Having failed to tab and encash the rural tourism in Punjab till now, the state government finally seems to have woken up and is now planning to boost the rural tourism in the state by showcasing its rich heritage and culture to the globetrotters.
Punjab tourism minister Sohan Singh Thandal and Punjab principal secretary culture and tourism Anjali Bhawara along with various key note speakers talked about how rural Punjab could help in promoting tourism in the state at a workshop highlighting scope, challenges and strategies of rural tourism in Punjab, here on Tuesday.
Thandal said, “The time has come when we need to showcase and connect domestic and international tourists to the real Punjab culture, which can only be found in rural areas.”
“Rural Punjab does not have hills and mountains, malls, five star hotels, but it does have clean environment and lush green fields, which can be a treat for tourists. The lifestyle of the people in Rural Punjab and a day spent with them will also be an experience for the domestic and international tourists,” said Thandal, who confessed that there were various flaws and challenges but they are determined to boost rural tourism and these hurdles could be overcome. Thandal also launched new website of Punjab tourism here.
Meanwhile, Anjali said tourism was an engine to run the economy of Punjab and everyone had expectations from the state government which was being looked into. “Rural Punjab is the Tourism product,” she asserted.
Collective collaboration needed
Thandal said it was very disheartening to hear the youth saying “Punjab ch hai ki dekhan nu” (what is there to see in Punjab). “When I hear this from the youth, I feel disheartened and think maybe we all have collectively failed somewhere in promoting our rich culture. By collectively, I mean everyone is to be involved in this promotion, including higher authorities, local administrations, tour operators, hoteliers, drivers, NGO’s, rural community and more. Another important factor to be considered is that our tourist should feel safe here and only then they would come.”
“Rural Punjab has handicrafts, music, theater and dance to showcase. We just need to get to involve the artists and community as a whole and give them a fair share in tourism promotion. We should aim and follow Kerela, which has encashed the rural sector,” said Thandal.
SK Misra, chairman , Indian trust for rural heritage and development, gave a detailed report on ‘Defining the scope of rural tourism sector’ where he talked about exhibiting the potential of rural sector and gave an example of Varanasi (called it a pilot project) and its nearby villages which were visited by the tourists . He also emphasised and suggested the state government to do careful planning and motivate all stake holders involved in boosting tourism.
Meanwhile, Anne Maria Makela, international marketing consultant of UNWTO, gave a very informative presentation, talking about rural tourism development opportunities in Punjab, result of tour operator survey and product development themes and models.
“Boosting tourism means everyone has a vital role to play from the tourism minister to a driver helping the tourists. Now the demand of tourists is shifting and that’s from sightseeing to the experiences with the local traditions and Punjab needs to encash on it.”
Farm stay places is need of the hour
Anne Maria Makela appealed to the state government that theme-based tourism was the product and the major points to be included were farm stay places, community inclusiveness in tourism, promotion of agriculture of Punjab, festive Punjab, pilgrim tours, etc.
“Now if we talk about agriculture then government should be able to promote research work of Punjab Agriculture University, Ludhiana where farmers from various countries can visit. Then if we promote culture or pilgrim tours then it should be such that first a tourist should visit Virasat-e-Khalsa in Anandpur Sahib and then after getting an insight about the culture he should be moving to Amritsar where he can visit Golden temple and other historical places along with Wagah border.”
Highlighting the biggest challenge, she said, “A massive PR exercise is the need of the hour. Arrange PR events and also do not only focus on international tourist as domestic tourist is the biggest economy generator. Aim for various stakeholder collaboration.”