Himachal has various natural and man-made assets namely, the Himalayas, lakes, rivers, snow, rural landscape, pilgrimage spots like temples, gurudwaras and monasteries, heritage structures, traditional dance forms and attires, local handicrafts and cuisine, and some well-established commercial destinations like Shimla, Manali and Dharamshala. These existing assets of Himachal Pradesh shall be considered to create tourism products which revolve around following ten themes for tourism development:
All nature-based forms of tourism in which the main motivation of the tourists is the observation and appreciation of nature as well as the traditional cultures prevailing in the natural areas (UNWTO), having minimized negative impacts comes under eco-tourism. The advantages of promoting ecotourism include: benefits to local communities, generation of revenue, support to local economy and preservation of ecosystem and biodiversity. The varied natural landscape, rolling pastures, mighty Himalayas, vast flowing rivers, pristine lakes, dense pine forests and a vivid variety of flora and fauna makes Himachal Pradesh a must visit ecotourism destination. Bird watching, trekking, eco-trails, nature parks, eco-huts, and camping are some tourism products that shall be developed to promote eco-tourism.
Agro/Organic tourism involves any agriculturally based operation or activity that brings visitors to a farm, orchard or ranch. Agro Tourism is undertaken to experience the real rural life, taste the authentic local food and get familiar with the various farming tasks. The State has many organic farms, stone fruit orchards, etc. to offer under Agro Tourism. Development of village infrastructure, organizing cultural shows, providing eco-friendly accommodations amidst farms and orchards, streamlining facilitation procedures at airports, human resource development, creating awareness, improving public participation and facilitation of private sector participation are important points of action for facilitating Agro Tourism in the State.
Himachal Pradesh experiences extreme winters. Despite the harsh dip in temperatures, winter and snow tourism of the region is extremely magnetic, attracting tourists in huge numbers. Activities like snow trekking and camping, skiing, gondola rides, heli-skiing or simply playing in the snow are popular during this time.
Himachal Pradesh houses several natural and man-made lakes like Prashar Lake, Chandra Tal, Deepak Tal, Mani Mahesh Lake, Maharana Pratap Sagar, Gobind SagarLake which offer numerous opportunities. The state is also looking forward to provide access to man-made reservoirs for conducting water sports adventure activities. Apart from this, the fast-flowing rivers of Himachal are popular for activities like river rafting, white water river rafting, angling, etc., and water zorbing, rappelling, and overnight camping along the river banks.
It is a type of niche tourism, involving exploration or travel with a certain degree of risk (real or perceived), or physical danger which may require special skills and physical exertion. Adventure tourism attracts high-value customers who are passionate and risk-taking. It can be leveraged to support the local economy with sustainable practices.
Pilgrimage tourism can be described as travel undertaken to visit a place, building or a shrine which is sacred. This travel can take place either for observing or participating in religious aspects in accordance with an individual’s trust and faith. These places attract the attention of visitors, not only for religious reasons but also tourists interested in history, architecture or art. Himachal is known, since earliest of times, as “Dev Bhoomi”, which translates to “The Abode of the Gods”. The splendid height of the Himalayan ranges, with its great scenic beauty and aura of spiritual calm makes it the natural home of the Gods. Being a State full of isolated valleys and high ranges, several different styles of temple architecture can be observed, having carved stone shikharas, pagoda style shrines, and temples that look like Buddhist Gompas. The State not only has Hindu temples, but it also houses many Colonial Churches, Sikh Gurudwaras and centuries-old Buddhist Monasteries. Several of them are important places of pilgrimage and each year attract thousands of devotees from all over the country.
Cultural and Heritage Tourism:
This tourism is oriented towards the cultural heritage of the location where tourism is occurring. The National Trust for Historic Preservation in the US defines heritage tourism as “…traveling to experience the places, artifacts and activities that authentically represent the stories and people of the past, and can include cultural, historic and natural resources”. Cultural tourism is concerned with a traveler’s engagement with a country or region’s culture, specifically the lifestyle of the people in those geographical areas, the history of those people, their art, architecture, religion(s), and other elements that helped shape their way of life. The eco-products like handicrafts, natural produce, cuisines, herbal cosmetics and products, medicines, ethnic ornaments, souvenirs, etc. of Himachal Pradesh are quite popular among travelers. Often villages and rural areas have exclusive products that could be branded. Popularizing the products would lure more travelers to the place, as well as improve the economic condition of the local villagers. The advantages of promoting cultural/eco products are: it helps uplift the backward communities, is less demanding in terms of technological innovations, and finally, acts as a lifeline for dying art form.
Health and Wellness tourism:
Wellness tourism is travel associated with the pursuit or managing or enhancing one’s personal wellbeing through physical, psychological, or spiritual activities. Wellness tourists are proactive in seeking to improve or maintain health and quality of life, often focusing on prevention. However, wellness tourism is often correlated with medical tourism where the traveler is looking for medical aid to get cured mostly through indigenous medicines and therapy.
Himalayas being home to huge collection of medicinal plants and hot springs known for their curative properties provides a stable platform for building health and wellness tourism. Ayurveda spas, wellness centres, Yoga retreats bode well with a scenic and calmative setting of Himachal Pradesh.
There is a growing interest and demand for locations among travelers which become popular due to their appearance in films and television series. Films, documentaries, TV-productions and commercials inspire people to experience the locations screened in the content and to explore such new destinations. Film tourism is an excellent vehicle for destination marketing and creates opportunities for product and community entrepreneur development. Film field is a fast-paced industry, driven by creative passion, positive energy, and tremendous enthusiasm, which can be cross-pollinated into the tourism and services sector to yield fast results.
The MICE market refers to a specialized niche of group tourism dedicated to planning, booking, and facilitating conferences, seminars, and other events; which is a big money-maker in the travel industry. Such events, when hosted, draws plenty of attention to the hosting city or place and benefit the local economies through multiplier effect (travel, accommodation, food, local travel, etc.). Infrastructure created to support such events also helps in the Fast-Track development of these areas and indirectly becomes a platform for showcasing local culture. Meeting Travel hosts a gathering of people coming together in one place, usually a limited number of people, to discuss a subject. Incentive Travel may be one of the harder components of MICE travel to understand since it doesn’t necessarily deal with group events. Instead, incentive travel is typically given to employees as a reward. Incentive travel doesn’t usually have a business or explicit educational component but instead is more of a non-business vacation with the aim of continued motivation for performance. Conference Travel involves organizing itineraries, meetings, and events for people from the same profession or field. Conferences usually have a specific agenda, objectives, and a planned list of activities for the exchange of information. Exhibition Travel: At an exhibition, products or services are displayed and might be the primary focus of the event. Exhibitions are often included in other conferences and meetings, there is often an overlap.