Kinnaur tribals throw doors open for city slickers

June 11th, 2009 - 2:29 pm ICT by IANS  

Shimla, June 11 (IANS) Want to go to the hills for a vacation but bored with hotels? Now you can stay in a tribal villager’s home, savour local cuisine and even work in the fields — thanks to a ‘household tourism fest’ in Himachal Pradesh.
Residents of the picturesque Sangla Valley in Kinnaur district - which remains cut off from the rest of the country for more than six months a year owing to heavy snowfall - have thrown open their doors to tourists, offering a homely stay.

The two-day Sangla Valley Household Tourism Festival from June 27 is a promotional drive to invite tourists to relish local cuisine, enjoy folk culture and experience working in the fields and cooking garden-fresh vegetables.

“The people of Sangla Valley will showcase local cuisine, folk culture, handicraft and handloom for domestic and foreign tourists under the home-based tourism initiative from June 27 at Sangla,” said V.K. Negi, chairman of the Sangla Valley Sustainable Development Society (SVSDS).

The society is organising the festival for the sixth time. The registered villagers rent out a portion of their house to tourists.

“Last year the response of tourists was good and the area is emerging as a hub for household and agro-tourism. This time, more people have come forward to register themselves under household tourism activity,” Negi told IANS.

Shimla-based NGO Himalayan Research Group and the CSK Himachal Pradesh Krishi Vishwavidyalaya (CSKHPKV) of Palampur in Kangra district are providing logistic and technical support to the festival.

“The Sangla Valley tourism festival is slowly gaining ground. In the long run, the local communities will benefit in monetary terms. Some locals have been trained in the hospitality sector,” said Tej Pratap Singh, CSKHPKV’s vice-chancellor.

“It would also help in the preservation of local culture, skills and traditions in a sustainable manner.”

SVSDS chairman Negi said dishes prepared from locally grown crops and spices would be served to guests. “Tourists can relish dishes prepared from buckwheat, barley and apricots. The food will be served in traditional utensils,” he said.

The climatic conditions of the landlocked Kinnaur district are harsh as much of the land falls under the inhospitable Himalayan terrain.

“Such festivals not only generate self-employment for people living in villages but also de-congest urban areas,” said Negi.

Himachal Pradesh, with a population of over six million, attracted 9.37 million domestic and 367,000 foreign tourists last year. Kullu and Manali are the hot spots for tourists, followed by Shimla and Dharamsala.

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