Discover your heart in another India, an India that is not in any tourist guide, that is rich and vibrant, that possesses an ancient soul, full of contrasts and diversity. Taste another India, discover another way of living, doing and being.
In this maddening hustle bustle of the modern day, most of us dream of a vacation , set in some tranquil abode of nature, a unique experience that enriches the body , mind and soul , full of contrasts and diversity. Something that can’t really be located in a guide book.
Well, if you are looking for all of that and want to contribute to Responsible Tourism in the country Travel another India is the answer.
As traditional sources of income erode , Travel another India aims to provide an alternate means of livelihood to many rural farm and forest fringe communities , artisans and craft persons who are willing to play host.
Travel another India won the Sankalp award for emerging companies in Rural Innovations for 2009.
Here’s an interview with Ms. Gouthami, Co-Founder of Travel another India.
How did you guys get the idea of TravelanotherIndia?
Gouthami: TAI was set up by Vinay Raj and myself. We had both worked with agencies that fund NGOs for several years. And travelled across India visiting some of its most beautiful villages. We felt that responsible tourism could be a viable alternative livelihood option. However, it was only when I was working with Kutch Mahila Vikas Sangathan in between 2005 and 2007, that I was part of the team that implemented the UNDP and Ministry of Tourism’s Rural Tourism Project in Hodka village, that I saw how it could really work. Hodka was the inspiration behind TAI.
What was your background before starting TravelanotherIndia ?
Gouthami: I had 18 years of work experience with international and national development agencies such as ActionAid, Concern Worldwide, Christian Aid, and Kutch Mahila Vikas Sangathan (KVMS). At KMVS, I was a part of the team that set up the Shaam-e-Sarhad Rural Resort in Hodka village, Kutch. I was also a consultant with the UNDP for their Endogenous Tourism Project implemented with the support of the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India (www.exploreruralindia.org), providing support to two of their endogenous tourism projects in Kerala and one in Karnataka.
Mr Vinay Raj is an ardent and intrepid traveller, having served for over two decades in the development, humanitarian and corporate sectors, spanning Asia and East Africa managing large teams, fostering innovations and partnerships. He is passionate about supporting livelihoods of endogenous communities, conscious of their cultural roots and ethos.
How does Travel another India choose the locations for guests to experience and generate revenue?
Gouthami: We basically believe that any village in India can be developed into a tourist destination if they meet these four conditions: 1. Is the village accessible to tourists? 2. Is the village safe – natural and human threats? 3. Is there a “host” in the village – an individual or group who are willing to work to ensure that guests enjoy the experience? 4. Do the weather conditions allow sufficient tourist days so that the venture is financially viable?
What has been the overall feedback of the guests?
Gouthami: Guests have in general been happy with the destinations that we are offering them. A common feedback is – “When we were young, we visited our grandparents in the villages and had a great time chasing cows, stealing mangoes and generally running riot. However, now that our parents also live in the cities, our children don’t get that experience. Your destinations allow us to show them Another India.” I am putting together feedback from several guests to make that statement.
What is the kind of socio-economic impact the organization is generating?
Gouthami: We are too young to be able to measure the impact. However, in Hodka which has been operation for about 5 years now, we see that about 60 families (out of 250) are getting a direct income because of tourism – either directly employed in the resort, doing laundry service, providing transport, providing milk and milk products, doing mud work that covers the resort, etc. One family has even taken a loan and set up a home stay within the village. Another family has sent their sons to study further so that they can come back and work in the resort.
Of the income of Rs.21 lakhs that the resort generated last year, 40% was spent in the village itself. In Banavasi, the fact that the “room boy” needs to clean toilets as well as serve guests meant that only one social group could be considered for the job. And now that job has greatly added to that family’s income and we hope in future to their status as well.
How do you plan to take it forward ?
Gouthami: We hope to be able to reach out 50 villages in 3 years time. In the long term, we hope that those who are guests begin to understand what rural India is all about. Many of these urban guests will be or go on to becoming bureaucrats, politicians, doctors, lawyers, industrialists, policy makers, etc. We hope that this glimpse into another way of life will help them when they form policy or influence policy at the national and global levels to think beyond their immediate reality. We hope that change happens both ways – in the host community, but also in the guests, their families and friends.
This article has been written by Rahul Anand, an IT consultant , entrepreneur and social activist living in Delhi. He has been associated with Udayan care as a volunteer since the last two years; has started a program with cafindia (charity aid foundation) by the name of 100ruppeeclub. Also, his venture www.simplypoet.com is the world’s first multi lingual poetry portal.