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Khwaja moots for resource committee on rural tourism

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Uttarakhand planning for major change in policy to promote rural and adventure tourism                      

At the recent convention organised by Uttarakhand Tourism in association with the Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO) in Mussoorie on ‘Hunar se Rozgar through Adventure & Rural Tourism’, R H Khwaja, chief guest and secretary tourism, Government of India spoke about the need for a committee to work as a resource centre, to put together and share learning and best practices in the field of rural tourism. The committee would comprise of officials from ministry of tourism, some advisory experts, implementing organisations, state tourism department and panchayats, Village Tourism Development Committee (VTDC) and community representatives, and a Project Monitoring Unit. “We have neglected employment generation capabilities in the service sector, especially tourism. With more than 60 per cent people residing in villages, rural tourism could become a major source of generating revenue and employment, provided it is done in a planned manner,” stated Khwaja.

Khwaja reminded that the ministry of tourism had launched the special programme in August 2009-10, for creation of employable skills amongst youth belonging to economically weaker sections of the society. “This initiative was taken to bridge the gap of skilled manpower in hospitality sector. Considering its success and acceptability, it has been decided to expand the coverage in terms of number of beneficiaries as well as the courses being offered. Earlier, the programme offered training courses covering Food & Beverage service and food production, but now three more courses of housekeeping, bakery and a composite multi skilled course in food production and F&B service has been introduced,” he stated.

Rural tourism is a niche tourism product that can attract upmarket clients who would like to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. There is a need to involve local communities with incentives so that they are engaged in their self as well as local development activities, and there is no antagonism that many rural communities have towards tourism. Dr S S Sandhu, secretary tourism & forests, Government of Uttarakhand revealed that that the state is considering a major change in its policy to promote rural and adventure tourism in a big way. He also said the government is planning to develop many new hill stations and a Mussoorie circuit is also being planned with the financial assistance of the Asian Development Bank so that the lesser known destinations such as Tehri Dam, Lakhamandal, etc, are also linked with it.

Dr Anil P Joshi, chairman, Himalayan Environmental Studies and Conservation Organisation highlighted on the need to correlate adventure tourism with local aspirations and include the local community so that they could also reap the benefits of tourism. He also stressed on the need to safeguard the fragile environment of the Himalayas while carrying out adventure tourism.

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