OOTY: The tourism department here failed to commemorate ‘World Tourism Day’ on Thursday in a telling manner. However, voices are growing steadily in hills here to expand tourism outside the main towns in Nilgiris to give fillip to development of rural tourism to promote plantation-linked eco-tourism and rural ethnic tourism to help the rural folk earn good earnings through tourism and to help grow the tourism-linked economy in the rural Nilgiris.
Tourism in the Nilgiris is confined to town limits over the decades as the famed tourist spots like the Government Botanical Garden, Government Rose Garden in Ooty, are still being promoted as must-visit tourist spots. But, outside the town limits, the hills of Nilgiris has a vast potential to promote tourism and to woo tourists to rural limits known for serenity, landscape beauty, woods, plantation fields and ethnic culture.
Though tourism potential is more in the suburbs and rural areas in Nilgiris, the impetus is lacking to promote tourism in these areas and to take its fruits to the rural folk in Nilgiris.
L. Varadharaj, general manager at Dodabetta Tea Factory here which runs a tea museum and adventure games to promote tourism, said that plantation fields amid the hills, valleys and woods are unparalleled attractions in Nilgiris which are yet another gifts of nature to the hills.
“Time has come to utilise the tourism potential in the plantation fields, especially tea-gardens, which are dominant in the rural parts of the hills, to bring tourists to the other side of the Nilgiris, to enjoy the bountiful nature to promote tea garden eco-tourism, in these rural circles,” he suggested.
“Organising mini-treks in the tea gardens and other plantation fields, picnics in the view points, bird watching programmes, arranging for ethnic food mela will certainly go well with the tourists to promote plantation-linked eco-tourism in a big way,” he noted.
Echoing the same tone, Mr.Rajeshkumar James, secretary of the Citizens’ Forum of Coonoor, said that the government should evolve new era tourism development policy to promote tourism in the plantation sectors. “Allotment of grants, subsidized loans for construction of eco-friendly wood houses for tourists to stay, operation of battery operated vehicles in the plantation fields will certainly make the tourists to focus on visits to rural Nilgiris; places like the Halakkarai slopes near Coonoor with tea gardens and woods is the most suitable place to promote plantation linked-eco tourism. Entry fee, guide fee and sale of eatables and ethnic food will bring more income to the rural folks as well as the small tea growers. Along the forest fringes, the forest department too can chip in to promote plantation and jungle linked eco-tourism,” he advocated. Whereas Mr. K. M. Alwas, secretary of the 'Nilgiris Adivasi Welfare Association', said that the tourist department never made an attempt to promote tourism in th
e tribal areas. Some of the Toda tribal settlements such as Bikkapathimund, have rich potential to promote eco-tourism. By promoting tribal culture tourism initiative, tourists can visit the rural tribal hamlets and learn the tribal culture, taste their food and can also buy the tribal handicrafts. In the changing world, it is imperative that impetus should be given to promote rural tourism to pave way for economic development, he suggested.