... to go in for agri-tourism in a big way

Written by Prachi Karnik Pradhan | Mumbai | Updated: May 13 2008, 04:58am hrs
The Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) is aggressively promoting agri-tourism in the state. MTDC managing director, Jayant Gaikwad, told FE that MTDC would facilitate agri-tourism initiatives by individual farmers, various private and public organisations. MTDC will provide its banner for such initiatives so that the individual farmer or various organisations can later expand their activity in this field and thereby attract more tourists, he said.

Gaikwad said MTDC had decided to promote 40 destinations for agri-tourism, including the Vidarbha region, where debt-ridden farmers have reportedly committed suicide.

As a beginning, MTDC is promoting the initiative launched by Pune-based Agri Tourism Development Organisation (ATDO). Agri-tourism envisages involvement of the private sector, farmers or agri-tourism service providers, based on public-private partnership. The service providers will act both as hosts and guides to the visiting tourist. Agri-tourism needs conceptual convergence with rural tourism, eco-tourism, health tourism, adventure tourism and culinary tourism. In the coming years, agri-tourism would evolve as one of the fastest growing segments, said Gaikwad. As an added attraction, agri-tourism packages are being laced with entertainment, such as Marathi folklore like Bharud, Jagran, Gondhal, Shekoti folk songs, folk dances, village fairs, art and craft. Tourists are also provided with the knowledge about the best agriculture practices in areas like floriculture, harvesting, bee-keeping and dairying.

Pandurang Taware, director, sales and marketing, ATDO, said total domestic tourists in 2007 were more than 400 million. Even if 10% go in for agri-tourism, it would convert into Rs 4,000-crore market size, he added.

Taware said Malegaon, where the pilot project was launched in 2005, catered to 13,200 tourists in 2007. We expect to cater to 25,000 tourists both domestic and international during 2008, he said.

Interestingly, international tourists prefer to spend a week-end on farms and dive into the river rather than the beaches, Taware said. He, however, clarified that agri-tourism was not about staying in villages and relishing the food. It would also provide tourists with an opportunity to be close to where the 75% of Indians live.

Taware noted that agri-tourism was an edutainment programme and had the potential to provide information to tourists about rural lifestyle and the basics of agriculture.

As a concept, agri-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, Taware said.