The 1st Tourism Working Group Meeting under the G20 chair hosted by the Ministry of Tourism began on February 7 with a panel discussion on ‘Rural Tourism for Community Empowerment and Poverty Alleviation’.
Quoting Mahatma Gandhi, the Union Tourism Minister G Kishan Reddy said that “The soul of India lives in its villages” and thus by showcasing our villages and their way of life , India’s spiritual and cultural heritage and natural beauty is being showcased.
Reddy said that self reliant villages or “Aatmanirbhar Bharat”, a call to become vocal for local products will lead to a self-reliant India. Under the same, the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India for the first time has also come up with a draft on National strategy and roadmap for the development of rural tourism.
This draft, which came up in 2021, focuses on opportunities in rural tourism, how the segment revitalises local art and crafts, redeveloping rural areas and rejuvenating rural life and the interaction of visitors with the communities.
Giving the example of Pochampally village in Telangana which has been declared as one of the best tourism villages by UNWTO, the Union Minister said that Indian villages are already receiving global recognition for rural tourism.
He also stressed upon the fact that the aspect of rural tourism provides a channel for enabling the sale of local products and services, empowering the youth to become entrepreneurs, employing women and disadvantaged communities such as tribals and thus leading to community empowerment and poverty alleviation.
Reddy, during his keynote address at the side event focusing on rural tourism, also mentioned that tourism has the potential for generating maximum number of jobs with least investment and therefore, tourism can be a positive force for rural development, community well being as well as economic transformation.
“Travel and tourism must not be looked upon only as a medium for discovery and pleasure but also as a lever to enable, empower and employ,” said Reddy.
Among other topics, discussions were held on Women Empowerment through Homestays, Community based EcoTourism and The Rural Tourism model of Rann of Kutch. Besides, the other panellists gave presentations highlighting the best practices, success stories prospects , opportunities and issues in the field of rural tourism.
The panel discussion was attended by representatives from Indonesia, Italy, Spain, Japan, ILO along with UNEP. From India, the representatives from the governments of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Nagaland along with OYO and Global Himalayan Expedition participated in the discussion.
Archaeological tourism is another highlight which will be showcased to the delegates during their excursion trip to Dholavira which is a UNESCO World heritage site. It will be followed by live demonstrations of the local arts and handicrafts before the delegates and also the farewell gifts to the delegates will be under the One District One Product initiative.
Union Minister also spoke at length about how India is focused on using tourism as a vehicle for achieving Sustainable Development Goals during India’s G20 Presidency .
The five identified priority areas in the tourism sector during India’s G-20 Presidency, will constitute the key building blocks for accelerating the transition of the tourism sector and will achieve the targets for 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, Reddy said.
Apart from Greening of tourism for a sustainable, responsible and resilient sector being highlighted as the core focus area, the other four important aspects include digitalisation in the tourism sector, skilling, nurturing tourism MSMEs/ startups/ private sector and innovative Destination Management.
All of these priority areas are based on a holistic approach that delivers on the SDGs.
The main event kickstarting today will be attended by Reddy along with Union Minister Parshottam Rupala and Minister for Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying and Chief Minister of Gujarat Bhupendra bhai Patel. The other participants would be senior delegates from G20 member countries, invitee countries and international organisations.
More than 100 delegates who are attending the Tourism Working Group meeting at Dhordo, Rann of Kutch, Gujarat, were given a warm, colorful and traditional welcome which included performance by folk artists at Bhuj Airport as well as at the tent city, Dhordo, Rann of Kutch.
Other than Gujarat, three other G20 meetings of tourism track will be held at Siliguri, Goa and a location in North India. A Ministerial level Communique, entailing the direction which the different countries have agreed upon to take forward during G20 meetings, will be presented at the end of the summit.