Agricultural tourism involves any agriculture based operation or activity that brings visitors to farms or ranches. It includes a wide range of activities, including buying produce directly from a farm stand. It is a form of niche tourism that is experiencing growth in many parts of the world including India.
According to a World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) Report published in 2015, the total contribution of travel and tourism sector to world GDP was approximately $7,170.3 billion. It contributed around 9.8% to the global GDP and was higher than other significant sectors like agriculture (8.5%). The demand in the present scenario is for an inclusive and sustainable development and is therefore strongly linked to the growth in agriculture and the rural economy. It capitalises on the combined benefits of development in both agriculture and tourism.
Scope of agritourism in India
Agriculture is the backbone of the Indian economy. Around 75% of the population is directly or indirectly dependent on agriculture and almost 26% of India’s GDP comes from agriculture. On the other hand, tourism is termed an instrument for employment generation, poverty alleviation and sustainable development. So adding additional income generating activities to the existing agricultural sector would certainly increase the contribution of agriculture to the national GDP.
State government initiatives
Development of agricultural tourism should go hand in hand with the development of infrastructure in rural areas. The government has already been directing considerable effort in this direction and is seeking to involve the private sector. The Maharashtra Tourism Policy of 2016 involves local players practising agricultural tourism wherein standardisation of activities will be envisaged with additional incentives for agricultural tourism units. The Haryana Tourism Policy has pioneered introduction of the concept of farm or agricultural tourism. The Punjab Farm Tourism Scheme 2013 has proposed that farm house owners should act as both hosts and guides to the visiting tourist. The government of Kerala has decided to allow 5% of the farm area for tourism and this move has greatly aided the tourism industry in the southern state.
States promoting agricultural tourism in India
The state of Maharashtra is the pioneer in developing and promoting agricultural tourism in India. The Agri Tourism Development Corporation (ATDC) was incorporated in 2005 and now controls the pilot agricultural tourism project of the Maharashtra government spread over 58 acres in Palshiwadi, 70 kms from Pune city. In 2007, ATDC launched training and skill development programmes with the Maharashtra State Agri Tourism Vistar Yojana with 52 farmers. This model has subsequently been replicated in 328 agricultural tourism centres across 30 districts in Maharashtra and has helped to conserve and enhance the state’s rural economy and culture. The ADTC survey in 2014, 2015 and 2016 shows that 0.40 million, 0.53 million, 0.7 million tourists have visited these centres respectively and have generated around Rs. 35.79 million for the state’s agricultural community. Additionally, there has been significant employment generation.
Economic success of agricultural tourism
Agritourism is growing at an average rate of 20% per annum in India. The agricultural and allied sectors contributed 32.65% to the GSDP of Rajasthan in 2014-15 at current prices and witnessed a CAGR of 13.5% over 2004-15, indicating the growing importance of this sector to economic growth. The agricultural sector contributed around 9.86% to Sikkim’s GSDP in 2014-15. Haryana Agricultural Minister, O. P. Dhankar said on March 16, 2018, that the state government was contemplating starting agricultural tourism besides setting up 340 ‘Bagawani Villages’. Ganpat Parthe, a farmer who is into cultivation of strawberries, mulberries and raspberries from Bilhar, Maharashtra said, “My income has gone up by 20-30% in the last couple of years due to agricultural tourism. It helps me cover losses which are at times incurred during farming.” Raju Bhandarkavayhekar, who runs an agricultural tourism centre at Solarpur, Maharashtra said, “We have been running the centre since 2002 and it attracted more than 6000 tourists last year. We want to expand but do not have sufficient financial resources.” Pandurang Taware, Director, Baramati Agri and Rural Tourism Training, Research and Development Centre, Maharashtra informed that if 10% of domestic tourists in Maharashtra travel to agricultural tourism centres in the state it can become a Rs. 2800 crore industry.
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