The Bold Voice of J&K

Exploring the Rural Tourism Potential in J&K

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DR BANARSI LAL

Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir is endowed with ample natural resources including soil, water, climatic condition, diversity, topography, rich natural flora etc. which are conducive for the tourism. Jammu and Kashmir is located between 32.17 and 37.06 North latitude and 73.2 and 80.36 East longitude in the Himalayan region. The agro-diversity of J&K varies from sub-tropical in Jammu region and temperate in Kashmir region. The average annual rainfall of these two regions is 1069mm and 660mm. The average temperatures of these two regions are 24.5 and 13.3 Centigrade respectively. High Mountains and small hills, snow peaks, rivers and rivulets, glaciers, valleys and lakes, large forest areas and terraced fields are the integral features of hilly areas of Jammu and Kashmir. J&K lies in the North West of the country. The industrial sector in J&K is not well developed and rural tourism can play a key role for the upliftment of the rural economy. Rural tourism can improve the quality of life of the rural people of J&K. Rural tourism entrepreneurship has gained importance as it is seen as a major driving force behind rural tourism. J&K has lot to offer to the tourists across the globe because of its scenic beauty, a kaleidoscope of traditions, a variety of cultures and an array of opportunities to explore the outdoors activities through sporting and adventure activities.
Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir is one of the most beautiful tourists’ destinations in the world. This beautiful territory of India is characterized by scenic beauty, folded mountains, deep gorges, natural waterfalls, alpine pastures, lush green forests, rich wild life, snow clad fields, carpet green turfs, gushing fountains, lofty skying grounds, charming gardens, cool pollution free breeze, shimmering lakes, apple orchards, benevolent people etc. Tourism is an important economic activity in J&K. Around 20 per cent of the workforce of the J&K is directly or indirectly dependent on tourism. Jammu and Kashmir is blessed with enormous sites which attract the tourists across the globe. Still there is much scope to accelerate the process of tourism in J&K. The rural areas need to be selected as new sites of attraction for the tourists so that the rural people are benefitted from the process of tourism. In order to bring the rural people on the scene of tourism, rural tourism is one of the important options for J&K and this can strengthen the rural economy. Under rural tourism villages are designed in such a way that 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. can attract tourists from outside.
Rural tourism includes a range of activities, services and amenities provided by the rural people to attract tourists to their area in order to generate extra income and employment. The growth of new employment opportunities is lesser than population growth. Tourism forms an important part in the J&K economy. A need has been felt to extend the tourism development in rural areas and to tap the natural rural beauty of J&K in the form of nature based projects. Industrialization and development is mostly urban centric. The urban stress has led to growing interest in the rural areas. Rural tourism is a new concept which covers all those aspects of travel whereby people from the urban areas learn the ways of life and thoughts of rural people. Rural tourism refers the tourists’ interest in the customs of the indigenous and exotic people. This tourism showcases the rural life, culture; heritage and art of rural areas and rural people are socially and economically benefitted and enable the interaction between the villagers and tourists. It can also be termed as agricultural tourism, cultural tourism, nature tourism, eco-tourism etc. Rural tourism has certain characteristics like it exits in natural environment, sparsely populated, experience oriented and based on the preservation of culture. In this 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 fascinates the domestic and outside tourists as villages in Jammu and Kashmir have their unique styles and splendid natural beauty. The charming beauty of the villages could be the centers of attraction for the people of urban areas who live in the congested and polluted cities. The urban people lifestyle is stressful due to their hectic lifestyle. They want to get away from their daily routine work and want to enjoy the natural beauties of rural areas during weekends and holidays. Rural tourism can create the job opportunities for the rural people. Environmental consciousness, increasing interest in culture and heritage, improving villages’ accessibility etc. are the factors responsible which are shifting the trend towards rural tourism. Under this scheme key geographic regions are identified for the development of rural tourism. Jammu and Kashmir has a great potential for rural tourism, due to its unique heritage, culture and natural attractions.
Rural tourism is useful for J&K where around 80 per cent people reside in the villages. Rural tourism is participatory and designed in such a way so that the economic and social well-being of local people can be improved. It also points the need for careful planning to project the integrity of sites and highlight the village culture. It is planned in such a way that local community needs to ensure that rural tourism sustains and benefits local community socio-culturally and economically and is not simply the gaining 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 is a socio-cultural event for tourists. Through rural tourism one gets the opportunity to enjoy the natural beauty of villages, observes different cultures and way of life of the rural people. Tourists are a major factor of socio-cultural change. Rural tourism has many advantages. It enhances communication skills, improves self-image of the community, increases employment opportunities, improves educational opportunities, motivates for learning new things etc. of the rural people. Rural tourism creates new jobs in rural areas, attracts many youths for rural employment and slows down the migration of rural people in the urban areas. New jobs in the rural areas may motivate the rural people for education. Employment opportunities in rural tourism can divert workers from other professions. Employment generated in the villages may improve the status of the rural people and can also increase the income of rural people.
Rural tourism can create confidence among the rural people and revive the local people’s interest. Rural people may have pride in their culture, traditions and values. Mass media and hegemonic culture can promote the local folk traditions into oblivion. Rural tourism can also provide the opportunities to study the religious and ritualistic services of the rural areas. These aspects of a culture can fascinate the tourists. Religious rituals, festivals and public performances can provide inputs to symbolic qualities of rural tourism. Rural tourism is an invisible export. 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 J&K, country and out of country. Rural tourism is directly helpful in correcting J&K 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. Rural tourism has now become a major sector influencing all aspects of a nation’s. 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 J&K 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 attractive and prosperous.
(The writer is Chief Scientist & Head of KVK, Reasi (Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology-Jammu).

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