By Dripto Mukhopadhyay
A few years back I did a study on linkage of tourism with socio-economic development of artisans in a few selected districts of Rajasthan in India. The research paper was published as a chapter of the book Tourism Development Revisited: Concepts, Issues and Paradigms, by Sage Publication. Amongst the key findings, a few relevant ones are that the smaller artisans suffer from lack of money to invest, hardly have any access to access to credit facility, no access to any organised marketing facility, no access to modern craft related facilities or raw materials. All these factors play instrumental role in poor socio-economic status of these artisans who has such important skills which are passed on to one generation from the other. Though tourists spend a significant amount of their total spending on artisan items, there is hardly any direct link between these artisans and the tourists. As a result, only a small portion of the total tourists spending percolates down to these artisans. The reason why I have mentioned about this study and a few key findings is a thought of mine that whether we can have a meaningful intervention in uplifting the socio-economic status of these artisans through activities under Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). The hospitality companies are the best ones to take up CSR in these areas since that can also be used as an instrument for their future revenue generation. I deliberately mention about the future revenue stream due to the fact that no CSR activity can be initiated or sustained without any direct or indirect revenue generation from the same in the long run. Several artisan villages are located near well known tourist destinations. A cluster of these villages can be chosen based on the most dominant craft in the region. Important facilities, such as, common facility centres, micro-finance, marketing channel etc. can be developed through forming SHGs or co-operatives. Workshops can be arranged for training on new designs and advancement on other aspects of the craft. At the same time, the artisan villages can be transformed into new tourist destinations and interaction points between tourists and the artisans, especially the smaller ones. This can play a big role in attracting tourists since every tourist look forward to visit places where they can experience local activities on their own eyes as well as purchase authentic local crafts that cost much lower than that are available in the city stores. Complementary visits to these villages within a package for lodging can act as enough incentives for the visitors. This sort of a model for CSR activities by hospitality companies can be extremely successful as a tool for enhancing customer base for the company as well as a crucial contribution in development process of these neglected artisans who are gradually leaving their age-old profession and migrating towards bigger towns for petty jobs.