Himachal Pradesh adopts a novel way to promote rural tourism
Tourism is one of the key areas which can strengthen socioeconomic activities besides attracting tourists to the land of enchanting beauty-Himachal Pradesh. In view of this, the Himachal Pradesh Government has recently launched a scheme known as ‘Har Gaon Ki Kahani‘(story of every village), in addition to ‘Home Stay Scheme’, which is attracting hoards of tourists to lesser known and remote destinations of the State from last two years. Under ‘Har Gaon Ki Kahani’, fascinating tales, folklore and anecdotes related to remote villages in Himachal Pradesh are set to lure tourists. This novel scheme aims at developing villages of historic importance as tourism villages by providing basic amenities and will provide tourists a peep into rustic life of the hill State.
People across the State have been asked by the tourism department to send fascinating stories and legends, stories of gods and goddesses, prevalent religious beliefs, interesting anecdotes, local customs, rituals followed on the occasion of marriage and festivals etc related to their native place. These would then be reviewed and published by the authorities in tourism literature to woo tourists. If the story from a village is interesting and has some historical facts, the tourism department will allot funds to that village to develop tourism infrastructure. The concerned Panchayats can send such stories/anecdotes, incidents directly to the office of Deputy Commissioner or concerned District Tourism Development Officer.
Himachal Pradesh happens to be ‘First State’ in the country to link MNREGA with tourism promotion activities. Tourism infrastructure of the selected villages will be developed by roping in local villagers and using funds under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGA). ‘Har Gaon Ki Kahani’ scheme will generate self-employment and de-congest urban areas. Besides, local people will also get a chance to showcase their cuisine, folk culture and handicrafts.
For the implementation of ‘Har Gaon Ki Kahani’ scheme, a committee has been constituted under the chairperson-ship of Deputy Commissioner which comprises of concerned District Tourism Development Officer, District Language Officer, District Public Relations Officer, District Panchayat Officer and any other member (non-official).
‘Home Stay Scheme’ launched in the year 2008 is already a grand success and a favorite among the tourists. The scheme focuses on rural tourism to generate employment, income and promote new destinations by exhibiting ancient heritage and culture of the State. Till date, 246 home stay units have been registered in the State with 75 in Kullu, 49 in Kinnaur, 31 in Kangra, 38 in Shimla, 10 in Mandi, 12 in Chamba, 19 in Lahaul-Spiti, six each in Sirmaur and Solan district and about a dozen units are in registration process. 653 rooms are available in these registered units where tourists can experience rustic lifestyle in a homely atmosphere. In the last one year, 5532 Indian and 220 foreign visitors stayed in the registered home stay units in the State according to Tourism Department.
Kullu district has emerged a forerunner in attracting maximum number of tourists in its 75 registered home stays. 1539 domestic and 132 foreign tourists stayed in the units situated at Jong-Katrain, Manali, Jibhi, Banjar, Prini, Naggar, Jagatsukh, Bahang, Mohal, Haripur, Kasol, Kullu etc.
Kinnaur district follows next with 49 registered units where 26 domestic and 5 foreign tourists visited while 38 registered home stay units in Shimla district attracted 259 domestic tourists. In Kangra district, 31 registered units attracted 1580 domestic and 77 foreign tourists. Similarly, 6 domestic and 3 foreign tourists stayed in Spiti valley’s 19 registered units. 39 tourists stayed in Chamba district’s 12 registered units whereas 4 domestic tourists enjoyed the country side settings in Mandi district’s 10 registered home stay units.
Besides providing tourists a peep into the rich rural cultural heritage, traditions and customs, home stay units are providing self employment opportunities to the rural folk. Under this scheme, minimum one and maximum three rooms can be registered as home stay in rural areas where the owner of the house is also residing. There is no luxury and sale tax, no VAT and electricity and water consumption is charged on domestic rates. Those who wish to register their homes under this scheme can contact the concerned District Tourism Development Officer of their respective areas. To facilitate tourists in booking home stay unit of their choice and make their sojourn memorable, the Tourism Department has started facility of online reservation on www.hptdc.gov.in