December 15, 2008 12:05:47 am
Farmhouses to offer tourists a peek into state’s countryside while staying in lap of luxury
In 2007, Harkirat Ahluwalia started what is considered Punjab’s first private initiative in farm tourism-Citrus County. On his 15-acre orchard near Hoshiarpur, he offered luxurious homestay, coupled with a taste of rural Punjab.
The four rooms at his farm offered the best of facilities, and visitors could satiate their taste for a ‘pind’ life at Chhauni Kalan, the adjoining village. Some of his acquaintances scoffed: why would people come to holiday in Hoshiarpur? Today, its Ahluwalia’s turn to smile. Such has been his success that this year, he is booked well through the season. And there is more. He has set up six luxury tents on his orchard, in addition to rooms at the farm. The tents are air-conditioned and have wi-fi facility. An Australian delegation is coming to Citrus County in December, and then its time for guests from France.
Ahluwalia’s successful venture, admits GP Reddy, Director-cum-Secretary Tourism, Punjab, made the Tourism Department sit up and take notice. Within this month, the department is going to advertise its ‘Punjab Farm Tourism Scheme’. The advertisement will invite applications from owners of farmhouses in Punjab to provide “a rural tourism experience to visitors”.
Punjab has potential to develop farm tourism as a profitable venture, says Reddy. “Such farmhouses will offer visitors the best of both worlds: the essential comforts, along with an old-world charm,” he highlights. The scheme is likely to be launched early next year.
According to the blueprint prepared by the department, preference will be given to farms which have agricultural land attached. An inspection committee of the department will visit the farmhouse to see whether it can be recommended for registration with the department. The team will include a representative from the respective Deputy Commissioner’s office, Institute of Hotel Management (IHM), Gurdaspur and other departments concerned. Reddy says once a farmhouse is recommended, the owners will be given in situ training by experts from IHM. Reddy agrees that Punjabis are known for their warmth and hospitality. “Our effort will be to supplement and enhance their efforts,” he points out. The quality of services offered by farmhouses will be verified by Punjab Tourism.
The blueprint specifies that only those farmhouses will be registered with the department that have “a minimum of two rooms with toilet and provide full meal service”. The farmhouses will be classified in three categories— middle class, upper middle class, and high-end farms.
The scheme encourages owners of farmhouses to give visitors exposure to local community life, organise a village tour for them, and ensure diverse and uniquely rural experiences.The department expects that the activity will result in generation of employment and additional income for farmhouse owners, and also villagers. The department will only be a facilitator for giving a boost to farm tourism. It will neither fix the rates to be charged by owners of farmhouses nor charge any revenue.
The department will also advertise its farm tourism venture. It plans to launch a website for farm tourism and link it to its main tourism site. Some other farm tourism ventures, like the Ladhran Fort near Samrala, promoted by Soumindra Guron, are also gaining through word-of-mouth publicity.
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