20 - 06 - 2019

Prospects of Rural Tourism for Livelihood Development in Tripura

With the inauguration of 7th International Tourism Mart at Agartala on 22nd November,by the Hon’ble Governor, the Chief Minister Tripura Shri Biplab Kumar Deb and Union Minister of Tourism, Tripura state came on the radar of the international tourism map.

Delegates from 18 countries, 23 tour operators and large number of media personnel participated besides various other stakeholders. The event highlighted the tourism potential of the state in domestic and international markets, improving the visibility of various traditions, rich culture and eco-tourism potential of the state.

As we know, about 68% of the population of India resides in its seven lakh villages and 80% of farmers living in these villages are small and marginal farmers besides large landless population. Therefore, there is a strong need to improve the economic status of rural population and the initiative of Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi for doubling the income of farmers is timely intervention in this direction. This could be further enhanced through income from non-farm activities and Rural Tourism is one such potential area. In the current trend of industrialization and development, stresses of urban lifestyles have lead to growing interest in rural areas. Employees working in the corporate houses and multinational entities want to spend time in interacting with rural masses and for improving the life of rural communities. They are in search of a platform which could provide win-win situation to both urban youth and rural masses. Rural tourism is one such opportunity, which provides the solution to this expanding requirement and aspirations.

Growing interest in heritage and culture, increasing accessibility especially through UDAN (Udi DeshkaAamNagrik) of current government, environmental consciousness and increasing philanthropy in urban masses are some factors shifting the trend towards Rural Tourism. This trend has caught up worldwide as new style of tourism for experiencing village settings. Rural Tourism scheme of Government of India defines it as any form of tourism that showcases the rural life, art, culture and heritage of rural location thereby benefitting the local communities economically and socially as well as enabling interactions between tourists and the locals for a more enriching tourism experiences. Thus Rural Tourism emphasizes on interactions, experiences, mutual benefits predominately in sparsely populated and natural environment and it can be considered a variant of eco-tourism.

2.         Growth of Rural Tourism in India:

            It is said that heart of India lies in her villages and many Indian villages are now finding a place on the tourist map. The rural tourism provides mutual benefit to visitors and villagers. The visitors are able to get insight into village life and villagers get much needed additional source of income. Some popular examples of rural tourism in our country are-

2.1.       ‘Kutch Adventures India’ offers visit to artisan villages as well as to famous salt desert. The visitors canwatch artisansin action, stay in mud huts, and sleep out on a Charpoy (traditional woven bed) underthe stars in Hodka village of Gujarat.

2.2.       Sundarbans in West Bengal is a UNESCO World Heritage site, notable for its largest mangrove forests in the world. Ethnic cottages surrounded by paddy fields, village walk, exploring narrow its canals by country boat are some of the attractions there.

2.3.       ‘Grassroots’ was started in Maharashtra with an aim of creating livelihood opportunities for rural India. Various activities are undertaken in villages depending on time of year. It may be watching fireflies in June, cultivation of rice in July, nature and wildlife during dry season or art workshops and writers retreats customized based on the interest of guests.

2.4.       Gumehar village in Kangra Valley of Himachal Pradesh has been converted into a thriving art hub. The semi-nomadic sheep herders live in this area and visitors get a chance to stay in the village, learn about their lifestyle, walk and trek and visit to local temples.

2.5.       Bishnoi village near Jodhpur provides experiences of rural Rajasthan. Home-stay in this village provides opportunity to stay in traditional dwellings with family of weavers. Rajasthani hospitality with delicious home cooked food, folk dances, villages trekking, camel safaris, Jeep Safaris are the attraction in this area.

3.         Rural Tourism Opportunities in Tripura:         

Three-fourth of Tripura State,which is rural, is surrounded by trees, paddy fields and pollution free environment, overall an ideal place for foreigners and urban Indians. Rural eco-tourism can provide means to eliminate poverty and bridge inequality gap within the society in various parts of Tripura. The concept of home-stays with provisions of accommodation,food, community trekking and walking, Agri-tourism, photography tours, community exposure visits, bird watching, watching orchids blooming in wild, experiencing Rubber and Tea plantation areas, ethnic study tours are some of the opportunities in rural setting of Tripura state. Such locations have the potential of selling handloom, handicrafts, Rubber honey, bamboo products etc.

The state has a scope for developing few rural tourism circuits- firstly Roa-Charupassa-Unakoti- Jampui with Kumarghat/ Dharmanagar as hub, secondly Agartala local-Sepahijala-KasbaKalibari-ChoddahDevtabari- Baramura with Agartala as hub, thirdly Tepania- Matarbari- Pilak- Kalapania- Trishna- Neermahal with hub at Udaipur.

            19 distinct tribes of the state have their own culture, tradition and festivals. Tripuri, the oldest tribe of Tripura forms about 50% of tribal population of Tripura. Their main occupation is agriculture especially Jhum or shifting cultivation. Their dress –Risa and Pasra, folkdance and cultivation practices are unique and interesting. Similarly, Reang, Jamatia, Chakma, Halam, Darlongetc. ethnic groups havetheir unique traditions. All this offers excellent opportunities to visitors and can leave with them lifelong impression. 

Tripura offers huge eco-tourism potential at Jampui, Unakoti, Dumbur, Sepahijala, Trishnaetc through local Joint Forest Management Committees. Various eco-parks at Tepania, Kalapania, Ambassaetc extends serene and calm environment for nature lovers, bird watchers, scientists, orchidologists, writers and citizens.The rural eco-tourism, fairs, festivals, dances, home-stay, artisan products have an immense employment potential for the local community, youth and women folks. 

4.         Assistance required for Rural Tourism:

            Tripura provides immense scope for rural tourism and for this purpose 50 clusters of 10 families, each family creating facility for one room (having two beds) with European style toilet cum bath facility, should be developed. Rs. 50 lakh per cluster/village may be utilized for 10 home-stay facilities in a village, lighting in the area, landscaping etc. Total cost comes to Rs. 25 Crores for 50 clusters of 500 families. In addition Rs. 2 crores should be kept for capacity building of rural communities. Considering 50% occupancy levels and Rs 500 per day room rent, an income of Rs. 150,000/- per family per year is expected from boarding and lodging facilities.

Following activities need to be developed in the villages for rural tourism-

-          Improvement of the surroundings of villages

-          Improvement of roads within Panchayat limits

-          Illumination of village

-          Improvement in solid waste Management and sewerage

-          Equipment for tourism

-          Signage

-          Home-stay facilities

-          Walks/activities related to tourism

This requirement need to be tapped by convergence efforts of departments of Forest, Tourism and Tribal Welfare coupled with schemes of Rural Development.

5.         In conclusion,Rural tourism is relevant in developing states like Tripura where farmland has become fragmented due to population growth and where landless families do not have enough employment opportunities. The wealthso created can improve economic status of poor household in the state. The added income from rural tourism can also contribute to the revival of vanishing folk art and handicrafts.

 

Dr. Dvijendra Kumar Sharma

Additional PCCF (Eco-tourism)

& Chief Wildlife Warden, Tripura