Naresh Kumar/ Rural Tourism in Amritsar: An Analysis

Naresh Kumar,

Associate Professor,

BBKDAV College.

Amritsar, Punjab, India.



Tourism is one of the largest employment generating and fastest growing industries of the world. Various forms of tourism have been developed in the world like leisure tourism, adventure tourism, pilgrim tourism, cultural tourism etc. Punjab is mainly an agrarian state dominated by farming activity which has been practised since long. Amritsar lying in Majha region of Punjab has developed mainly pilgrim tourism. It does not have a marked place in rural tourism despite having potential for it. This paper analyses the existing rural tourism and studies the problems and challenges in its growth. It also attempts to study the demand for it. Finally it suggests the plan and measures to develop rural tourism in the study region so that it contributes to the rural economy.

Keywords– Agrarian, Economy, Potential, Rural, Tourism.

Punjab, the land of five rivers, is an important state of India located in north western part of India. Agriculture is being practised here since ancient time. It is the main base of its economy which has sustained it for long time. Since the start of green revolution in mid-sixties, land has been intensively cultivated to get maximum crop yield. Due to excessive use of agricultural resources, environmental problems like depletion of ground water resources, degradation of soil, land, pollution of air and water have been caused (Singh & Sidhu, 2006). This sector is still overburdened as large population is still engaged in agriculture. This has led to disguised unemployment. About 83% of the area in the state is under agriculture. This tells the volume of this sector in the state, but at the same time it also explains over dependence on this sector. Agriculture in Punjab is not without problems. Input cost is very high. As a result this occupation is not very lucrative. With changing socio-economic scenario, there is a need of diversification in agriculture as well. New avenues are coming up in every sector. Among them, tourism is one sector that has the potential of providing new life to agriculture which has already reached its saturation point. Diversification of agriculture has already taken place in Punjab and in the study region as well, but those are the allied activities of agriculture like poultry farming, dairying, apiculture etc. Now there is need to link rural economy to tourism which is a part of service sector. This form of tourism is well established in many countries of the world. However in India it is comparatively a new concept. In India also, rural tourism is established in many states and the state of Maharashtra is pioneer in this. But in Punjab this has not been developed properly, despite having great potential for it. Places around Amritsar can also be developed as centres for rural tourism. As Amritsar is a major centre of touristic activity. It will supplement the income of the farmers. Now the question arises why rural tourism is not developed in Amritsar?

In rural tourism, tourists experience a rural lifestyle participating in cultural and other activities. As described by Mr. Luigi Cabrini, World Tourism Organization regional representative for Europe “The term rural tourism is normally used when rural culture is a key component of the product on offer. The distinguishing feature of the tourism products in rural is the wish to give visitors a personalized contact a taste of the physical and human environment of the countryside and , as far as possible, allow them to participate in the activities, traditions and life styles of local people.”

  The research on rural tourism has been done in various parts of the world. Rural Tourism is a recent offshoot of tourism and has greater potential in India. In the 21st century many researchers have done research on various aspects of the rural tourism in India. Mohanty (2012) has discussed the concept and development of rural tourism in Odisha. He also summarized the impacts, challenges and difficulties in the development of rural tourism.

India is a country where about 72% of the population lives in rural areas (Census of India, 2011). Lot of work has been done in India to study the scope and potential of rural tourism. Mili (2012) and Bhattacharjee (2015) have studied the potential, scope and challenges of developing rural tourism. Mili (2012) has also discussed the impacts of rural tourism on socio economic conditions of villages. Singh (2010) has worked on this and established rural tourism as a tool for rural development. He has tried to explore the possibilities of agri tourism business in agriculture dominated areas in India and has evaluated potential of employment generation in rural areas. Another paper by Aref & Gill (2009) illustrates the development of rural tourism through rural cooperatives. Indolia (2012) in his paper has also discussed the potential and prospects of rural tourism in development of India. He believes that India has so much potential like rural industries, handicrafts, traditional art forms, fairs, festivals etc. Katoch and Gautam have explored the rural tourism resources of villages in Dharmashala (H.P.) They have also studied rural population understanding of rural tourism.

Sustainability of the rural areas is extremely important. There should not be any kind of negative impacts on the rural areas. According to Thryambakam there is an urgent need to develop sustainability of tourism. He further opines that sustainability can be achieved by the efforts of service providers. He carried out his study on perceptions and opinions of tourists and its influence on various sections of people in Maredumilli (Andhra Pradesh). He focussed on the sustainable development of rural tourism and provided solutions for making rural areas more attractive. Any activity has some positive and negative effects and rural tourism is no exception. Rathore has discussed impacts, challenges and opportunities of rural tourism. She is of the view that it can be developed with the help of private stake holders.

In service sector satisfaction of the tourists is of utmost importance. Only the satisfied tourist will give positive feedback. Sravana & Joseph in their paper have studied the satisfaction levels of the tourists regarding the services provided by the farm tourism service providers in the state of Kerala. They found that majority of the tourists are satisfied by the services provided.

Promotion and marketing of rural tourism is equally important to promote this form of tourism Gangadhara (2015) has suggested to promote rural through women. He has examined the issues relating to rural women identities in rural tourism.

Besides India, many researches have been done in different parts of the world. Spatial analysis of rural tourism has been done by Moostafaii et. al in the region of Isfahan in Iran. They also analysed the facilities and other variables like distance, banks, sports and water facilities of the region which can be used to develop rural tourism. They attempted to highlight the barriers in rural tourism development in Iran. Lu Feng has evaluated the harmonious development of rural tourism in communities in Hongcun China. Udovic and Parpar have also analysed the role of rural tourism for the development of rural areas. Okech, Haghiri & George have identified the tourist attractions in Luanda region in western Kenya. Ju also has tried to study the tourists’ experience of RT in China and based on the feedback of the tourists he has highlighted the problems and also proposed suggestions to improve rural tourism. Kurnianto & Sugianto in their study on Java region in Indonesia has tried to formulate alternative strategies for development of agro-tourism in Wonorejo region by doing the SWOT analysis. Malkanthi & Routry have searched for the possibility of application of agri-tourism in Sri Lanka and at the same time they have also discussed the problems in its development.

So, this area of research has been handled for research from various angles as it is a comparatively new concept in India. We have greater scope of rural tourism development because of greater potential. There is need to give more attention to this field of research.

Punjab Heritage and Tourism Promotion Board (PHTPB) has launched the scheme under which various farm house properties have been set up in the state. These provide truly rural environment. Accommodation, food and transportation service is provided them. Farm owner acts as both host and guide. Tourists participate in various types of activities which give them a typical rural experience. Amritsar attracts large number of tourists as it has many religious, cultural and historical places. Sri Harmandir Sahib, Jallianwala Bagh, Durgiana Mandir and retreat ceremony at Attari International border are the most preferred destinations. Shaheeda Sahib gurudwara, Ram Tirath mandir, Company Bagh and markets are other places of tourist interest. Amritsar has two farm house properties one each on Jalandhar highway and Airport road. These are near to the city and they provide pick up and drop facility as well. But local residents are not much aware about it. Virasat Haveli located on Jalandhar road has good clientele and has reasonable prices. Tourists can enjoy horse ride, village tour on tractor and visit fields here. They can participate in activities like milking of animals and folk dance etc. Special cultural programmes are organized for the guests. There is no doubt about its potential but the owner of the Virasat Haveli was of the view that rural tourism was suffering due to indifferent attitude of the government. It is a good source of income for the rural people and provides employment to the residents of the village. But there is no support or incentives from the local administration and the government.

A semi structured questionnaire was prepared having questions on general profile of the tourists and also pertaining to rural tourism. Data was collected by interviewing the tourists using questionnaire. Fifty tourists both domestic and foreign were randomly taken and interviewed near Golden Temple. Data was tabulated and simple percentage method was applied to analyse the data.

Being a sacred and historical place large, numbers of tourists visit Amritsar to see holy shrine of Sri Harmandir Sahib. Taking note of general profile of the tourists it was found that 41 tourists were domestic who came from states like Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Tamil Nadu, Haryana, Delhi, Rajasthan, West Bengal and Punjab. There were 9 foreign nationals and were mostly from developed countries like 2 tourists from UK, 1 each from Spain, France, Italy, Israel, USA, New Zealand and Russia.

Out of the total respondents 48 were males and 2 females who were foreigners. It does not mean that male tourists are more in number rather it was easier to have interaction with males only. Otherwise they were with family members and female tourists were also there in large number.. As far as the occupation of tourists is concerned 14 were businessmen, 21 in service, 7 retired personnel, 1 professional, 1 farmer, 2 were unemployed and 6 were students. Out of these 2 are in both categories students and doing jobs as well.

It was found that people visit here for multiple purposes like religious, leisure, to experience culture etc. However maximum numbers of tourist were in the category of general and religious tourism which was 34 and 29 respectively. Among other tourists 10 came for leisure, 9 to see Punjabi culture, 1 each for business and education purpose. Tourists visiting Amritsar are young as 56% were in the age group of 30 to 50 years and 24% between 18-30 years. There were 18% respondents who were above the age of 50years and only 2% were below 18 years. So, field survey shows that 80% of the tourists are lying between the age group of 18-50 years.

Tourism is an economic activity which contributes to the economy in many ways. It is spent on transportation, accommodation, food, local conveyance, sightseeing, shopping etc. (Frechtling, 1994). In the analysis of the budget of the tourists in the present survey it was found 38% had the budget above twenty thousand rupees, these included the foreign tourists and those domestic tourists who either came from distant places like West Bengal, Karnatka, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat or were on a long tour of the region visiting other places in Jammu, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab as well. Among others 28% were having budget between five and ten thousand, 18% between ten to twenty thousands and only 16% were having budget below five thousand. These were those tourists who came from nearby places. Of the total tourists 84% were from urban areas and only 16% were having rural background.

“Transportation links the various destinations and ferries people, goods and services. Tourism is all about travel; and the role of transportation in its operation is vital.”(Sorupia, 2005). Amritsar is connected by different modes of transport. It has good railway connectivity linking various cities of India. It is also connected by National Highways with New Delhi, Jammu and other states. It also has international airport. So, it is easily accessible from the world over by various means of transport. In many cases dual means of transport have been used. Train is the most popular and suitable means of transport as 66% tourists came here by this mode only and 28 % used bus. Foreign tourists used air transport and then either train or road transport to reach Amritsar. Nine tourists also came by car and one on bike as he was day visitor from nearby place.

It was found that 62 % of the tourists visited Amritsar with their families and 26% with their friends. There were five tourists who were part of big tour group and two were single visitors. There was one who was with family as well as with friend. Out of total tourists, 54 % were repeat visitors and 46% were visiting Amritsar for the first time. Ninety six percent of the tourists showed their interest to visit again and rest could not say anything at that moment. However none replied in the negative when asked whether they would visit again to Amritsar. When asked about the sources of information about Amritsar it was observed that the 70% of the respondents already knew about it which establishes the fact that Amritsar is a well-known place and a renowned tourist destination. Many people got information about Amritsar from friends and relatives. Internet, books, magazines and media were the sources of information.

Accommodation is an important element of tourism and basic infrastructure needed for its growth. Hotel, lodges, resorts, inn and youth hostels are some of the types of accommodations. These provide accommodation and meals to the guests. Amritsar being an important tourist attraction has large number of budget and starred hotels along with other types of accommodations. As cited by Tsyganok in his article “The United Nations conference on International Travel and Tourism held in 1963, acknowledged the importance of accommodation on both, traditional( hotel, motel) and supplementary(camps, youth hostel and so on) as incentives to International tourism.” The present survey hotel was the most preferred accommodation as 60% of the tourists were staying there. In Amritsar there are so many inns near Golden temple where tourist can stay free of cost and 14% of the tourists were staying here. Six tourists were staying with their friends and relatives, three in lodges because of budget constraints, while remaining had not decided yet. Duration of the stay is an important aspect as it tells the level of contribution to the local economy. More the duration of stay at tourist destination more will be contribution. The duration of stay depends upon the number of places of tourist attractions and activities in which tourists can be involved and engaged. Findings tell that 86% of the tourists are staying here only for one or two days and only 10% are having duration of stay for three or more days. Two respondents were there only for the day trip.

About the visit to rural areas of Punjab it was found 76 % had not seen rural areas of Punjab and only 24 % had visited any village. This shows that majority of the tourists have not visited any village of Punjab and never had opportunity to experienced rural life. At the same time 76% have never heard about the concept of rural tourism and know nothing about it. It is only 24 % tourists who have some acquaintance with this form of tourism.

Here it is noteworthy that it is not the same respondents that those who have not visited rural areas do not know about it rather those who have seen rural areas of Punjab do not know rural tourism as one the forms of tourism. When it comes to the visit to rural tourism site it is only four tourists who have experienced rural tourism. Out of these one each was from New Zealand and Spain and two were domestic tourists from West Bengal .Thus 50% percent of the tourists who had the opportunity to experience of rural tourism are foreigner. Regarding getting information about rural tourism it was found that 64 percent tourists had never tried to get information about it. Out of these tourists, one had never tried for it but was of the view that it is not difficult to get information and can be easily got from internet and one other said no information is available about rural tourism. Eleven tourists said there is no problem in getting information and nine tourists responded that it is difficult to get information about rural tourism. When asked would they like to visit rural tourism site if given a chance. Seventy eight of percent the respondents gave reply in affirmative and only 8% were not interested in visiting rural tourism site. Remaining 14% had not decided and could not say anything at that moment.

So, the survey shows that there is demand for rural tourism and majority of the tourists are interested in visiting rural tourism site and would like to experience rural life. They were interested in spending time in rural setting. They wanted to know and see about Punjabi culture. They wanted to live like them and taste the Punjabi food. They were interested in various activities like visiting fields, ploughing, riding bullock cart. Some were interested in other activities like tree climbing, fishing, drawing water from wells etc.

It was also found that they are simply interested in typical rural life and setting. Most of the tourists did not want special facilities and wanted only the basic facilities to be provided to them like transportation, accommodation, food, electricity, water, toilets, sanitation, road connectivity etc. Only one or two persons asked for wifi facility at rural tourism site. Safety of the tourists was another important issue which requires our attention.

Though Amritsar is an established tourist centre but it is not without problems. Tourists have to face many problems like traffic congestion and parking space. Poor garbage disposal is another problem which gives bad impression of the city. So, cleanliness and proper sanitation is urgently required. Air pollution is caused due to the heavy rush of the vehicles. It is said that positive and cooperative attitude of the local residents is necessary in the service sector like tourism. But it seems that foreign tourists are not happy with that. Foreign females had feeling of insecurity as they said people stared at them and young boys tried to come closer to them. This is very serious issue as negative feedback of the tourists is not good sign for healthy tourism.

There are many challenges and problems in the growth and development of rural tourism. Poor implementation of policy, lack of awareness about rural tourism is another problem. There are two rural tourism sites in Amritsar and not even a single respondent knew about it and even the local residents are not aware about this. It is because of lack of promotion and marketing of this concept. Safety and security of tourist is another area of concern which is of great importance. Poor conditions of roads and other infrastructure is also a big problem. Government has started considering rural tourism sites at par with hotel. Stringent pollution norms have been applied to them. Corruption in giving pollution clearance and bureaucratic hurdles are other issues which are hindering the development of rural tourism in the region.

Tourists also gave suggestions to improve the condition of the city. They wanted that traffic needs to managed on priority basis and there should be separate lanes for auto rickshaws as they are large in numbers and block the roads. There is no proper bus service to Attari border, so it should have proper connectivity. Since security is a major area of concern greater role is to be played by the police in this regard.

Besides tackling these problems there is need to develop more number of such sites. Proper infrastructure should be developed there with clean environment. These should be promoted through media. Information about the rural tourist sites should be available properly. These sites should have road connectivity. It should be also promoted in foreign countries where Punjabi community is settled in large number.

  As discussed earlier agriculture has already reached its saturation level and has caused much damage to the environment. So, rural tourism can be developed as an alternative to save the rural economy and environment also. Amritsar is a renowned tourist destination and tourists in big number visit here daily. They can be motivated to stay in rural tourist sites to have taste of rural life, but due to lack of proper development of this form of tourism it has not been able to develop to its fullest potential. It has also suffered due to poor promotion of this scheme. Survey findings reveal that there is demand for this and tourist showed interest in rural tourism. There is urgent need that problems and challenges in its development are addressed, only then it can be developed and established as an important economic activity in the rural areas.


Works cited

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