Exploring Rural Tourism in J&K

Dr. BanarsiLal
Every year World Tourism Day is celebrated on 27th of September across the globe to highlight the importance of tourism which helps to generate employment and build a future of millions of people across the globe.Tourism is termed as an instrument for employment generation, poverty eradication and sustainable human development.Tourism affects the economic, cultural, social and political values of any nation.Tourism is continuously growing across the globe because of its various attractive and new destinations for the tourists. It has emerged as one of the world’s largest service industries with sizable economic benefits. With the emergence of e-commerce, innovations and technological advancements, demographic changes and the de-regulation of airline industry, the travel and tourism is spontaneously contributing to improve Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and creation of jobs across the world economy. This has led to the improvement of other related industries especially transportation, construction, retail etc. The World Travel and Tourism Council estimates that the travel and tourism sector accounts for 10.0% of global GDP. World tourism is the world’s largest employer, generating about 289 million jobs, or nearly one out of every 12 jobs globally. This booming tourism industry is emerging as an important driver of growth and prosperity, employment generator, supports to enhance the national income and improves the balance of payments.
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. J&K is one of the most beautiful tourists’ destinations in the world. This territory 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. J&K lies in the North West of the country. This beautiful territory of India 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 to temperate in Kashmir region. The average annual rainfall of these two regions is 1069mm and 660mm respectively. The average temperatures of these two regions are 24.5 and 13.3 Centigrade respectively.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.Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir 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.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.
Tourism is an important economic activity in J&K. Around 20 per cent of the workforce of J&K is directly or indirectly dependent on tourism. J&K 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.Due to tremendous pressure of mass tourism on urban resources,the concept of rural tourism has been encouraged in recent years. Rural tourism is thought to be one of the important channels to sustainable development through which the rural areas can achieve economic, environmental and socio-cultural growth. 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 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 an innovative 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 environment, culture and people of J&K can play a vital role in the rural development by adhering to the concept of rural tourism. Union Territory of J&K has got a huge diversity in terms of travel and tourism. It provides a wide range of tourism such as green tourism, eco-tourism rural tourism, religious tourism, sustainable tourism, adventure tourism, sports/golf tourism, nature tourism, medical tourism, and cultural and heritage tourism. The land of Jammu and Kashmir is bequeathed with natural splendor at its best-picturesque locations, snow capped mountains, luxuriant green valleys and cool climate and hospitable people. Thus, J&K has an immense tourism potential. Efforts are being made to promote the rural tourism and diversify the tourists to new locales and decongest the over-saturated tourists’ destinations in the urban areas. Rural tourism in the Union Territory of J&K can be a unique experience through which one can experience the rustic way of life, inextricably intermingled with nature so much so as the origins of various ethnic tribes and clans.
Rural tourism can create the job opportunities for the rural people of Jammu and Kashmir. J&K has a greatpotential 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 beautyof villages, observes different cultures and way of life of the rural people.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 a new marketing and pricing policies.Rural tourism can make our rural areas become attractive and prosperous. 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 rolefor the development of rural tourism. It needs proper and prudent implementation.Rural tourism can prove as the potent tool for developing and strengthening the rural economy of J&K. Ample research on rural tourism is the dire need of the hour as it can be one of the upcoming rural economic revolutions in J&K.