HT Tourism Conclave 2019: ‘We are not encouraging tourists to wander in the old city’
Have we explored the full potential of heritage tourism in India? Swapna Liddle, convenor of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) said “no, simply because the potential is so large”. At a 40 minute session on Friday, titled ‘Potential of heritage tourism in India’, Liddle along with historian and author Rana Safvi discussed the multiple ways in which the rich tangible and intangible heritage of the country can be explored to propel tourism, economic growth and community development in India.
The session was part of the HT tourism conclave and was moderated by HT metro editor, Shivani Singh.
“We have to think out of the box and look at where our untapped potential lies, “ said Liddle. “An average tourist who comes to Agra for instance would tick off the boxes by visiting the Taj Mahal, the fort, and maybe Fatehpur Sikhri and rush back. We are not encouraging the tourists to wander the streets of the old city, or to explore the colonial era areas like the Civil lines or even the ASI sites like the Catholic cemetery, “ she added.
Speaking about the potential to tap into intangible heritage and culture, Safvi said that “in Delhi for instance we had Dastangoi (an ancient form of Urdu story telling) happening on the stretch around Jama Masjid, various other plays, poetry, mushairas, but none of that is being showcased as a cultural heritage”.
“The intangible needs to be connected to the tangible to give context and bring the ruins and walls alive. That is why heritage walks have become so popular these days, “ added Safvi.
Liddle who has been conducting heritage walks in Delhi for over a decade said that such activities have seen a tremendous response from the public. “It’s not a coincidence that in the last 20 years heritage become such an important part of the popular discourse, “ she said.
Both Liddle and Safvi explained that it is necessary to go beyond the obvious heritage sites both for economic growth and for removing pressure from the popular ones.
Giving an example of few villages she visited in Andhra Pradesh where Pochampally was being woven, Safvi explained that propelling tourist interest in such areas can also revive dying art forms.
“It is important to learn that tourism is too important to be left to the tourism department and ministries alone. It’s something that should concern all of us whether it’s the municipal corporations, environment authorities, employment generation sector etc, “ said Liddle. “By making better cities we will improve the lives of the people living there and make it a better experience for tourists as well, “she added.
The session also discussed how heritage development for tourism purpose can also help in urban development, the need for public private partnerships in the tourism sector and the scope of heritage tourism as a career option for students of the social sciences as well.