Improving Lives and Livelihood through Community Based Rural Tourism
A common feature of remote villages is lack of employment opportunities that forces young people to out-migrate. This results in communities left with mainly children and the old, a decline in the social and cultural fabric and a reduced pride in rural life. In 2005-2006, it became apparent that economic hardship and lack of employment opportunity was causing serious out-migration from the villages of the Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary (Uttarakhand) in India, to the extent that at least one of the villages was faced with possible shut down. This was the motive for establishing Village Ways, which now works with tourism projects in more than 28 villages across India. The aim was to improve economic opportunity and thereby slow or reverse out-migration in remote rural villages through responsible tourism. Many villages, particularly hill villages cannot sustain their population through traditional agriculture and are in need of new, modern income streams to halt or reverse out-migration and improve opportunity particularly for the young. Since 2005, Village Ways has formed partnerships with community groups in villages that have tourism potential, enabling them to build, own and manage guesthouses to host discerning tourists, who provide income for the communities. This concept effectively combined social enterprise with commercial development. Since founding, community-owned guesthouses have been established across India.
Keywords: responsible tourism; impact assessment; village communities; livelihoods; India