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Agri-tourism is the form of tourism which capitalizes on rural culture as a tourist attraction. It has gained a new dimension as a potential income and employment generating activity. The symbiosis between tourism and agriculture that can be found in agro-tourism is a key element of an environmentally and socially responsible tourism. Travel and tourism are human-resource intensive, employing directly and indirectly 8 per cent of the global workforce. It is estimated that one job in the core tourism industry creates about one and a half additional or indirect jobs in the tourism-related economy. The diversion of core tourism to agri-tourism is expected to reinforce the employment potential of the sector with increased local hiring and sourcing and significant opportunities in tourism oriented toward local culture and the natural environment. In agri-tourism sector increasing the involvement of local communities, especially the poor, in the tourism value chain can contribute to the development of local economy and poverty reduction. This can include the local supply of products, labour, and tourism services.

There is increasing evidence that more sustainable tourism in rural areas can lead to more positive poverty-reducing effects. Nowadays more and more travellers are found to favour environmentally-friendly tourism and be willing to pay for related experiences. Traditional mass tourism has reached a stage of steady growth. In contrast, agro-eco-tourism, nature, heritage, cultural, and “soft adventure” tourism are taking the lead and are predicted to grow rapidly over the next two decades. Agro-tourism is similar to eco-tourism except that its primary appeal is not the natural landscape but a cultural landscape. Agro-tourism can promote regional development and helps to conserve diversity. Agro-tourism can help in conservation of plant and animal genetic resources. An advantage of this approach is that rural areas are popular destinations for holidays and excursions, particularly cultural landscapes which still give a glimpse of how past generations lived and worked. The agro-tourism can generate additional income for farmers and contribute to the conservation and development of the whole region. Specific plans, mechanisms and tools to educate small and medium sized tourism related enterprises are critical. The promotion and widespread use of internationally recognized standards for sustainable tourism can help businesses understand the practical aspects of sustainable tourism and assist with mobilizing investment.

Tourism has emerged as one of the largest global economic activities. As per the estimate of World Travel and Tourism Council (W.T.T.C), tourism generated more than worth $5 trillion of output equivalent to about 8% of total world G.N.P. India’s share of world tourist arrival has been merely 4%. W.T.T.O. in its Tourism vision 2020 has projected that there would be about 1.6 billion international tourists in all countries of the world by the year 2020. As per the same estimation India is expected to fuel 4.5 times growth in international tourists’ destination thus playing a major role in the economy of the states.

Agriculture is backbone of Indian Economy. Eighty five percent of the population is directly or indirectly

dependent on Agriculture where as 26 percent of GDP comes from agriculture, 110 million farmers are dwelling in 6.25 lakh villages producing more than 200 MT of food grains feeding the country. More than profession, business, agriculture is culture. Hence, adding additional income generating activities to existing Agriculture would certainly increase contribution of Agriculture to national GDP.

Agro-eco–tourism

Agro-eco-tourism is the latest concept in the Indian tourism industry, which normally occurs on farms. It is the symbiotic association of farming sector, tourism industry and farm business. It is indeed, the economic activity that occurs when people link travel with agricultural products, services or experiences to cater to the needs of mutual demands. It gives you the opportunity to experience the real enchanting and authentic contact with the rural life, taste the local genuine food and get familiar with the various farming tasks during the visit. It provides you the escape from the daily hectic life in the peaceful rural environment. It gives the chance to relax and revitalize in the pure natural environment, surrounded by magnificent setting. Agri-tourism would also provide tourists with an opportunity to be close to where the 75% of Indians live.

Real India, as we know, resides win the villages. A concept, agri-eco-tourism entails visiting a working farm or any agriculture, horticulture or agribusiness operation, for the purpose of enjoyment, education or active involvement in the activities of the farm or operation. If the first indications of the joint ongoing study by the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) and Yes Bank are taken into consideration, the scope of agri-tourism is very promising. The concept is to tap the vast market of inland urban tourists who want to take a break from a mechanical life and enjoy the peace and tranquility of rural life in its natural abundance. Agro-eco-tourism is the new value added agricultural business, for improving the incomes and potential economic viability of small farms and rural communities. Agri-tourism can take many forms like roadside stands or on farm direct sales, which can offer farm-fresh produce to travelers as well as interaction with growers. Agri-tourism ends farmers’ isolation and offers the opportunity to make new friends and build stronger links to the community. Social skills and a scenic, clean, attractive farm are crucial for success in agritourism and can make the farms more ideal location for tourists.

The eco-tourism destinations in Karnataka are Coorg, Madikeri, Dakshin Kannada, Karwar, Sirsi, Mysore, Sringeri etc.

K S Ashokkumar (Managing Director)

MAA Integrators Bengaluru