Looking beyond the set pattern
We had a few more meetings with the youth to explore the possibilities and making a suitable action plan. We initiated a discussion by asking the participants to contribute to the pool of ideas about what can be offered to the tourists from the available resources. We asked if anybody has heard about home stays, bed and breakfast initiatives and Meal at local homes. Almost all of them responded with a positive nod and that these are experiences that they have either seen it themselves or heard from friends about its popularity at many tourist destinations.
The answer to our next question wasn’t surprising; we asked if we can do it here at Nalanda.
“Yes”, said a few participants. They felt Nalanda has potential and lack of any other place to stay in the vicinity adds to its suitability. A summary of the discussion is given below,
1- There are many houses in Surajpur and surrounding villages owners of which don’t stay here. Some suitable houses can be taken on lease and suitably modified for home stays and meal and homes facilities
2- This will require some legislation on guidelines, specifications , facilities and requirements for such initiative based on bottom-up approach
3- This should be given status of economic activity and loan facilities should be made available
4- Capacity building of interested people and gathering information on how to manage and run such an enterprise,
Guiding, Cultural experience, packaged tours and Tour operations
In follow-up meetings more local youth participated in discussions. The youth participants felt the present tourism is limited to few sites and the vicinity has lot more to offer. Other places should be included in the tourist circuit and this will also require a new breed of tourist guides who are well equipped to take challenges the sector offers. Few youth who had some exposure in tour operation said they want to start such initiative but the fear of failure and loss of capital investment prevents them from taking such initiative. We shared with the participants the idea of organizing some traditional sports and performing arts during tourism season and elicited their reaction and suggestions. We also discussed on why and how to start the tour operation from Nalanda.
Summary of discussion,
1- Organized tourism at Nalanda is managed by tour operators at other distant places. This is a big hindrance in the growth of tourism at place.
2- Lack of communication and constructive partnerships among the stakeholders on tourism development in and around Nalanda
3- All the villages have sports club, it was decided to organize a separate meeting with the sports clubs on possibility of organizing annual sports events to attract tourists.
4- Many youth participants were ex-students of Nava Nalanda Mahavihara; they felt Mahavihar is best suited for starting job oriented course in tourism sector. Courses on foreign language, tourist guides and tour operation will benefit youth of the locality.