Tourism is a concept so well rooted in the minds of those practicing in the industry and those at its receiving end that it is difficult to challenge its definition. By definition, tourism has become a
fast-paced industry which is a list of check boxes when people are on a visit.
These boxes are nothing but limits to the horizons of our minds that are blocking our view of the goodness of slow tourism.
Slow Tourism involves generating minimum carbon footprint and walking or exploring the lesser known aspects with communities.
Been There, Doon That is a Dehradun-based citizen’s group that has been promoting slow tourism in several parts of the Himalayas, especially Uttarakhand Himalayas, a region in dire need of this model.
Uttarakhand is dotted with picturesque settlements, several of which are being gripped by the twin evils of lack of infrastructure and hence migration. Slow Tourism as a ground reality can be a potent tool to prevent migration in several areas of the state. For example, at a distance of about 60 kms from Dehradun lies the village of Matogi, nestled on the boundary of the Tons river region.
Matogi at present has about eight families sustaining on minor agricultural activities with some support from extended families living in nearby urban settlements.
A chance visit to Matogi revealed its location as the beginning point of the trek to the popular Bhadraj Temple.
Bhadraj, the abode of Lord Balram, is generally approached by the other side of the mountain in the Mussoorie range and Matogi has been out from people’s memories for a long time. The visit soon culminated in a walk which comprised of about 13
5 people (pre- pandemic era) who not only trekked from Matogi to Bhadraj but also engaged the village residents in preparing meals, all served in cutlery brought by the walkers. The income thus generated was surprisingly sufficient for the host family to survive for the next three months.
Word soon spread and the local youth is now willing to explore the trek as a livelihood option. Similar is the case with the village of Devalsari, a beautiful Deodar forest perched at an altitude of about 6000 feet.
Devalsari can be approached by road and is a scenic two-hour drive from the popular hill station of Mussoorie. The place has witnessed a community initiative by the name of Devalsari Prakriti Prahari which began as an eco-tourism effort. It was then that we not only took groups for walks there but also began engaging with the local pa on issues of afforestation and tourism. Devalsari is a relevant example of how slow tourism can benefit the community and also bring them closer in cooperative tasks.
The Devalsari community has now begun receiving tourists throughout the year and has engaged several local men and women in cooking, trekking, birding and other activities.
Clamoring to get away from the urban chaos, visitors are now thronging the hamlet and enjoying their stay as arranged by the community with no extra demands mounted since the site has been projected as a community-led site of slow tourism.
While basic infrastructural amenities like roads remain a challenge in some pockets, slow tourism has began becoming admired in many parts of India and can be a potent tool for development.
For a state like Uttarakhand slow, sustainable and responsible tourism is just the key, what do you think about it?
Let me know in the comments below!