: : By Badhri Jagannathan : :
The Rural Tourism Network Enterprise (RTNE), a social enterprise, has made a unique venture in tourism sector which brings much needed alternate livelihood opportunity to village entrepreneurs while providing a budget travel option for tourists. The business model is outlined in an article in Business Standard thus.
"RTNE identifies local entrepreneurs to form a Destination Management Company (DMC) — more like a franchise. These entrepreneurs identify village households or small low-cost hotels that are ready to take guests in their homes or outhouses.
The franchisee then trains these households on the minimum standards required to run a healthy and tourist-friendly administration. While they keep track of availability of rooms, for every Rs 500 a household gets for a room, Rs 100 goes to the franchisee and Rs 100 to RTNE. In return RTNE provides tourist traffic and trains the franchisee, besides providing access to finance to improve amenities."
Just one of the many ventures of IFMR Trust, RTNE is the result of an extensive survey conducted in 2008 to understand the potential of rural tourism.
The survey indicated that although rural tourism business models like home-stays... had gained in popularity, rural tourism had not yet reached its growth potential...due to several gaps in the rural tourism supply chain, such as lack of information on the destination, accommodation content and real-time availability of room inventory; lack of access to easy and cost-effective bookings; non-availability of cost-effective accommodation, and inadequate safety and hygiene at the accommodation.
RTNE then works with the DMCs to ensure quality on all such gaps as documented extensively in their field report to ensure quality for the tourists.
The tourist destination are currently concentrated in the Konkan region of Maharashtra and in south Sikkim, but Business Standard reports that "Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh have also set the ball rolling."
A visit to the RTNE website however reveals a few elements of inconvenience to a tourist. The "login" portal doesn't have an associated "Sign Up" link leaving us to wonder about the usefulness of the login portal. The information about various destinations available are plenty, but apparently online booking facility is not available and one has to send a "booking request". Clearly, some work needs to be done to make the website more convenient for the tourist. This may also inevitably force the tourist to doubt the quality of services extended during the stay.
But from the social perspective, RTNE seems to be an enterprise carefully structured to overcome shortcomings identified by sound observations in rural tourism sector and hence is likely to positively impact rural population by tens of thousands if not millions.
Originally posted at Think Change - India