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Agro-tourism in Pakistan

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Agritourism sometimes called agrotourism is the new concept of 20th century that includes farm and agricultural related tourism. It is undertaken by people for educational and recreational purposes and sometimes for excursion, holidays and to enjoy countryside life. Further, it invites tourists to explore rural communities, their ways of farming, traditions and culture. Pakistan is already a famous tourist destination in the world for cultural, religious and archaelogical sites and this is evident from fact that Pakistan is named as top holiday destination for the year 2020 by Condè Nast, which is one of the world’s best travel portals. But most of the tourists visit northern areas and unfortunatley, the agritourism in Pakistan remains neglected.
Agriculture sector is the backbone of Pakistan’s economy. Pakistan’s 60 % territory is classified as rural and 70 % of people are directly or indirectly involved in agricultural activities. Further, Pakistani rural areas have dirverse culture, traditions and festives. If we promote agritourism, rural areas of Pakistan can become important tourist spots and can boost economic activities in rural settings which will ultimately help farmers to earn more income.
With the advent of modern technology and rapid urbanization, people and their children are bound to remain under closed walls before televisions, laptops and video games. They are deprived of countryside life. They dont know how thier ancestors lived and ploughed the fields in villages. Agritourism can provide young generation and tourists with rich experience and provide knowledge of diverse ways of farming. Tourists can experience bath in tubewells and even take part in plouging fields. Additionally, they will be able to taste fresh fruits, vegetables and much more since the urban children only eat junk food and chocklates. In this way they will be able to get close to the Mother Nature and experience new things in life.
If the agritourism increases, it will allow farmers to sell food and art & craft products which will resultantly boost their income. Farmers do not require huge investment for agritourism what they need is just facilitate tourists. Though income gap is increasing in farmers, but agritourism will create new jobs for rural people and provide opportunity to earn income through small and medium enterprises. Agritourism wil diversify village economy and farmers will not depend only on crop income.
In addition to this, tourits will discover rural culture, history and folklores. Agritousim will help rural people to preserve their heritage and culture. Countries such as France, Japan, Korea and Indonesia offer farm tourism. With the help of government, farmers have established guesthouses and cottages for tourists. Farmers offer tourists traditional food and allow them to witness rice planting or rubber tapping and even allow them to take part in it. Malaysian government has helped famers establish more than 30 agro-tourisms centers for the purpose of education as well as recreation. Moreover, rare plants, animal species and historic buildings in the villages are the main source of attraction for the tourists in those countries.
For promotion of agritourism in Pakistan following measures are needed to be taken on priority basis by the government of Pakistan to reap economic benefits.
Starting with managment skills, tourism department may constitute teams and these teams be sent, to those villages which can offer agritourism, to give training and inculcate in farmers how to facilitate tourists and manage things. These teams in consultation with farmers may design tour packages to be offered to tourists.
Similarly, government can provide soft loans to farmers so that they can establish guesthouses and cottages for tourists. Farmers can repay these loans after earning rental inome. Additionaly, these loans can be used to beautify gardens and fields for tourist attraction.
Government in cooperation with farmers may arrange festivals, quarterly or annually, to attract tourists. Proper campign be launched and advertisment be floated on the newspapers and social media. Schools, colleges, and universities should be encouraged to arrange educational trips for students during these festivals.
In addition to this, tourism department may train community members to become tourist guides so that these guides can tell about history and culture of their village to the tourists. In this way they will have sense of preserving their heritage and culture.
To conclude with, it is the farmer that will ultimately benefit from agritourism if they are able to provide facilities such as accomodation, services and products to the tourists. Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation can start promoting agritourism by following above mentioned steps. Pilot projects in few villages should be implemented and evaluated for further improvement. Agritousim is a great opportunity for Pakistan for creating jobs. Further, it can help Pakistan to reduce poverty in rural areas.