Prime Minister Narendra Modi in one of his recent ‘Mann
ki Baat’ had urged the people to discover the wonders of #IncredibleIndia.
Taking on the cue, the Ministry of Tourism has organised the ‘Paryatan
Parv’, which is being touted as “a celebration of India’s rich tourist
The Union Ministry of Tourism in collaboration with other
central ministries, various state governments and stakeholders is
currently organising ‘Paryatan Parv’ across India from October 5-25,
2017 drawing focus on the benefits of tourism, showcasing our cultural
diversity and reinforcing the principle of ‘Tourism for All’.
It is a wonderful coincidence that the ‘Paryatan Parv’, a
celebration in the festival loving country such as ours, is happening
during the peak festive season, also a time when many people take out
time to tour various parts of India. But for various reasons, people
continue to visit the more popular, more exploited sites rather than
exploring newer, lesser known places. Instead of going in for routine
tourist places, it is high time Indians explored the nook and corners of
our beautiful country; rather than staying at hotels, living with people
to learn about the traditions and customs
The ‘Paryatan Parv’ seems to offer this opportunity. Two
things from the comprehensive government plan that stood out for me are
the interstate engagement matrix under the ‘Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat’
scheme and the guidelines for CBSE affiliated schools to visit heritage
monuments among other programmes for getting students interested in
cultural and traditional diversity of India.
The idea that school students should visit monuments is
not a new one, albeit linking it with the paradigm of ‘tourism and
studies’ gives it a new twist. Imagine a class learning about the
conquest by Chhatrapati Shivaji sitting at a fort in Maharashtra? Or
imagine, learning about what Akbar did sitting at the Agra fort? The
heritage monuments are a treasure trove of information. They offer not
just lessons in history but also in that era’s architecture and
traditional practices. What better way to understand it than an actual
India is lucky, it is endowed with more than 3500
monuments of national importance (that are taken care of by the
Archaeological Survey of India) and almost 10,000 other monuments that
are taken care of by different state governments.
Similarly, imagine, people from Kerala engaging with
those from Himachal Pradesh. Or for that matter, people from Madhya
Pradesh meeting and seeking to know more about those from Nagaland and
Manipur. What a beautiful concept, if implemented well!! After all,
didn’t Adi Shankaracharya formulate the concept of char dhams in four
corners of India and envisaged people visiting 12 jyotirlingas in
various parts of the country?
If not for pilgrimage, but for knowing the rich
traditions and culture of our vast land, people should engage with those
from other states, further the better. This is exactly what the Tourism
Ministry through ‘Paryatan Parv’ can harp on – envisaging through this
exchange that “the knowledge of the language, culture, traditions and
practices of different states will lead to an enhanced understanding and
bonding between one another, thereby strengthening the unity and
integrity of India.”
Rising domestic tourism:
‘Namaste!’ has been India’s identity across the world.
India has attracted tourists from all over the world and not just now
but since ages. While foreign tourists’ arrival brings in the
much-needed foreign currency, and hence are given a priority, it is
equally important to ensure domestic tourists are not neglected.
As per Tourism Ministry’s Annual Report for 2016-17,
domestic tourism continues to be an important contributor for the
tourism sector in India. As per the data furnished by the state/UT
governments and other information available with the Ministry of
Tourism, the domestic tourist visits during the year 2015 were 1432
million as compared to 1282.8 million in 2014, registering a growth of
11.63% over 2014.
This is a huge number as compared to the number of
foreign tourist arrival in India (8.03 million) in the same time showing
annual growth rate of 4.5 % over previous year. The stakeholders,
including authorities, in the tourism sector will need to understand the
rising trend in case of domestic tourism.
For instance, from about 190.67 million domestic tourists
in 1999 to about 1,431.97 million in 2015, the domestic tourism industry
has undergone a sea change, seen a whopping 651.02% rise in just 16
years. Perhaps, keeping in mind all such things, the government has
already initiated an exercise to formulate a comprehensive revised
tourism policy by March 2018.
There was a time when people stepped out only for
pilgrimage and tourism only meant luxury pursued by few moneyed people.
Today, as more and more common men and women seek to step out and
explore various parts of India, domestic tourism has spanned almost all
fields beyond pilgrimages. This opens a positive opportunity for the
government and all other stakeholders to further explore and exploit the
Tourism infrastructure and livelihood
The elaborate planning by the Tourism Ministry and the
complimentary programmes chalked out by other central ministries and
state governments go on to show the sheer variety that is possible in
tourism sector and how it can have an impact on almost all other
ministries/fields – Education, Culture, Textiles, Development of
North-East India, Rural Development and even Information & Broadcasting
Ministry. Tourism needs stable infrastructure, tourism needs peaceful
law and order situation and tourism needs an inviting host. In return,
tourism gives much needed livelihood to local population and revenue to
India is known world over for its hospitality and in most
parts of India, law and order situation is tourist-friendly. But apart
from major metro cities and few of the places on tourist map, the
tourism related infrastructure needs lots of improvement. Scores of
smaller places first need to be identified for promotion of tourism, the
last mile connectivity needs to be ensured, infrastructure for visiting
and resident tourists needs to be developed. This includes availability
of decent accommodation and food services. Many potential places across
India remain oblivious to tourists only because one or more of the above
factors do not work in their favour.
The tourism ministry has encouraged and developed a chain
of B&B (Bed and Breakfast) homes across urban centres well. But it is
now time to concentrate on ‘Home Stays’ in rural and semi-urban areas.
Only such Home Stays can bring in sustainable tourism as against the
big-ticket hotel industry that often leads to draining local natural
resources. Plus, Home Stays are a better way to interact directly with
the local population and to know about their traditions and culture.
Home Stays will also improve livelihood opportunities for the locals
rather than the hotel industry where profits are pocketed by outsiders.
‘Paryatan Parv’ can be a good opportunity to identify
these weak links. Not just for this time slot, but for a better,
sustainable future in tourism.
*Nivedita Khandekar is an independent journalist based in
Delhi. She writes on environmental and developmental issues.
Views expressed in the article are author’s personal.