Benefits of Rural Tourism

Benefits of Rural Tourism – From the tourism perspective, rural India holds a huge potential waiting to be tapped. It is only in the recent year that policymakers, tourism development agencies, and connoisseurs of tourism began to realize and appreciate the potential of rural tourism. It is anybody’s knowledge that modern life in urban concrete jungles in the midst of noise, polluted air, and a fast-paced lifestyle has a telling impact on the health, peace, and well-being of the people in general.

To escape from the monotony of modern urban life and in the pursuit of peace, and for an authentic experience of rural cuisine, domestic chores, farm operations, and a variety of artifacts, the urban elite, of late, has developed a penchant for rural India. Thus there lies a huge Benefits of Rural Tourism where the unique strengths of rural India may be showcased. This article, therefore, attempts to bring out the various facets of rural tourism and the benefits thereof.

people walking beside stores
Benefits of Rural Tourism

Before dwelling on the Benefits of Rural Tourism, it is appropriate to understand what rural tourism is all about. “Any form of tourism that showcases the rural life, art, culture, and heritage at a rural location, thereby benefitting the local community economically and socially as well as enabling interaction between the tourists and the local people for a more enriching tourism experience”, may be termed as rural tourism. Rural tourism is multi-faceted and encompasses the following:

  • Agricultural tourism – tourists watch and participate in traditional agricultural practices/processes.
  • Activities in nature – recreation and fun (hunting, fishing, cycling, walking, mountaineering)
  • Ecotourism – tourism to support initiatives for natural resources protection, Rural experience tourists participation in everyday village life,
  • Cultural tourism – bringing to the fore rich rural culture, history, and archeology,
  • Other combined forms of tourism of special interests – events, festivals, recreation in the open air, production, and sale of local souvenir products.
  • In contrast to conventional tourism, rural tourism has the following typical characteristics:
    • It is experience oriented,
    • The locations are sparsely populated,
    • The setting is predominantly in the environment, natural
    • It blends with seasonality and the occurrence of local events, and
    • It revolves around the preservation of culture, heritage, and traditions

Rural tourism as an economic product

Rural Tourism implies trips where the main purpose is to enjoy authentic rural experiences. The primary move for a holiday to rural areas is to enjoy the quality of natural unspoiled landscapes. Benefits of Rural Tourism aims at including and benefitting rural communities while preserving their environmental and cultural assets. The benefits of Rural Tourism are necessary.

It fosters economic development in rural areas by creating additional income and employment. Besides improving social and economic well-being, the promotion of rural tourism concurrently stimulates infrastructure development in the areas of transport, telecommunication, banking, sanitation, and electrification.

Rural Tourism in IndiaRural Tourism ResourcesPromoting Rural Tourism
National Tourism PolicyCircuit Tourism for IndiaBenefits of Rural Tourism

Who constitutes the rural tourists?

Mostly a typical rural tourist is a person who has a flair for travel to distinct places, is educated, and is interested in culture, and ecology. He/she lives in the urban area and usually prefers outings on the weekends to rural areas. Longer stays are rare and at times some tourists may prefer to stay for up to 10 days. Rural tourists may be classified under the following categories:

  • Visitors interested in daily picnics: This segment however is large. It’s common for city dwellers to visit the countryside close by. Generally, it’s a one-day trip, starting in the morning and ending by sunset. Groups of tourists, families with friends and relatives plan this type of short visit. Usually, they make their own transport arrangements and carry food with them. They camp at a particular place, be it a temple, river bank, orchards, etc. They indulge in entertainment activities like games, singing, dancing, etc.
  • Visitors interested in short vacations: In western countries, this segment of tourists is sizeable. Tourists in this case plan to spend short vacations stretching from a fortnight to more than a month in a rural setting of their choice. Tourists of this category are quality conscious and usually from higher income groups. They obviously look for good transport, telecommunication, and healthcare facilities since their stay is for relatively long periods.
  • Senior citizens: Senior citizens who have sufficiently explored major tourist destinations during their busy work life and who prefer calm and quiet places away from the urban hustle and bustle.
  • Urban youth: Of late, Benefits of Rural Tourism has become a rage with the urban youth living in concrete jungles devoid of natural light and pure air and engaged in long hours of work chasing deadlines and meeting targets. This segment of tourists has the energy, economic power, and curiosity to explore the countryside which of course is the ‘other world’!

Conventional Tourism vs. Experiential Tourism

It’s heartening to note that there is a gradual shift all over the world from conventional tourism involving just visiting tourist destinations to experiential tourism. Benefits of Rural Tourism – As a result, tourists of the present day are not passive spectators, but active participants.

village Tourism
Benefits of Rural Tourism

Benefits of Rural Tourism

Indian experience and several research studies across the world reveal that the benefits of rural tourism to the various sectors/segments of society are manifold. It would be appropriate to examine these benefits sector-wise:

  • Benefits to the Local Community
  • Benefits to the Tourism Industry
  • Benefits to the Society at Large

Benefits to the Local Community

The primary occupation and source of income for households in any village in India are agriculture and allied activities. Further, rural incomes in India widely fluctuate depending on the vagaries of monsoons. Agriculture in most of the regions in India is rainfed. Apart, agricultural operations by and large are seasonal. As a result, most households in India are financially stressed. This is largely responsible for the exodus of people from rural areas to urban places in search of livelihoods. The promotion of rural tourism contributes to the resurgence of rural India in the following ways.

  1. Provides alternate and novel employment opportunities in the village they live. The possibility of continuing their occupations/ vocations gets enhanced. Benefits of Rural Tourism increases the faith in their traditions/occupations and motivates them to stay in villages instead of migrating to urban places in search of jobs/ alternative income-earning avenues.
  2. Supplements household income in a big way. Benefits of Rural Tourism will lead to the creation of several supporting services where enterprising villagers transform themselves into service providers. It is a sure option to engage the rural folks. This in a way reduces the pressure of depending on the tiny landholdings with meager incomes. Benefits of Rural Tourism
  3. Throws up opportunities to showcase their cuisine, heritage, and artifacts. Rural tourism facilitates the expansion of complementary businesses like service stations, hospitality services, recreational activities, and crafts/arts.
  4. Facilitates and broadens their vision and outlook, thanks to the interaction with tourists from different places and backgrounds. In most Indian villages, for a variety of reasons, the exposure and awareness levels of people are rather low. Interaction with tourists and close association with tour operators/planners connects them to the outside world and in the process, the rural-urban divide gets blurred for good.
  1. Entrepreneurial instincts which are hitherto innate get tickled by showcasing their wares to tourists. Enterprising youth in the villages get new career opportunities suited to their energies and enthusiasm. Rural tourism provides a chance to sharpen their creative skills with respect to product design and improvement. Benefits of Rural Tourism
  2. The feeling that they are less privileged compared to the urban dwellers may be assuaged. They may be helped to draw pride in what they do and the way they live; It is natural for anyone to feel elated when someone from outside their system appreciates the aura and the dexterity with which they perform various tasks in their daily routine be it collecting water from the wells, tending the livestock, milking the cattle, plowing the fields, sowing, harvesting, weaving, craft making, community participation/involvement in the celebration of festivals and type of competitions/events organized, etc., are only to be seen to appreciate and enjoy! Each of these tasks is a fine art.
  3. The various local crafts and arts, the heritage and treasure trove of yesteryears, are languishing for want of patronage could be revived and the past glory may be restored. For instance, handlooms, pottery, wood carvings, and several other region-specific crafts in the villages are on the way out in the modern market economy. The commitment and spirit in continuing them get reinforced by acknowledgment. Rural tourism is the only way to sustain and preserve the folklore, music, dance, and drama which form part of the rural cultural heritage and legacy. Benefits of Rural Tourism
  4. Rural tourism is the easiest way to provide gainful employment to the women folk in villages as Indian women are known for their hospitality. For instance, Homestays, the fast-growing segment of the tourism business today, largely owe their success to women in those villages.
  5. The revenue that villages will get from the tourists through entry fees, parking charges and the cess levied on local service providers. The revenue thus pooled up by the village administration comes in handy for improving the facilities like sanitation, drainage, and internal roads. This is how rural tourism empowers the I villages and the much avowed ‘Gram Swaraj ‘becomes a reality.
Rural Tourism in India, Rural Tourism Resources
Benefits of Rural Tourism

Benefits to the Tourism Industry

Though the tourism industry is growing fast in India with respect to the increase in the number of both domestic and international tourists’ visits to various tourist destinations, the development of new tourism products is far from satisfactory. As a result, many of the Indian tourism destinations are overcrowded beyond their carrying capacity and are becoming products of mass tourism. It is high time that new tourism products are developed. Rural tourism fits the bill as a new tourism product. The following benefits accrue to the industry if rural tourism is promoted systematically.

  1. The pressure on conventional tourism destinations may be brought down by popularizing rural tourism as an alternate tourism product. Too many crowds at popular destinations obviously render these places beyond the reach of low-budget tourists. As alternative tourism products like rural tourism are promoted, the market mechanism brings down the overheads at popular/ conventional destinations which in turn is a big relief to the tourists. Benefits of Rural Tourism
  2. As rural tourists are generally from elite segments of the urban places and are driven by a strong desire to relax in the lap of nature away from the urban humdrum, they do relatively not price sensitive. With deep pockets and a strong desire for an exclusive experience, rural tourists’ affordability of the trip cost is quite high. As such, the profit per tourist to the various service providers in the supply chain, namely tour operators, transport providers, tour escorts, etc. is impressive.
  3. The few villages selected for rural tourism promotion will eventually emerge as rural tourism hubs. In other words, facilitators and various service providers of rural tourism at the village level come into contact with the tour operators located largely in urban places and thus they form part of a network.
  4. The scope of the tourism industry could be enhanced as the product mix gets enriched with the inclusion of rural tourism in the product basket. As in the western countries, rural tourism in India to has the potential to emerge as powerful special interest tourism with special interest tourists as the target market. Benefits of Rural Tourism
Rural Tourism, Benefits of Rural Tourism
Benefits of Rural Tourism
Rural Tourism in IndiaRural Tourism ResourcesPromoting Rural Tourism
National Tourism PolicyCircuit Tourism for IndiaBenefits of Rural Tourism

Benefits to the Society at Large

While all the players associated with rural tourism are the direct beneficiaries of rural tourism promotion, the society at large also immensely benefitted in the following ways

  1. Rural tourism may be used as a tool to mitigate the rural unrest prevalent in most of rural areas due to low incomes and deprivation of even the basic amenities apart from unemployment. Since rural tourism provides an opportunity to engage the local resources – both physical and human, it will have a positive impact not only on the incomes of local people but also lends a sense of pride to them.
  2. In view of the need to showcase the local heritage and culture, villagers take initiatives to preserve local buildings inherited from the past, abandoned palaces and castles, old canal waterways, etc. There is now a motivation for them to do so, thanks to the need to present what their places are known for.
  3. Facilitates creating a favorable ecosystem in the rural areas conducive to tourism by enabling people in the villages hitherto untouched by the whole gamut of modern tourism. Benefits of Rural Tourism
  4. Rural tourism acts as a tool with minimum cost to bridge the psychological and emotional gap between the urban and rural populace, as consumers of the product and marketers of the products respectively.

To conclude, it is worth mentioning a few rural tourism destinations which have gained visibility in the rural tourism map of India. Banavasi in Karnataka where wood carvings, artifacts, musical instruments, and stone cuttings ensure tourists. Raghurajpur in Odisha is known for Pattachitra painters and Gotipua dance troupes, the precursor to the Indian classical dance form of Odissi. Apart from that, the village is also home to crafts like Tussar paintings, palm leaf engravings, stone and wood carvings, cowdung and papier mache toys, and masks. Benefits of Rural Tourism

Hodka village in Gujarat is another popular rural tourism destination where the finest leather craft artisans and embroidery craftsmen arouse lots of curiosity. Similarly, Pochampalli in Telangana state has its unique character of designing and weaving a wide range of silk sarees produced by thousands of looms. Pochampalli has found a place in UNESCO’s tentative list of World Heritage Sites as part of the “Iconic saree weaving clusters of India”. Destinations like these may be identified across the country and these successful rural tourism business models can be replicated.

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