Bhaskar Parichha

India draws its vitality from unity and diversity. In its more than five thousand years of existence, India – despite lapses and continuing challenges – has been the best example of ethnic and cultural amalgamation, on a national scale, creating a dynamic society incorporating the strengths of its contributing cultures.

India’s national experience has been one of variety – both in natural environment and cultural heritage. And that diversity has been a prime motivator in creating another phenomenon – travel. As more efficient means of transport have emerged in recent years, it has tied the nation together. Today, there is a growing interest in visiting places and experiencing the vast repository of cultural artifacts.

But travel and communication have wrought other effects; too. The forces of the media and the marketplace have in recent years sped up the nation towards a cultural homogenization – a blurring and weakening of the diversity that has always made India unique.

Today there is an increasing awareness and what appears to be an upsurge in going out. Travel and tourism has a definite role in helping oneself know, to make others know, to preserve the multiplicity of this vast land and helping to make the communities better places to live in. Tourism’s role has only recently been recognized, especially by the governments and among those organizations and businesses that are commonly thought of as “the tourism industry”.

The national treasures that millions of Indians now take for granted and which crisscross the country to visit were seldom talked about or written about. But no longer it is so, because of a groundswell of public appreciation.

It is necessary that public understanding of a very complex human activity will raise the vision of what travel and tourism can be, and will help ensure that tourism is a more positive factor in our lives. All that is needed is out-of-box thinking by those who are in charge of the tourism industry.

Travel and tourism is not popularly thought to be very important in enhancing community life. Indeed, the widely held perception of tourism corrupting local cultures argues to the contrary. But tourism has a significant potential for improving the economic potential of the society at large and in some communities it may represent the only economical means for such enhancement.

Tourism need not be doomed in times of economic stagnation, as we witnessed in recent times. Both the industry and the tourists will need to adjust some entrenched ways of thinking. Travel can continue to be a growing facet of Indian life.

The time has come to take travel and tourism seriously. Too often in the past, it has been considered as a poor relation in the larger family of economic activity. Travel is not about finding something. It’s about getting lost, it is about losing yourself in a place and a moment.

(The author Bhaskar Parichha is a Bhubaneswar based senior journalist and columnist. Views are personal)

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