J&K’s Dawar among 35 declared as best tourism villages

NEW DELHI, Sept 27: From Jammu and Kashmir’s Dawar to Sikkim’s Kitam, 35 villages from across India have been chosen as the ‘best tourism villages’ in the country after a nationwide competition whose evaluation criteria were aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The Ministry of Tourism held an award ceremony at the Bharat Mandapam here on the occasion of World Tourism Day today.
Prior to announcing the awards in three categories — Gold, Bronze and Silver –the Ministry also held a global launch of ‘Travel for LiFE’, a sectoral programme under ‘Mission LiFE’ (Lifestyle for Environment), targeted towards the tourism sector, in partnership with the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
Minister of State for Tourism and Defence Ajay Bhatt, Union Tourism Secretary V Vidhyavathi, Union Environment Secretary Leena Nandan, and other senior officials were present at the launch.
“I request every traveller, every businessman, and every citizen to adopt this programme (‘Travel for LiFE’),” Bhatt said.
“I would like to congratulate all the 35 distinguished winners of rural tourism village (competition). Your dedication and enthusiasm is commendable and the ministry of tourism is committed to supporting and amplifying your efforts,” he said.
The Ministry of Tourism on February 16 had launched the ‘Best Tourism Village Competition’ to select the best tourism village from across the country, and also a new website to promote rural tourism.
The evaluation criteria were aligned with the SDGs.
On Wednesday, a video on the competition, mentioning the parameters used in evaluation was also screened.
The winners were selected from over 750 entries received from 315 districts of 31 states and Union territories.
Around 80 villages were assessed at the national level, and 35 of them have been chosen as the ‘best tourism villages’ in three categories — 5 (Gold), 10 (Silver) and 20 (Bronze).
The ‘Best Tourism Village Competition’ helmed by the tourism ministry were held in three stages, and entries were sought at district level, state level and finally at the national level.
The winners in Gold category are Dawar village in Jammu and Kashmir, Sarmoli village in Uttarakhand, Reiek Village in Mizoram, Kanthallor Village in Kerala and Madla Village in Madhya Pradesh.
In Silver category, the winners included Lepakshi village in Andhra Pradesh, Sarodhadadar in Chhattisgarh, Hemis in Ladakh and Raghurajpur in Odisha.
In Bronze category, the winners included Biswanath village in Assam, Talao in Haryana, McCluskieganj in Jharkhand, Hampi in Karmataka and Khokhra in Madhya Pradesh.
Neeraj Pradhan, principal chief engineer of Sikkim’s tourism department, said, “Rural tourism is a fairly new concept not just in Sikkim but also in our country. So, there are a lot of challenges. For instance, it is difficult to convince tourists to come to these destinations but when they come they find it very wonderful and they enjoy the experience so there’s word of mouth advertisement so we have a lot more people enjoying rural tourism.”
Savitri Chettri, secretary-cum-CEO of Kitam Tourism Development Cooperative Society, said there is a bird sanctuary nearby the village which draws tourists.
“We do community-based tourism and we have about 20 houses which are used under homestay project, and guest ge to eat local food and experience local culture too,” she said.
The competition identified villages based on themes like arts and crafts, heritage and sustainability, the video said.
Central Nodal Agency provided handholding to villages, districts and states at different levels of competition.
The tourism villages were evaluated on parameters such as cultural and natural resources, economic sustainability, environment sustainability, governance and prioritisation of tourism, health, safety and security, promotion and conservation of cultural resources, social sustainability, tourism development, value chain integration, and infrastructure and connectivity.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi in March had said that “out-of-the-box thinking” and “long-term vision” can take tourism to new heights, and added that villages in far-flung areas of India have now come up on the map of tourism.
“Our villages are becoming centers of tourism,” he had remarked.
Addressing a post-budget webinar on ‘Developing Tourism in Mission Mode’, he had also said that the Central Government had started the Vibrant Village Scheme for the villages situated along the border, and emphasised the need to support businesses such as homestays, small hotels and restaurants. (PTI)