Shikhar Tourist Guide Diaries: by Dharmedra Pandey, Tourist Guide
If there is one Indian state that provides simplicity with excitement, it is Himachal Pradesh. With snowy mountains, luscious green plains and deep open valleys, Himachal makes for an all-in-one tour that has something for everybody. It is home to many Indian as well as foreign tourists all year round. Vacationers and adventure enthusiasts from Israel and other neighbouring countries flock to this picturesque destination every month.
“Paradise unexplored” as it is said to be, the North-East stretches far & wide, tucked away into majestic mountains & lush green valleys under the infinite blues, home to a plethora of tribes, each with own distinctive historical traditions & cultures, along with abundance of bio-diversity –man & nature co-existing in perfect harmony.
India is known to be the birthplace of yoga and meditation, and it is also known around the world as the spiritual centre where people can easily de-stress their mind and body. India can provide you with the perfect escape from the hustle- bustle of life and introduce you to the world of yoga and meditation. It also provides you with a golden opportunity to rejuvenate your body, enlighten your mind and enrich your soul.
We travelled from Delhi to Jodhpur by a very convenient overnight trains- Mandor Express.
Shikhar Travels representative met us at the train station and drove us to Khimsar.
The barren land of Kutch in Gujarat is one of the highly visited regions in Gujarat. The long stretched white sand desert may look barren, but has its own charm and magic, attracting tourists from different parts of the world. As the winter arrives, this long stretched barren land with the spectacular landscape view comes alive during the Kutch Festival every year. When the winter fog blankets the entire region, people enjoy the magical beauty by celebrating Rann Utsav. Kutch Rann Utsav is the unique and most awaited festival in Gujarat organised by the Gujarat Tourism that takes place from November to February.
Jammu and Kashmir government has relaxed the Protected Area Permit (PAP) regime to enable foreigners to visit restricted areas in Leh district of Ladakh, a decision which is expected to increase the footfall of tourists and give considerable boost to the local economy.
With this decision, foreign tourists would now be permitted to visit a number of unexplored areas like Panamik, Phukpochey, Hargam, Taksha, Sasoma, Chaglung, Kobet, Aranu, Khemi, Warshi, including Yarma Gompa/ Yarma Gonbo Monastery of the Nubra Valley in Leh.
Snuggled in the foothills of Himalayas, the Kumaon hills will surely cast a magical spell on your senses as you step into the crisp and fresh air of the region. A 6 hour drive from the capital city New Delhi takes you to the land of wonders. The Uttarakhand state is divided in two divisions – Garhwal & Kumaon.
A guide to lesser-known scenic hill stations and treks in the Himalayas
Ninety per cent of visitors to the Indian Himalayas keep visiting the same 10 per cent of places, over and over again. Pilgrimages aside, the hill stations and treks attract those looking out for genuine Himalayan adventure.
India is on its way to becoming one of the greatest nations in the world. Some, like Masayoshi Son, the founder-CEO of SoftBank, back this statement not with mere words but capital, while others believe in its very essence and are committed to acting on their conviction.
IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m among the believers, and this is why I think tourism will go a long way in kick-starting India, in making India! Speaking from the perspective of a travel startup, I will now seek to analyse how the sector can help create jobs, reduce inequality and empower various social sectors.
Empowering Local Businesses
Consider the individual who lives in his own house in a village, with a small plot of farm land. He eats fresh food, breathes fresh air and has a social circle. Forced to leave his home, he travels to the city, where he lives in dirty shanties looking for daily wage work and has no access to education or healthcare.
Tourism is perfectly placed to promote reverse migration. We are able to put to use resources that are locally available and create a sustainable business for local communities.
Take, for instance, Orchha, a small town in Madhya Pradesh with a population of just 9,000. OrchhaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s rich heritage makes it a popular tourist destination. Locals started to work in OrchhaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s famous hotels as the tourist inflow gathered pace. Many went on to become entrepreneurs, opening cafes or retail stores. Some are expert guides and conduct tours. The local activities and crafts of the area are thus thriving.
A smaller example is that of Sattal, a hamlet in the hills 15 km from Nainital. The boatmen of Sattal were extremely poor as they waited for busloads of people to come from Nainital for day picnics, which happened only in the peak season of April, May and June. While each boat ride cost Rs 200, the boatman would earn only Rs 50. They earned barely Rs 50,000 for the entire year.
The first hotel started operations in Sattal in 2011, and provided guests with complimentary boating. Soon, customers started trickling in even during the lean season. In that first year, 2,000 customers stayed at the resort. As occupancy rose, so did the boatmenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s income.
At Rs 200 per trip, the boatmen were totally able to earn Rs 4,00,000 from us alone! Given 10 boats, it still meant Rs 40,000 per boatman only from us, almost equivalent to what they earned from day tourists. And then something else happened. As Sattal became a well-known tourist destination, new resorts and hotels came up. The number of boats increased several fold. In just a few years, tourism enabled the entire village of Sattal to generate ample employment and prosper.
Linking Micro Supply Chains
The plight of marginal farmers is a constant source of contention, with economists propagating further price reduction in agricultural commodities. Meanwhile, customers still pay high prices owing to supply and logistics constraints. So how does tourism help?
Meet Bashir Khan, a marginal farmer in Ramgarh who has a 1,000-square yard plot. He grows lemon grass, a herb popular for its oil extract. From his sparse available land, Bashir produces roughly 500 ml of oil a day. While the unsuspecting customer usually bought the oil at Rs 200-500 per 50 ml bottle, Bashir was forced to sell his produce for a meagre Rs 150 per litre! Impressed with the quality of extract and the low prices, tourists heading to Ramgarh started to buy the oil directly from Bashir. Surprised at the price he offered, they educated him about the demand and prices of comparable products in Delhi. Bashir now supplies to retail shops in Delhi.
Tourism has this ability to create a market for local products and match demand at that very destination, all while keeping prices attractive for customers.
Reviving Arts And Crafts
Indian design has been applauded for ages, yet, absurdly, we see Indian towns, cities and even the more affluent villages emulate western design, with concrete structures and the modern architecture of the West. Ironically, the poorest villages retain forgotten Indian designs Ã¢â‚¬â€ mud structures, thatched roofs and tiles, and make for the most beautiful settings.
Close to Mhaismal, a small hill station near Aurangabad, are the last two remaining households that work on the beautiful Ã¢â‚¬â€ but vanishing Ã¢â‚¬â€ metal art form of Bidri. Today, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s in desperate need of support in the region. As resorts opened in Mhaismal, customers were able to visit the craftsmen’s homes and appreciate their art. One discerning guest even ordered the metalworks for her website, and as orders poured in, the Bidri trend caught on.
Tourism can revive arts that were once lost. Tourists can visit craftsmen, see their works and create new channels of demand. Its power in reshaping and rejuvenating the Indian economy should not be underestimated.