Community-based Rural Tourism Model: Process’s Challenges through Successful Experiments at Darap Village, Sikkim State, India

Theme: The Cultural Significance of Rural Identity to the Upcoming Generations

By Ms. Madhura Sham Joshi
HeritageForAll Intern (Call 2019) from Mumbai, India
Internship Program “Rural Heritage and Traditional Food”
M.A. in International Architectural Regeneration and Development, Oxford Brookes University (UK)

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RURAL TOURISM SCENARIO IN INDIA

In India tourism has grown and developed so much over the last 15 years. We can see the contribution of tourism to national gross domestic product 6.3% and employment creation 8.3%. (New Tourism and Community-based Tourism, 2014).

This has grown because of digital connectivity, promotion and diverse tourism experience in the country but it has also created a lot of concerns on the negative impact of tourism on the natural environment. The tourism destinations in India are threatened by external environmental shocks, the threat of global warming and sea-level rise (New Tourism and Community-based Tourism, 2014). The growing mass tourism, which has created unwanted environmental and social effects that were completely overlooked earlier shadowed by its economic impacts (Rasooli-Manesh & Jaafar, 2016). With the raising concerns related to climate, environment and culture of tourist destinations we need alternative tourism model. We need to start focusing on sustainable tourism concept where people offer small-scale accommodation units & showcase their cultural heritages while getting economic and social benefit from the activity without having any adverse impact on the local environment (New Tourism and Community-based Tourism, 2014). This alternative or new Age tourism involves travel to particular destinations, which has rejected conventional ways of the traditional approach of tourism. (Rasooli-Manesh & Jaafar, 2016).

Fig.01. Comparison of Mass and Alternative Tourism

The alternative forms of tourism cover all types of tourist activities that are called soft tourism, small-scale tourism, green tourism, nature tourism, integrated tourism, adventure tourism, community-based tourism, ecotourism, sustainable tourism. A major indication of alternative tourist activities is that “Alternative forms of tourism and tourist will have fewer and less severe negative effects on destination areas, environment and their populations without diminishing the positive economic effects” (Rasooli-Manesh & Jaafar, 2016). Government of India has identified India’s diversity in tourism experience in Tourism policy of 2002. The policy has considered the relation of rural and community-based tourism by introducing the concept of rural tourism to showcase the rural life of Indian countryside to visitors in 107 villages across the country (Timothy & Tosun, 2003). We need to understand the benefits of community-based tourism model for preserving cultural significance and maintaining rural identity.

WHAT IS COMMUNITY-BASED TOURISM?

Rural community-based tourism can be placed in the heart of alternative and sustainable development discourse, which emphasizes the importance of the control of the local communities (Timothy & Tosun, 2003). In tourism development model to create an impact, it is important to follow community participative planning which involves the participation of all stakeholders, community, politicians, agencies, NGO to ensure wide participation and consensus-building.

In developing countries tourism sector has always looked at as an important tool to eradicate poverty in rural areas although there are no studies to prove this concept. In order to understand it is important to study, understand, and explore challenges by community-based tourism model through a study of a community-based rural tourism development project in a developing country like India. (Höckert, n.d.).

Community-based tourism is often viewed as a more sustainable alternative to traditional mass tourism as it allows the community to directly deal with visitors. The main goal of the CBT concept is to reduce poverty by creating income, reduction in of isolation in the development by bringing more visitors to their villages, and most important is keeping alternate income source to the rural economy and not replacing it only to tourism (Timothy & Tosun, 2003).

India has around 45% of ecotourism and nature-related destinations where community participation is vital. It provides enriching experiences guests and community controls resources. CBT has two ways of implementation; one is “project managed Individuals or households comprising the community as a communal enterprise” and second is “tourism managed by a private entrepreneur whose activity agenda is set by the community and is accountable to it”. The CBT process creates awareness about environment & biodiversity issues and encourages environmentally sustainable practices by locals as well as tourists (Bhalla & Prodyut, 2016).

Fig.02. Basis of community based tourism (Schumacher, 2019)

The community participation has three types in the context of tourism development and heritage management: coercive participation, induced participation, and spontaneous participation also as explained in figure 02. Coercive participation has the lowest level of participation with no power over the course of tourism development and involvement is limited to only around tourism destination promotion. In induced participation, although local residents have a say in the heritage management and tourism development process, they have no actual power or control over the decisions being made by those in positions of authority. In spontaneous participation, local residents have the power to make decisions and control the development process. (Rasooli-Manesh & Jaafar, 2016).

STUDY OF SIKKIM VILLAGE TOURISM MODEL TO UNDERSTAND THE IMPACT OF COMMUNITY TOURISM:

Sikkim state is a part of Himalayan region, with beautiful and diverse rural settings suitable for rural tourism development. Tourism plays a significant role in the economy of Sikkim and it is Sikkim’s one of the largest revenue-generating sectors after agriculture, mining and forest. The region has mountains, forests, valleys, rivers, lakes and an abundance of natural spots. Sikkim covers 0.2 per cent of the geographical area of the country and has tremendous biodiversity, which falls under Himalayan Biogeographic zone and Central Himalaya biotic province. (Manjula & Rinzing, 2014).

The UNESCO project for the development of Cultural Tourism and Ecotourism in the Mountainous Regions of Central and South Asia is sponsored by the Norwegian Government which aims to promote cooperation between local communities, national and international NGOs, tour agencies in order to involve local populations fully in the employment opportunities and income-generating activities that tourism can bring in form of rural tourism and village tourism. The initiative to develop the village as a tourist destination by using local resources was taken up by local NGO named Darap Eco-Development Committee, which was formed in the year 2005. (Manjula & Rinzing, 2014).

Darap is a small village in West Sikkim at an altitude of 5,100 feet or 1554.48 meters above sea level. This village has chosen as a successful project of community-based tourism development model by the Government of India tourism ministry. The word Darap is a tribal word, which means “flat land” in Limboo tribe language. The temperature in the valley ranges from 5 to 28 degrees throughout the year, with the presence of many rare and endangered species of flora and fauna, various unique rare aspects of the Limboo culture are preserved in this valley. The village is inhabited by 95% Limboo population occupies a place of pride in one of the richest cultural heritage of Sikkim. With diverse cultural heritage and natural environment Darap has become major village tourism and offbeat travel destination of Sikkim and also for its sustainable tourism practices through Community Based Tourism Development (Manjula & Rinzing, 2014).

Darap village has a beautiful natural landscape with vernacular homes converted into homestays. Tourists in Darap can pick and choose from an array of products ranging from trekking to picnic to meditation or farming. They can also arrange mountain biking or learn the local language or learn local cooking. In this village rural tourism model tourists can enjoy activities like milking cows, staying in rural vernacular homes (homestays), gardening in fields, walking in nearby villages, processing of cheese and butter, hiking, engaging in daily village activities to visit nearby tourist destinations. Darap has many ancient 100-200-year-old Limboo houses which are made with solid mud floors and tar-encrusted ceilings from the constantly burning fire, has been passed down from generation to generation of Nepali Limboo tribesmen (Manjula & Rinzing, 2014).

Fig.03. View of Darap village in Sikkim – a famous rural destination in the state (Schumacher, 2019)
Fig.04. Homestays run by villagers in Darap village in Sikkim – a famous rural destination in the state (Schumacher, 2019)
Fig.05. Homestays run by villagers in Darap village in Sikkim – a famous rural destination in the state (Schumacher, 2019)

The village community group has identified potential destinations for visitors and created an infrastructure to develop tourist spots. Currently, 20 homestays and house owners are registered with the NGO. Each family has two-three single or double bedrooms to accommodate the tourists. The local resident of Darap and President of Darap Ecotourism Committee received the award for State best tourism development committee in 2010 by the department of tourism, Government of Sikkim and “Top 10 locals in tourism in the world” by leap local published in guardian U.K on 19th June 2012. The Darap village community work as a team to manage tourism facilities and tourist resources in a proper manner. The different works of facilitation of tourists are divided among community members that work cohesively for a fine tour experience (Manjula & Rinzing, 2014).

LEARNING FROM DARAP VILLAGE’S COMMUNITY BASED RURAL TOURISM INITIATIVE:

The output of community-based tourism is very important in areas of environmental biodiversity-rich areas because due to difficult accessibility the environment and cultural heritage is intact (Bhalla & Prodyut, 2016). In Darap village CBT has created 75 % of jobs and incomes have increased from the accommodation, selling of handicrafts, food etc. (Manjula & Rinzing, 2014).

In equal outcome:

Also, outsiders or some proactive entrepreneurs of their area are exploiting their natural and cultural resources for tourism and their own personal benefit. So, if communities participate in tourism, they could decide on the kind of tourism and use of their resources- cultural and natural (Bhalla & Prodyut, 2016).

Capacity building & training:

This study looks at two cases of Community Based Tourism Development with a similar goal. Both the villages in Darap and Pastanga have the major problem training of villagers in a proper manner (Manjula & Rinzing, 2014).

Fig.06. Relationship between resources and actions in CBT

Villagers have received training from local NGO‟s and government but the primary survey of the villages revealed many gaps in the training. The participation of youth (20-25 years) of the villages in community-based tourism is low and 60 per cent of the youths are not involved in Community Based Tourism. They must be encouraged for the sustainability of CBT in future (Manjula & Rinzing, 2014).

There are still areas where these NGO‟s can venture to bring more professionalism in their activities such as joining hands for marketing and using travel agents to build a distinct visible image of these villages. A uniform pricing system (adjusted to allow for differences in access and local costs) and system of payment to service providers could be a great help. Language is still a major obstacle for tourists coming to these villages and tourists are often dependent on the guide for interpretation, but the guide is not always readily available (Manjula & Rinzing, 2014).

Fig.07. CBT process (Auesriwong et al., 2015)

This study looks at the case of Community Based Tourism Development with a similar goal and in Darap village have the major problem training of villagers in a proper manner. Villagers have received training from local NGO‟s and government but the primary survey of the villages revealed many gaps in the training.

Poor state infrastructure:

The local community’s participation in management contributes toward an improved quality of life, economic development, and the sustainability of conservation (Rasooli-Manesh & Jaafar, 2016). In the case of Darap village, the community is not happy with the state transport facility, road conditions. They don’t have an adequate support system for toilets, and waste management for growing visitors population.

Finance & Homestays:

Homestay tourism can also be linked to community-based tourism. But it may not be true for all areas that homestays are benefiting the community. Sometimes some entrepreneur in the community opens them at the individual level (Bhalla & Prodyut, 2016).

The CBT homestay model needs careful planning as it can lead to loss of culture and disruption of ecology. The mismanagement of homestays in a single village at an infrastructure level can harm the natural and human environment. This model creates unequal income generation in rural tourism, which can create divined in rural community harmony. The conversion of rural houses in homestays is depended on the availability of finance. Lack of financial support for renovation and expansion is one of the major issues in Darap village. Villagers don’t have the guarantee of financial recovery from homestays, as the prices are not standardized. (Bhalla & Prodyut, 2016).

Cultural significance:

As an example, tourism can reinforce cultural understanding and local pride, but on the other hand, it can also contribute to the loss of cultural identity and induce conflicts in the host community. In addition, the impacts are not the same for everyone in a tourism destination. It is vital to acknowledge that all the people in the host community are not hosts but still influenced by tourism development in the area. What may be a benefit to one group within the community may be a cost to the neighbours (Höckert, 2009).

In the case of Darap, the community strongly believes that tourism has helped them to preserve and promote their uniqueness and they take pride in developing their villages for Community Based tourism. Darap villagers mentioned in the survey that tourism is not disturbing our traditions instead of helping in the promotion of their traditions and culture to the world (Rasooli-Manesh & Jaafar, 2016).

Rural identity:

The next phase involves raising community awareness about the issues of tourism development and to seek the involvement of the community in determining the essence of the final product. It is this stage that deviates from traditional entrepreneurial approach to tourism planning as it integrates community residents in visioning and planning for their community’s future in relation to tourism developments (Bhalla & Prodyut, 2016).

The participation of youth (20-25 years) of the villages in community-based tourism is low and 60 per cent of the youths are not involved in Community Based Tourism. They must be encouraged for the sustainability of CBT in future (Manjula & Rinzing, 2014).

Community-based tourism requires more strategic planning, in-depth research to understand gaps in the existing structure. The monitoring of current outcome needs to change with self-evolving mechanism led by locals (New tourism and Community-based tourism, 2014). The CBT model that is successful in one village cannot be replicated in the rest of the country because each place has its own culture, ethos, natural topography, each region /place has different needs and communal dynamics. Experts, policymakers and organizations need to conduct in-depth research and capacity building program in a rural area before promoting homestays (Bhalla & Prodyut, 2016).

Bibliography:

  1. Auesriwong, A., Nilnoppakun, A., & Parawech, W. (2015). Integrative participatory community-based ecotourism at Sangkhom District, Nong Khai province, Thailand. Procedia Economics and Finance, 23(1), 778-782.
  2. Vajiram and Ravi (2019). Rural Tourism – Showcasing India’s Rural Heritage.
  3. Lama, R. (2014). Community-based Tourism Development: a Case Study of Sikkim (Doctoral dissertation, Kurukshetra University).
  4. Bhalla, P., Coghlan, A., & Bhattacharya, P. (2016). Homestays’ Contribution to Community-based Ecotourism in the Himalayan Region of India. Tourism Recreation Research, 41(2), 213-228.
  5. Indian Ministry of Tourism (2012). Rural Tourism: Evaluation Cum Impact Study (Part 1 & 2).
  6. Timothy, D. J., & Tosun, C. (2003). Appropriate Planning for Tourism in Destination Communities: Participation, Incremental Growth and Collaboration. In Singh et al. (Eds.) Tourism in Destination Communities. Oxon: CABI Publishing, 181-204.
  7. Chaudhary, M., & Lama, R. (2014). Community-Based Tourism Development in Sikkim of India—A Study of Darap and Pastanga Villages. Transnational Corporations Review, 6(3), 228-237.
  8. Rasoolimanesh, S. M., & Jaafar, M. (2016). Community Participation toward Tourism Development and Conservation Program in Rural World Heritage Sites. In Tourism-from empirical research towards practical application. IntechOpen.
  9. Höckert, E. (2009). Sociocultural Sustainability of Rural Community-based Tourism: Case Study of Local Participation in Fair Trade Coffee Trail, Nicaragua. Lapland University Press.

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