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ECO-AGRI TOURISM A PROMISING BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY FOR GLOBAL INVESTORS

CMA Raveendranath Kaushik. N and Dr. Ramana Gowda Business Consultant , rk.rkaushik@gmail.com

Abstract India has emerged as a leading tourist hot spot with varying diversity and distribution of climate, crops, culture and customs. The Union government and all the state government in India are positive and supportive for developing tourism and many other inherited cultural activities. Already many states have come out with a policy of developing infrastructure for the expansion of Eco-Agri tourism, this implies tourism, flora and fauna diversity and land based activities which are highly specific for various operations. In this context the year 2007 was declared as International Tourism year in which India took a lead role to highlight Eco-Agri tourism. At present with the government support only 10% has been developed under Eco-Agri tourism and resulting in ample business opportunities for investors. Remaining 90% is looking for the investors under public private partnership (p3 model).

India represent mini globe with the diversity of lowest and highest rainfall, coastal area to high altitude and diversified crop and cultivation practices suitable to all the agro climatic condition. The most advantageous position of India is one can see sun through out the year, different type of soil and endemic plant and animal species. The avenues for the business in Eco Agri tourism are having high prospects as compared to others. Already the global investors have come forward to take the advantage of the investment in agri tourism. Promotion and marketing of eco-tourism products have been carried out in domestic and overseas markets. Benefit for the investors for developing Eco-Agri tourism

are in terms of assured return and short pay back period. Importance of Eco- Agri tourism can be even felt at global level, a separate agreement in GAAT, Uruguay round provides for opening of 100% foreign investment in tourism services and disallows any protectionist measures in tourism sector for all its member countries.

Eco-Agri tourism is an inexpensive gateway which tries to link the urban population with rural population there by envisaging over all development. It also provides wide scale of recreation and entertainment to people of all age groups. Eco-Agri tourism will act as a boon to changing life style as it gives more peaceful life by providing interaction with nature, health treatments, organic food etc.. Considering the above factors Eco-Agri tourism is a growing industry for the investors.

Introduction Tourism as an industry is playing major role in progress of society and economy. Today tourism is not only restricted to traditional sectors like heritage sites ,culture and heritage structures, nature/scenic beauty etc, but also wide areas of sectors like

agriculture,horticulture,environment, transport, rural development etc is gaining much importance. Promotion of tourism in rural areas is resulting in removing of region disparities, poverty alievation and also over all development of rural areas. Factors below shows that some of the positive signs on how the Indian Tourism industry is behaving for the past few years which is resulting in creation of lot of opportunities which needs to be exposed in order to look for new tourism related business potentialities in rural areas.

Foreign Tourist Arrivals (FTA) touch 5.07 lakhs in March 2011, a growth rate of 7.4% in March 2011 compared to March 2010.

Foreign Exchange Earnings (FEE) from tourism during 2010 were US$ 14.1 billion as compared to US$ 11.9 billion during 2009 which resulted in a growth rate of 18.1%.

Tourism in India contributes 6.23% of national GDP and 8.78% of total employment in India.

Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report of 2009 from WEF (World Economic Forum) has ranked India as 12th in Asia Pacific and 68th over all. India also ranked India as 14th best tourist destination for the human, natural and cultural resources. In the 18th session of the General Assembly of UN WTO in 2013, India was reelected to the Executive Council of WTO for another 4 years.

India has entered amongst the top 10 tourist destinations list (A leading European Travel Magazine).

According to World Travel and Tourism Council, India will be a tourism hotspot from 20092018.

The Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2007 ranked tourism in India 6th in terms of price competitiveness and 39th in terms of safety and security.

Eco-Agri tourism is one of the potential sectors where there exist enormous investment opportunities. Eco-Agri tourism is a form of tourism which showcases the importance of rural life and nature by promoting tourism and there by benefiting the local community economically and socially. EcoAgri tourism basically deals with promoting tourism in areas like National Parks, Wild Life Sanctuaries, Bio Sphere Reserves, Deserts, visiting farms in villages, engaging in agriculture activities, cart riding, water sports and other village amusements etc. The experience of many countries shows that Eco-Agri tourism can be seen as an alternate source of livelihood and employment in rural areas. In India Rural Tourism plays a vital role because, 74% of total population resides in 7 million

villages. In India, Agro tourism is growing at an average rate of 20% per annum which indicates ample of scope for the development of Agri tourism. The Endogenous Tourism Project Rural Tourism Scheme (ETP-RTS) is a collaborative efforts between the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India and UNDP initiated in 2003 which has stressed importance of environment sustainability. In this direction UNDP along with Ministry of Tourism has introduced sweeping changes in the tourism sector in rural areas which is encouraging various NGOs and PPP investors in looking for a new business. It is surprising to see that only 10% has been developed under Eco Agri tourism in spite of lot of government supportive initiatives and there is still 90% scope available for new potential investors.

Eco Agri Tourism - Why India?


India has diverse culture and geography which provides ample and unlimited scope for the growth of this business. India has diverse Agro-climatic conditions, diverse crops, fauna and flora, people, culture, deserts, mountains, coastal systems and islands which provides scope for promotion of all season, multi location tourism products. Due to changing life style and migration tourists prefer non urban tourist spot for enjoyment and recreation. So, there is lot of scope for promoting non urban tourist spots and Eco-Agri tourism acts as a major sector which needs much attention for improvements and development. There is enormous support from government for tourism industry as it is one of the major sources of revenue to the government. The increase in plan allocation for tourism sector is one positive sign which shows commitment from the government to improve infrastructure and capacity building in non urban areas. So, there is much scope for development of Eco Agri tourism in the coming years.

Scope for Investors

A New Tourism Policy formulated works towards making tourism the catalyst in employment generation, environmental re-generation, development of remote areas and development of women and other disadvantaged groups in the country, besides promoting social integration. It would lead to larger foreign exchange earnings and create conditions for more Foreign Direct Investment. So, now the scope is wide open and there is lot of public private partnership and also private sector participation which government is looking at in order to promote Eco-Agri tourism sector. Government has set up Tourism Development Authority (TDA) consisting of senior government officials and tourism experts and professionals from private sectors. The private sectors are encouraged to invest in tourism industry from a long term perspective. Scope for Private Sector investors in Eco-Agri tourism can be studied under following points.

1. Build and manage the tourist facilities at tourist spot at villages and Eco centers level. Home stays, jungle lodges, community houses etc.

2. Education and creating awareness on climate change, global warming, organic farming, flora and fauna balances, village artisans and industries etc.

3. Involve the local community in tourism projects and ensure that the benefits of tourism accrue to them in right measure.

4. Participate in the preparation of investment guidelines and marketing strategies and assist in database creation and research.

5. Collaborate with Govt. in the promotion and marketing of destinations.

6. Conservation of bio diversity and improve resource management practices through involvement of rural communities and urban populations.

Government Initiatives
Government has realized the importance of Eco Agri tourism and has started lot of initiatives in order to promote and encourage investors. In this line lot of schemes have been introduced and also some tie ups has been made with member countries of GAAT,UNDP etc to promote rural tourism in which Eco Agri tourism is also one of the sectors. Most of the state governments are looking for Public Private Partnership (P3 model) in tourism sector and in order to attract investors following initiatives are taken by the government. The 10th Five Year Plan has identified tourism as one of the major sources for generating employment and sustainable livelihood.

Many of the states in India have set up centers which aim at capacity building of local communities in order to promote Eco-Agri tourism. eg. Uttaranchal government has set up Center for Eco tourism and sustainability livelihood.

Launching of Incredible India partnership with UNDP, focuses on capacity building and training in visitor handling, including home stays and guiding.

The efforts of bi-lateral and multi-lateral development agencies such as USAID, UNDP, UNEP and financial institutions like the World Bank, all of which are significantly involved in influencing Eco-tourism agendas, are directed towards

making Third World countries compliant through homogenisation of policies and standards.

The General Agreement in Trade in Services, a separate agreement in the Uruguay Round of GATT, provides for the opening up of signatory countries to 100 percent foreign investment in tourism services and disallows any protectionist measures for local tourism concerns.

Government is coming up with initiatives to create awareness among farmers about getting funds, institutional strengthening, community building etc.. Some states have already started implementing the same and now the awareness about Eco-Agri tourism is gradually spreading in rural areas and this is a best time for investors to think about finding business opportunity.

Budget 2011-12, envisaged the importance of rural development and majority of the budget funds got allocated to Ministry of Rural Development (Rs87,8000 million). This will result in bringing changes in rural infrastructure, rural credit, rural education, rural health etc which are positive ingredients for growth of tourism in rural sector. Factors like infrastructure, credit, education etc will result in more and more communities taking up of Eco-Agri tourism activities and there by giving more scopes for business in it.

E-governance initiatives started by government in 2006 called as National egovernance Plan (NeGP) is almost implemented in all the states. Access to information, taking technology to rural areas, bridging the digital divide and improving the efficiency etc has really helped to almost close rural and urban

divide gap. Getting and sharing of information from a farmer in rural areas with that of corporate world shows that the reaching of farmers in part of the remotest village is possible and the investors can now think in full confidence the business opportunities in the areas of Eco-Agri tourism.

Conclusion
After looking at all the above factors and seeing the potentiality of Ecological and Agriculture sector for growth and development as a Eco-Agri tourism industry one can say with full confidence that it is a emerging area for new business avenue. Eco-Agri tourism brings major primary sector which is Agriculture and Ecology closer to major service sector which is Tourism and there by help in development and growth of rural sectors. Eco-Agri tourism acts as supplementary and complementary to government initiatives and also to Global Investment in rural tourism. Agriculture and Ecological sectors have the capacity to absorb expansion of tourism sector as there is still lot of new avenues which needs to be explored and with more and more investments, government support and rural awareness Eco-Agri tourism has a greatest potentiality in the coming years.

Eco Agri Tourism list of some of the Activities and Location Activities Farm Stay Involving in Agriculture Farm activities Animal rides and Milching activities Rural Art and Crafts Agriculture education programs Massaging and Health related activities Home stays and Jungle lodges Mountain Expedition and Trekking Water Rafting, Canoeing and Camping Some important Eco Places in India Coorg,Himalaya,Garwhal,Goa,Kerala,Kodikanal,Ladak,Manali,Munnar,Sikkim,Shimla, Uttaranchal,Manipur,Meghalaya,Darjeeling,Mussori,Nagaland,Lakshadweep. Some important Eco Parks in India Bharathpur Bird Sanctuary,Kanziranga National Park, Ranthambore Wildlife, Corbett National Park, Bandipur National Park, Gir National Park, Nagarhole National Park. Some of the important Site name and location Sloth Bear Foundation Eco and Farm Tours in India Bellary, Karnataka Coorg Jungle resort and Estate Stays Coorg, Karnataka Jungle Lodges Karnataka Agri Tourism Baramati Pune, Maharashtra Medicinal herb farm near Mumbai Mumbai, Maharashtra House boat, Bamboo Groove Thekkady, Hornbills Camp at Thattekkadu Kerala Kerala Ayurveda and Rejuvenation Desert Safari Tours Rajasthan Ganges River Rafting

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