation of more hotels, caterers, transportation facilities, information and heritage interpretation facilities, which will all lead to large-scale job creation in the local economy.

As more income will be generated in local communities, this income can be diverted towards protecting and safeguarding traditional activities, arts, cultures and reducing the pressure on people to flee to city life merely as a way to earn a living.

Community involvement

In order to create the sustainable tourism model, non-governmental organisations, government, and the community will have to work together. The first step in the process is making community-based initiatives to identify key stakeholders and potential participants, including identifying local talent for basic activities and amenities, identifying potential investors, and other stakeholders for creating a successful model.

Other steps will involve community participation in the development stages and constant exchange of information, education, and communication to ensure all stakeholders are constantly involved in the process. If put into practice correctly, a sustainable rural tourism model will help in reviving the villages and put a check on turning them into ghost villages.

The author is Senior Manager of Concepts (Livelihood) at Fiinovation. 

Indian Tourism