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Scope of Rural Tourism
11/13/2018 8:39:51 PM
Dr. Banarsi Lal and
Dr. Vikas Tandon

Any form of tourism that showcases the rural life, art, culture and heritage at rural locations, thereby benefiting the local community economically and socially as well as enabling interaction between the tourists and the locals for a more enriching tourism experience can be termed as rural tourism. Rural tourism is essentially an activity which takes place in the countryside. It is multi-faceted and may entail farm/agricultural tourism, cultural tourism, nature tourism, adventure tourism and eco-tourism. As against conventional tourism, rural tourism has certain typical characteristics like; it is experience oriented, the locations are sparsely populated, it is predominantly in natural environment, it meshes with seasonality and local events and is based on preservation of culture, heritage and traditions. Jammu and Kashmir has a great potential for rural tourism due to its natural attractions, unique heritage and culture. Rural tourism refers the tourists' interest in the customs of the indigenous and exotic people. Rural tourism is a different from general tourism. In rural tourism, tourists visit the homes of local people to understand their customs, traditions, life style, food habits, their festivals, folk dances, songs, rituals etc. It also involves a study, research and purchase of local products. Rural tourism is very fascinating for the domestic and foreign tourists as villages have their unique styles and splendid natural beauty. Rural tourism is a new concept which covers all those aspects of travel whereby people learn each other's ways of life and thought. The villages could be the centers of attraction for the people of urban areas who live in the congested and polluted cities. Such people want to get away from their daily routine work and enjoy the rural areas during weekends and holidays. Rural tourism is participatory and designed to improve the economic and social well-being of local people. It also points the need for careful planning to project the integrity of sites and minimum harmful impacts. Local community needs to plan ahead to ensure that rural tourism sustains and benefits local community socio-culturally and economically and is not simply to gain the money for government or private entrepreneurs. If we want to commercialize the rural tourism, we need to endeavor to satisfy its obligations towards local villagers. Rural tourism has certain aspects such as fresh and non-polluting environment, traditions, village handicraft, village folk dance and music, painting and sculpture, history of the region, nature of local work and technology use, architecture, education system, religion, dress, leisure activities etc. which can attract tourists.
Tourism as an industry has been flourishing and growing since time immemorial. From the last few decades' specific attention has been given to this smokeless industry. Tourism has emerged as an important as well as organized industry which scattered its benefits over large segments of the population. Jammu and Kashmir is one of such states in India which offers variety of experiences to the tourists. There is a need to focus our attention to achieve the required prosperity, well-being and high quality of life for the people of the region by generating the income in the tourism sector. Tourism growth potential can be harnessed as a strategy for rural development. The concept of rural tourism is definitely useful for a country like India, where almost 70% of the population resides in its villages. There is a need to find out the importance of rural tourism in sustainable development of the region and also to enhance rural tourism development in Jammu and Kashmir. Development of rural tourism and betterment of the society are closely associated with each other.
Jammu and Kashmir has the potential to develop the rural tourism industry. Tourists want to see new places which are close to nature and away from hustle and bustle of city. In Jammu and Kashmir, the nature of rural areas is not polluted at par with other states in India, thus there are enough potential for development of rural spaces for development of tourism in the region. Tourism industry is also called the "Smokeless Industry" because without using any chimney, have more advantages than disadvantages. The sustainable tourism development could be achieved only due to development of rural spaces for tourism. Tourism comprises of the biggest component of the tertiary sector. In fact, one in every 16 workers in worldwide owes his or her job in tourism. Tourism will become the world's number one export industry by the turn of century. So the rural space development could not only provide us the clean environment but also the revenue in the form of tourism. Thousands of the rural people get attached with this industry and get jobs in this sector. Rural tourism is often considered to be intrinsically sustainable, as it attracts number of visitors, there is no need for extensive infrastructural development. Tourists are usually genuinely interested in the local culture and traditions. One of the main attractions of rural holidays is the personal interaction with local residents, so hosts and guests are able to share ideas and knowledge and consequently tourism can fulfill its role as the "Industry of Peace", as a tool of mutual understanding.
Nevertheless, if rural tourism development is analysed on a deeper level, certain doubts arise concerning intrinsic sustainability. The most significant issue to be investigated is the economic profitability of rural tourists' services, since the demand is often seasonal, the occupancy rates are low and the investment required for creating or improving facilities for tourists is often high. In most rural tourists' destinations, it is quite unlikely that tourism can be viable as a sole source of income. Rural tourism can usually be one of the important income-generating alternatives in the state, so its role in sustainable development is highly influenced by the performances of other economic sectors especially agriculture.
Jammu and Kashmir occupies the topmost position in the map of India. The physical locations, the compatible seasonal division, the richness of flora and luscious fruits and tempting vegetables attract every body's imagination in the state. The state is blessed with beautiful mountains and snow capped peaks which makes the tourists pleasant. Excellent scenic, cultural, religious and cultural places are within short distances ranging from a few kilometers to 40 kilometers. Even drive, walk or horse ride to these places is enchanting. Snowy peaks, frozen lakes, ski slopes, pine forests, fresh water streams are the major tourists' attractions of the state.
Tourism growth potential can be harnessed as a strategy for rural development. The development of a strong platform around the concept of rural tourism is definitely useful for a country like India, where almost 70% of the population resides in its 7 million villages. Across the world the trends of industrialization and development have had an urban centric approach. Alongside, the stresses of urban lifestyles have led to a "counter-urbanization" syndrome. This has led to growing interest in the rural areas. Rural Tourism is one of the few activities which can provide a solution to many urban problems. Besides, there are other factors which are shifting the trend towards rural tourism like increasing levels of awareness, growing interest in heritage and culture and improved accessibility and environmental consciousness. In the developed countries, this has resulted in a new style of tourism of visiting village settings to experience and live a relaxed and healthy lifestyle. This concept has taken the shape of a formal kind of rural tourism. So we need to plan the same concept in our country in general and J&K as particular.
Rural tourism is a challenging service among the landscapes and cultural heritage of rural communities. Tourism has many potential benefits for rural areas. This activity generates local incomes, employment and growth of welfare and is a valuable contributor to rural economy. Rural tourism can serve as an important source of tax revenues for local jurisdictions and promotes the usage and sale of local food products. Rural tourism prevents viable traditional occupations from being displaced and offers rural residents the business opportunities and creates new employment opportunities. Rural tourism preserves tradition and heritage of rural areas. It promotes the environment improvements within the settlements and respects the natural diversity.
Rural tourism can create lot of employment in rural areas. Rural tourism can also help in increasing the agricultural productivity as it draws manpower from hidden employment or seasonal underemployment. It is different from other sectors of industry. The rural tourism industry can earn a huge amount of money. Rural tourism is thus a source of aid from within the state, country and out of country. Rural tourism is directly helpful in correcting state's economic position and can divert the rural people towards progress. Through rural tourism government can gain more economic profits from taxes on things tourists use and buy. Government should take proper measures for creating framework for the promotion of rural tourism. There is need to increase the rural tourism at a fast rate and it should be diversified. Increased tourists traffic in the state calls for new marketing and pricing policies. There is need of proper planning and effective legislation for resource conservation and balanced developmental activities for the rural tourism. The technical resources are also required for successful promotion of rural tourism. Rural tourism can be fostered if it is an integral part of a balanced economic and social development programme. It is not only the government but the private sector should also play an equal responsible role for the development of rural tourism. Rural tourism can make our rural areas more attractive and prosperous.
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