Scottish partnership launches rural Indian tourism co-operative on world stage
A partnership of Scottish academics and tourism specialists will launch a unique Indian tourism co-operative at the world’s highest profile travel and tourism event.
In London, on the 5 th – 8 th November, the Scottish partnership and YES Bank (India) will showcase ‘Edge of India’ at the World Travel Market . This promotional platform will provide outstanding global exposure for ‘Edge of India’ a co-operative tourism network of rural India n villages which aims to help lift communities out of poverty and put lesser known destinations on the global tourist map.
The project has grown from Scottish expertise developed by tourism specialists from Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh and Edinburgh based tourism consultancy, Dunira Strategy. ‘ Edge of India’ is a co-operative tourism network of rural villages, which are led by locals and enable communities to make the most of their cultural and natural heritage. By encouraging locals to embrace the concept of destination marketing and harness the potential of their cultural and rural surroundings, the project aims to achieve sustainable economic growth through tourism. Working with communities, ‘Edge of India’ uses local resources to help people develop their own tourism destinations and offer visitors a taste of life in some of the most underdeveloped but stunningly beautiful parts of India.
The project team, which is supported by YES bank and funded by the Scottish Government, has developed four co-operative tourism societies in Uttarakhand and West Bengal. At the London based exhibition, the brand ‘Edge of India’ will be used for the first time to promote ‘ homestay’ visits for travellers who want to experience these relatively untouched but striking areas in rural India, rather than just visiting the better known ‘honeypot’ cities and resorts.
Andrew Frew, Professor of ICT and Tourism at Queen Margaret University said: “Essentially this is a poverty alleviation project which builds infrastructure and helps people improve their lives. The project is helping people see the potential of their communities, harness the culture, craft, heritage and beauty of their landscape, and then learn to package and market their new tourism destinations to a global market place.”
Professor Frew continued: “This is responsible tourism which offers a win win situation. This co-operative model has the potential to safeguard and support rural communities by offering the more adventurous traveller markets an authentic cultural experience in underdeveloped locations which very few people outside India will even be aware off. The unique offering will be basic but will provide access to real people in genuine surroundings in real communities. Travellers will see life as it really is but will also experience India’s stunning landscape and traditions. It has many advantages over the more traditional tour packages as it is designed to make a real contribution to local economies and have an immediate positive impact on the local people and the community.”
“Having now developed a basic destination portal for the project we are now beginning to move beyond the proof of concept stage and are confident that this high profile exhibition in London will help us launch the ‘Edge of India’ brand for the first time to a global market.”
Professor Petra Wend, Principal of Queen Margaret University, explained: ”Queen Margaret University’s philosophy is based on improving quality of life. One of our flagship areas is sustainable business and this project showcases our work in assisting disadvantaged communities to develop sustainable businesses which will not only enhance their lives but will provide a future full of possibilities for their residents.”
Professor Frew confirmed: “This project also presents one solution to the severe economic challenge presently experienced in India, by encouraging people to stay and work in rural communities rather than having to migrate to major cities in order to find work. This project has the potential to revitalise rural agricultural economies as well as making a positive contribution to the national economy and global profile of the country.”
In just over two years the project team has been able to officially register four co-operative tourism networks consisting of rural villages, with more planned in the coming six months. Professor Frew also confirmed that the University is actively seeking further funding from Scotland and beyond to roll out more co-operative projects. Having now produced a robust model, sustainable network structure, developed training materials, and constructed a brand and portal, the team is well placed to replicate the process and extend involvement to other parts of India.
He said: “There has never been a co-operative tourism development project like this that properly connects to the community and builds sustainable skills. This project is not about irrigation or sanitation, it is not about physical infrastructure, it is about the human infrastructure and aims to improve people’s lives by providing tangible long term benefits to the community. By bringing Scottish expertise to India, we have provided the tools, training, IT expertise and concepts to help these communities improve their futures and release the value of their natural and cultural heritage.
“Launching the ‘Edge of India’ to a global network of tourism agencies at one of the world’s largest tourism events is not only a significant step for this project, but should help put rural India on the map. We hope our concept of working with co-operative tourism destinations will captivate the imagination of forward thinking tour operators who attend the World Travel Market.”
Professor Petra Wend concluded: “We are proud that Queen Margaret University has been involved in a project that clearly demonstrates the power of international collaboration, knowledge exchange and real community engagement and empowerment. We are grateful to the Scottish Government for supporting this innovative project and we look forward to the Indian communities reaping the benefit of the international exposure that ‘Edge of India’ will achieve at the World Travel Market this week.”
NOTES TO EDITOR
£383,000 funding for this project comes from the Scottish Government’s International Development Fund (South Asia Development Programme) and runs over a period of two years and nine months.
The co-operative tourism societies are based in:
- West Bengal: Purulia District (In Purulia there is currently only 2% sanitation – any income which goes into this area will have a positive impact on sanitation)
- Uttarakhand : Bageshwar, Berinag and Ranikhet
Information about Queen Margaret University
- Queen Margaret specialises in professional education and research that informs the development of policy and practice in health, drama & creative arts, media & social science and business & enterprise. The expert knowledge developed at Queen Margaret touches people's everyday lives.
- Queen Margaret University has flagships in:
- Sustainable Business
- Health and Rehabilitation
- Creativity and Culture
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