Apart from earning foreign exchange, the tourism industry has a bearing on poverty alleviation, employment, income generation, development of the local economy, etc. The Manila Declaration on World Tourism of 1980 recognised its importance as “an activity essential to the life of nations because of its direct effects on the social, cultural, educational and economic sectors of national societies and their international relations.” Tourism has been recognised as an economic powerhouse that promotes direct and indirect employment opportunities where both men and women can work (UNWTO, 2013).
Most of the developing countries have problems of lack of tourism infrastructure, marketing, awareness about the benefits of tourism, convergence between government, NGOs and private players. Pro-poor tourism strategies can be applied to benefit the poor as well as to boost local economic development in ways that benefit the poor.
Rural tourism is essentially an activity that takes place in the countryside. It is multi-faceted and may entail farm /agricultural tourism, cultural tourism, nature tourism, adventure tourism, and eco-tourism. As against conventional tourism, rural tourism has certain typical characteristics, like it is experience-oriented, the locations are sparsely populated, it is predominantly in the natural environment, it meshes with seasonality and local events, and is based on preservation of culture, heritage, and traditions. In Kashmir, there is great cultural and natural diversity, and there are vast areas of agricultural land of appropriate quality and environmental condition with well-preserved local traditions and identities.
Unfortunately, despite having such huge potential, most of the rural areas in Kashmir are underdeveloped. Rural tourism or village-based tourism has grown in popularity among international tourists largely due to the availability of diverse cultural and natural resources. This type of tourism is a subset of cultural tourism, in which visitors have an opportunity to observe and participate in daily activities, customs, and traditions of local people. Also, food and services are locally produced and tourism revenues generally stay within the local communities. Thus rural tourism has various benefits, including development of villages with proper sanitation, roads, electricity, telecommunications, etc. It is an ideal method of rural and urban economic exchange, which leads to an overall increase in the standard of living. It creates job opportunities and generates income for rural people, who also learn to use modern tools and technology. Local people also begin to know the importance of preservation of natural resources, biodiversity, and historical monuments. Cultural understanding is enhanced through fairs and festivals.
The writer is a research scholar. [email protected]