Culture and Handicraft Tourism in India: Tourism Supporting Sustainable Development Goals
With the aim of becoming more of a self-reliant nation and lessening the dependency on other nations, the Prime Minister of India proposed a new agenda called “vocal for local”. The aim of the agenda was to motivate locals and citizens to buy more local products and products made in India to increase the demand and sales. The agenda and its aim applied to all the sectors in the country. One such sector was the handloom, which was one the oldest sectors in the country. This new “vocal for local” agenda of India gave a new platform for its weavers and allied workers to showcase their talent and unique products for purchase. “Vocal for local” cannot be achieved by the government alone, as locals also have to contribute to this, through domestic tourism and pledge to buy local and authentic products at tourist destinations. Domestic tourism in India contributes a major share of the overall tourism activities undertaken in the country. The purpose of this study was to analyse the current situation of the handloom sector in Assam (Sivasagar) and Uttar Pradesh (Varanasi) regions, and also the development made by the government for the weavers and their community. The aim of doing this research was to check the development at the grass-root level, which in the future will decide the country’s ability to achieve the aim of a self-reliant India. This research also analyses domestic tourism's ability to contribute to the development of the handloom industry. In addition, this research determines whether tourism can contribute to the United Nations’ sustainable development goals (SDGs). The study adopted three SDGs for investigation:1) No poverty, 2) Quality education, and 3) Gender equality. This research used qualitative data collected from Indian Government reports. After analysing the reports, four themes were identified and discussed focused on the overall development of the handloom industry. The themes are as follows: 1) Cluster Development, 2) Awareness of Welfare Schemes, 3) Marketing and Promotion Scheme Impact, 4) Domestic Tourism and Sustainable Development Goals. The outcome of this study showed that, for achieving the “vocal for local” agenda, the Government of India needs to lay a strong foundation at the ground level. It highlights that these schemes are making positive impacts on the development of the handloom industry and its weavers. The Government’s cluster-wise development seems to be working for the overall development of the handloom sector. However, the lack of awareness of various schemes (whether business-related or to personal welfare) amongst weavers seems to create a hindrance to achieving fast-paced development. This means the Government still needs to work towards the awareness programmes. On the other hand, the contribution of tourism and its relation to the United Nation’s (UN) sustainable development goals towards achieving the new agenda is crucial and beneficial for both industries. It can be observed from the findings of the study, that the second-highest expenditure by tourists is on shopping, which means if tourism activity takes place at any destination, then the demand for local products increases. Additionally, it was found that, tourism’s niche market product offerings add more to its capacity and ability to attract more tourists to a place or destination.