Tourism offers enormous growth opportunity in India. Agritourism, though at a nascent stage, can induce sustainable development at grassroots level and become the backbone of the Indian economy. BK Jha Reports
India has several tourism products and there is scope to innovate new emerging segments. Agritourism has emerged as an innovative theme that supports growth in agriculture and the rural economy. This synergy between tourism and agriculture capitalises on the combined benefits of development in agriculture as primary sector and tourism as service sector which further boosts rural employment generation.
According to World Travel and Tourism Council Report 2016, the travel and tourism sector contributed Rs 8309.4 billion to the country’s GDP which supported over 37 million jobs in 2015. The sector is expected to offer jobs to over 46 million people by 2026.
Rajasthan to lead agritourism
The Rajasthan government has decided to promote agritourism vigorously. The convergence of tourism and agriculture will not only support the farmers with additional revenue and better sustainability, but also create multiplier effect on employment generation, says a report “ Agritourism : Advantage Rajasthan” prepared by the FICCI and Yes Bank. The Report was released by Yoonus Khan, Senior Minister, Government of Rajasthan during a session on Agri-Touism at Global Rajasthan Agritech Meet(GRAM) in Jaipur.
Talking to R&M, Khan said, “ We have huge potential for Agritourism in the state. Jodhpur, Bikaner, Shekhawati, Mewar and other parts present different culture and agronomy practices. In these areas, we can wonderful locations for tourists who want to see village and farm culture, far from the maddening crowd of cities and to know the local culture.”
“Interestingly, the development of infrastructure to promote agritourism does not require huge spending. In a village, you need to construct some huts with modern civic amenities and other facilities. Rest will be taken care of by locals,” he added.
The state government urged the players of tourism sector to come to Rajasthan and set up their units in villages. “ This can be done on Private-Public Partnership basis or we can go ahead with a few pilot projects,” Khan said.
Case Studies show the way farward
Though at a very nascent stage agritourism is being promoted in several part of the country. The Agri Tourism Development Corporation (ATDC) is an initiative which develops, actively promotes and encourages agritourism in the state of Maharashtra.
“The organisation aims to create sustainable livelihoods in rural areas by providing training, creating employment opportunities and linking tourism with agricultural production and related activities such as the manufacture of handicrafts,” said Pandurang Taware, Managing Director of ATDC. Taware is known as father of agritourism in India.
The company has established 152 Agri Tourism Centres across the state, which are run by 500 trained local farmers. These Agri Tourism Centres serve predominantly domestic tourists from urban areas, who are provided the opportunity to interact with rural villagers and farmers in order to experience authentic Indian agricultural traditions in unexploited natural environments.
Nirvana Organic Farm in Rajasthan is yet another success story. The Farm has developed what was once a piece of barren land into a small patch of forest landscape using organic farming methods devoid of any usage of chemicals. Managed by a local farmer, the Farm offers experiential travelers a chance to witness Rajasthan’s folk and farm culture in simple but cosy thatched roof huts. Activities offered at Nivana Farms tiling the land, harvesting the crops, looking after the cattle,stretching out on a khatiya(cut) to watch birds,taking cooling lesson on an open-air Chulha ( clay stove), and getting involveed in rural recreational games available at farm.
Tapra, an agritourism activity at Save Farm in Maharashtra- a horticulture orchard on unfertile barren land-offers an added tourism perspective to visitors by providing educational value through unique collection of plant species for students of botany and pharmacy along with an ideal location for camping.
These case studies showcase ample evidence that India has huge potential in agritourism.
Challenges & Opportunities
The Report says the opportunity holds immense potential due to its cost-effective nature, demand for family-oriented recreation environment, growing curiosity about farming, and increased focus on promoting environmental consciousness.
According to the Report, the development of Agritourism goes hand in hand with the development of infrastructure in rural areas. The report says the the last-mile connectivity to the remotest areas is extremely important and crucial for the success of this venture. Better connectivity attracts tourism to the remotest places. Rapid expansion and integration of the network/facilities across urban and rural areas should be pursued.
The report suggests "link agri-tourism with the existing tourism destinations that are very popular and thereby making them an extension of the travel itinerary. This enables a more comprehensive offering to tourists and helps these destinations capitalize on each other's strengths and benefits."
Developing local produce helps in strengthening the brand and identity of agritourism. For instance, date palm based agri-tourism developed on Desert Circuit in Rajasthan which is spread across Jaisalmer-Barmer-Jodhpur-Bikaner areas with high existing tourist footfall.