Village tourism: tradition and innovation come hand in hand

ISLAMABAD: Villages can be ideal tourist spots in Pakistan like in Spain with a little attention of the tourism departments and involvement of farmers, says Director General Punjab Directorate General of Agri Tourism Development Corporation of Pakistan (ATDCP) Sajid Iqbal Sandhu.

Talking to WealthPK, he said, “The concept behind village tourism is to improve the livelihood of a common villager/farmer. The best thing is to turn them towards better work opportunities to present their products and assets in an income-generating environment. Owing to a lack of education, our common farmers are not well aware of the real worth of their assets, i.e., a healthy environment, showcasing and value addition of farms and outcrops, etc. To boost all these activities, different village fairs are arranged, which are attended by scientists, agriculturists, industrialists, and educated people. These fairs provide better business opportunities to farmers, i.e., direct sale of products, new bookings for current and upcoming crops, and even joint ventures. Good responses stimulate the farmers/villagers to make their surroundings more organized and presentable.”

Continuing the discussion, Sajid, who is also National Agricultural Expert of NPO Pakistan, said village tourism opens the doors of opportunities to both villagers and city dwellers.

“Given the congested and polluted environments of cities, villages offer refreshing environs. The new generation also comes to know about the rural life. Especially, children learn how the nature works. They get direct knowledge of whether the carrots grow into the ground or on trees/creepers. Different other activities, i.e., presentation of making jaggery, sugar, etc., show them how they are made traditionally,” he said.

Continuing, the NPO Pakistan expert said, “Earlier, all these activities were arranged during the day, but now we are planning to provide hospitality day and night. The addition of traditional cuisine, games, demo of farming activities, folklore and folk music is also part of the plan. It will be the same as people visiting the hill stations and paying for the hospitality. Compared to the hill stations, the service rates in villages are less.”

Sajid said the main theme behind the concept of village tourism was to make the farmers financially prosperous.

“The farmers get a chunk of profit from their produce. The value chain from transportation to market involves a lot of costs and other peoples’ profits. For example, if the end-user buys a farm produce at Rs120 per kg, the farmer gets only Rs30 per kg, and the additional profit is distributed among the brokers, loaders, crop pickers, etc. So, if a farmer brings a little more innovation in his farming business, he will earn much more,” added Sajid.

Talking to WealthPK, CEO of Chaudhary Farms, Chowk Azam Layyah Ch. Basharat Ali said, “Village tourism is a splendid idea of business promotion and profit-earning for the farmers. Different festivals, i.e., kite, orange, sugarcane, etc., and regular hospitality activities in villages will act as an economic stimulant in the rural areas of the country. It is a fact that the farmers have to invest in creating a secure, attractive and hospitable environment for all kinds of tourists. Although it is a positive step towards improving the livelihood channels in rural areas, there is a dire need to convey this message on a broad scale.”

“It is important to convey the message to a group of people on a large scale to popularize this activity. It will happen, but it will take time. The rural communities should advertise these activities by using all types of media. Since it is a capital-intensive activity, it can be planned through mutual coordination, which will be cost-effective as well. Different activities should be planned for different villages, as it will add variety to the rural hospitality products,” Sajid added.