A number of Indian states have identified rural tourism as a vital area for promoting sustainable experiences.
India’s southern state of Tamil Nadu, which recently came up with a new five-year tourism policy centred on establishing a sustainable tourism ecosystem, has made home-stays in rural areas and community awareness programmes in villages part of its action plans.
Kerala state is also keen to promote rural tourism under its responsible tourism initiatives, especially in the areas of Kumarakom, Thekkady, Kovalam and Vaikom. Tourists are able to explore villages in unique ways, such as by caravans, and experience local way of life through home-stays.
Prem Krishnan S, additional director general, tourism, department of tourism, Kerala, told TTG Asia that this focus would provide employment opportunities for locals.
On a broader scale, India’s Ministry of Tourism is getting the ball rolling on a village tourism programme that was recently approved by the central government. The programme supports the ministry’s goal of diversifying the country’s tourism experiences.
Manoj Kumar Singh, nodal officer, responsible tourism, Madhya Pradesh, said: “We are working on six major community development projects in Madhya Pradesh. Rural tourism and homestay promotions are important parts of these projects.”
He shared that 100 villages in Madhya Pradesh are involved in this initiative, and 30 of them have the necessary infrastructure to host tourists. The remaining villages will be brought up to standard by 2024.
Industry players are aware that not a single tourism village in India had made it to the list of UNWTO Best Tourism Villages awardees in 2022, which inducted 32 villages from 22 countries.
The village of Pochampalli was the only Indian tourism village recognised by the UNWTO programme in 2021.
UNWTO maintains a strict criteria for recognising tourism villages under its Best Tourism Villages initiative. Candidates must meet nine stringent requirements, such as Health, Safety and Security; Promotion and Conservation of Cultural Resources; and Social Sustainability.
However, villages that are close to making the cut will get support from the Upgrade Programme, which addresses gaps identified in the evaluation process.
Kerala’s Krishnan said his team is “working towards parameters that will help us to meet the criteria required by UNWTO Best Tourism Villages initiative”. – Additional reporting by Karen Yue