India to showcase rural destinations

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Kochi, Mar 21 (UNI) Throwing the spotlight on rural areas as tourist destinations, the Union Tourism Ministry is partnering an innovative 'Rural Tourism Project' with UN Development Programme (UNDP) at 36 sites in 20 states in India, Tourism Secretary Shilbhadra Banerjee said today.

Delivering the presidential address at the inauguration of the 'Second International Conference on Responsible Tourism in Destinations' here, Mr Banerjee said the project would position life in rural India as a unique visitor experience while improving the rural economy.

''Rural tourism can bring about significant improvements in incomes and living standards of rural folk. Local handicrafts, culture and heritage are being showcased in partnership with local NGOs and village youth,'' he added.

The tourism ministry, in partnership with states, would also organise shopping festivals for promoting handicrafts and 'Rural Tourism' in six regions in the country every year.

The first in this series was the 'Toshali National Crafts Mela,' held in Bhubaneswar, Orissa, recently, he added.

Describing tourism as one of the fastest growing industries in the country, Mr Banerjee said in 2007, India hosted five million foreign tourists, an increase of 12 per cent over 2006, and the trend continues in 2008.

While the tourism industry in India had reason to celebrate, it was also time to reflect on its impact. This made adopting 'Responsible Tourism' practices crucial for ensuring sustained growth.

Responsible Tourism being governed by sound environment, social and economic principles, offered effective ways to minimise adverse ecological impacts, benefit local communities and alleviate poverty, he added.

Inaugurating the conference, Kerala Tourism and Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said as per the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), Kerala will record an 11.6 per cent annual growth in tourism during the coming decade, the highest in the world for any tourism destination MORE UNI ARC KD RS1707

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