[Kurukshetra June Summary] Rural Tourism: India an Incredible Tourism Destination – Explained, pointwise

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India showcases rich heritage and natural abundance of many incredible places that are worthy enough to represent the nation globally. The Tourism sector has been instrumental in providing mass employment opportunities and substantially increasing income levels of both the formal and informal sectors of the economy. Realizing this, the government has undertaken various steps to promote the tourism sector. However, it has failed to unleash the true potential of its rural tourism. The Government must promote rural tourism as the majority of India resides in villages and has numerous things to offer to the tourists.

What is Rural Tourism?

It is any form of tourism that showcases the rural life, art, culture, and heritage at rural locations, thereby benefiting the local community economically and socially. Numerous local traditions like plays, art forms, dances etc. enhance the cultural wealth of rural areas, making these attractive for the tourists. Lush green forests in south Indian villages, sacred groves etc. make them an ideal site to promote tourism.

How is India an incredible tourism destination?

India is one of the world’s oldest civilisations which offers a kaleidoscope of cultural experiences. The country has a rich heritage and numerous attractions.

Adventure Tourism: This involves exploration of remote areas and exotic locales and engaging in various activities. For adventure tourism in India, tourists prefer to go trekking to places like Ladakh, Sikkim, and the Himalayas.

Beach Tourism: India’s vast coastline and islands provides ample opportunities for fun packed tourism. Kerala, Goa, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep islands attract tourists in large numbers all around the year.

Cultural tourism: India is known for its rich cultural heritage and an element of mysticism, which is why tourists come to India to experience it for themselves. The various fairs and festivals that attract a large number of tourists are the Pushkar fair (Rajasthan), Taj Mahotsav (Uttar Pradesh), and Suraj Kund mela (Haryana).

Eco tourism: Ecotourism entails the sustainable preservation of a naturally endowed area or region. This is becoming more and more significant for the ecological development of all regions that have tourist value. A large number of National Parks and Biosphere Reserves offer vast opportunities in ecotourism like the Kaziranga National Park (Assam), Gir National Park (Gujarat), and Kanha National Park (Madhya Pradesh) etc.

Medical tourism: Tourists from all over the world have been thronging India to avail themselves of cost-effective but superior quality healthcare in terms of surgical procedures and general medical attention. The city of Chennai (Tamil Nadu) attracts around 45% of medical tourists from foreign countries.

What is the current status of the Tourism Industry?

The travel and tourism Industry is one of the fastest-growing industries globally, with a growth rate of 3.5% vis-a-vis a global economic growth rate of 2.5% in 2019. The sector contributed around 10.4% to global GDP, generated 330 million employees worldwide, and accounted for 27.4% of global services exports. 

However, COVID-19 had a detrimental impact on the travel industry worldwide, with the sector’s contribution to global GDP and employment declining by 49% and 19%, respectively.

The tourism sector in India contributes immensely to foreign exchange reserves in the country and provides employment opportunities, both in the formal and informal sectors. In 2019, the sector accounted for 8.8% of the total employment, 5,8% of the total exports, and 5.9% of GDP. However, Indian Tourism Sector also suffered due to COVID-19. The sector now contributes only 4.7% to GDP, 7.3% to total employment, and 2.5% to total exports.

What steps have been taken to promote Tourism in India?

Swadesh Darshan Scheme: It was launched by the Ministry of Tourism in 2014-15. It aims to develop theme-based tourist circuits on the principles of high tourist value, competitiveness and sustainability in an integrated manner. Under the scheme, 15 themes have been identified.These themes include Buddhist Circuit, Coastal Circuit, Desert Circuit, Rural Circuit, Heritage Circuit etc..

PRASHAD Scheme: The National Mission on Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual Heritage Augmentation Drive (PRASHAD) was launched by the Ministry of Tourism in the year 2014-15. It is a Central Sector Scheme launched with the objective of integrated development of identified pilgrimage and heritage destinations.

Adopt a Heritage Scheme: It is an initiative of the Ministry of Tourism in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture and the Archaeological Survey of India. It was launched in September 2017 on World Tourism Day. It aims to ensure quality & inclusive provision of amenities and facilities across heritage, natural, & tourist sites through active participation of private and public sector organizations. These organizations would be known as ‘Monument Mitras‘ for their collaboration initiative.

What is the need to focus on Rural Tourism?

Huge Potential: There is a huge potential to capture domestic and international tourists. Despite having a diverse culture and rich architectural heritage, India holds only a 1.2% share of the international tourism market (2019). While Spain has 5.7%, the USA – 5.4 %, China – 4.5% and the UK – 2.7%. Similarly, there has been a growing trend of short-break holidays in cities and proximity of rural areas allows them to act as great tourism destinations.

Creation of Employment Opportunities: The tourism industry generates both direct and indirect employment. When developed to its fullest potential, it could provide jobs to many young men and women who otherwise are increasingly migrating to cities. Rural tourism has the potential to generate large-scale productive employment that is multifaceted in nature, ranging from highly skilled to semi-skilled. 

Development of rural regions: It will boost the overall rural economy as rural tourism will augment both consumption as well as investment potential of the rural regions.

Curbing Over-tourism: Over-tourism means a very high number of people visiting a few tourist destinations, which suffer from the excessive presence of tourism such as Shimla and Goa. Over-tourism has consequences like destruction of the natural ecosystem, increase in the amount of waste, inflation, migration of residents and so on. 

Raising India’s Soft power: If the concept of rural tourism is well marketed, then people from developed countries would be drawn towards India. Especially millennials who are fascinated about traditions, culture and art.

Revival of arts: Rural tourism can revive many of the arts and crafts traditionally being practiced in the rural communities but dying a slow death.

What steps have been taken to promote Rural Tourism?

The Ministry of Tourism has designated rural tourism as one of the Niche Tourism sectors for growth in the country. The Ministry has developed a Draft National Strategy and Roadmap for Rural Tourism, which focuses on developing and promoting local products through tourism. It focuses on the following key pillars: (a) Model policies and best practices for rural tourism; (b) Digital technologies and platforms for rural tourism; (c) Developing clusters for rural tourism; (d) Marketing support for rural tourism; (e) Capacity building of stakeholders; (f) Governance and institutional framework.

The Ministry of Tourism has designated the Rural Circuit as one of the fifteen thematic circuits for development under the Swadesh Darshan Scheme. 

What more steps can be taken going ahead?

First, the Government must adopt innovative approaches to boost and promote different tourism segments such as niche tourism, wellness tourism, adventure tourism, and spiritual tourism. Given that India has been recognised as a destination for spiritual tourism for ages for both domestic and international tourists, the Government must unleash the potential of spiritual tourism.

Second, Villages must learn from successful models of rural tourism so as to achieve maximum output with minimum inputs. For instance, strategies of Pochampally Village in Telangana State can be adopted. It was selected as one of the best Tourism Villages by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) in 2021.

Read More: Pochampally village in Telangana selected as one of the best Tourism Villages by United Nations World Tourism Organisation

Third, the Government needs to focus on handholding the States on a few significant parameters in rural India for tourism development: (a) Infrastructure development: Modern buses and stations at reliable frequency, taxi/ shared mobility, App-based integration of guides, parking/charging/refueling etc.; (b) Identifying and linking heritage spots in the given destinations; (c) Facilities like signage in English and other foreign languages; (d) Tax issues: One India, one tax system for tourist vehicles in order to protect the tourists from facing multiple taxations; (e) Promotion of homestays and high ended branded hotel rooms in resorts to fulfil the interest of staycations and workstations.


Tourism in rural regions can only be maintained if an inclusive planning strategy based on a multi-action, multi-stakeholder participatory approach is adopted and implemented. This will help in unleashing the true potential of rural regions and ensure adherence to the concept of Atithi Devo Bhava – Guest is our God.

Source: Kurukshetra June 2022, Ministry of Tourism

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