Design of a systemic model and guidelines for heritage walks in India

Interview with Konark Ashara:

Which three walks did you study in Ahmedabad?

In Ahmedabad the three walks I studied include the morning walk from Kalupur Swaminarayan Mandir to Jama masjid, then the night walk from Mangaldas Ni Haveli to Manek Chowk, and an Audio Walk from House of M.G.(heritage hotel) to Bholanath Devatia Ni haveli. Morning and night walks are guided walks.

Who are the stakeholders of an heritage walk?

Main stakeholders on a heritage walk are tourists, guides, historians, translators, private and governments agencies. During my project I met various tourists. They can be divided into two categories first timers and repeat visitors. These could be further divided into solo travelers, couples and families.

What were the problems or insights your studies lead to? Could you share them briefly with us?

The study led to insights related to guides behaviors, tourists behaviors and issues realted to group dynamics. In discussions with the tourists I found that the guide skips places. When I asked the guide the reason for doing so, he said that if he does not hurry up the walk would not finish in time.

How can this model be adapted across various states in India?

This model can be adapted by studying other cities in India. Firstly one has to make a list of places of interest in geographic vicinity. Discussion with historians as consultants will help decide the content for each city where this walk has to be replicated. Care has to be taken that there is enough diversity of heritage sites to be included in the walk and the walk should not exceed the duration of two hours.

Design and study of Heritage walks in the walled city of Amdavad?

In how many ways can one engage with a city? This project began when few college friends decided to visit my hometown, Ahmedabad. I insisted on taking a guided tour. I accompanied them but at the end of the walk, much was left to be desired. Being a local, I would have told them many more stories. With this in mind I set out to design my own walk, for experiencing the old city of Ahmedabad. I decided to base my project there, as I was familiar with the place. My aim was to visualize a systemic model for heritage walks that could be replicated across other cities in the country.

Abstract for a Poster Paper:

A heritage walk starts from a point where a guide guides a bunch of tourists on a predefined path. The guide takes the tourists through different heritage sites and shares the storied past of the city. There are several Indian cities where these walks take place regularly. Currently heritage walks are conducted in Pune, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Jaipur and Delhi. These walks are an opportunity for tourists to engage with the city. The guide takes them through the small streets where modes of transport such as a car or a bus cannot reach. These walks make tourists one with the city.

Participatory observations and semi-structured interviews with tour guides and tourists revealed insights and latent needs. It was understood that different tourists had different priorities, which have to be taken into account. During my user study in Ahmedabad I met two types of tourists, first time visitors and others who come for a second or a third visit with their guests. I observed group dynamics, nature of acquiring information during the walk, tourist and guide interactions, their halts, the pace, as well as anticipations and disappointments. We also interviewed historians, which helped us prioritize the content and arrive at decisions towards designing the walk.

This poster paper would share conclusions, which will help define a model and guidelines towards setting up such walks. It looks at what attributes a tour guide should have and mapping of tourist behaviors. I believe that these findings would identify issues related with heritage walks and enhance the experience of the tourists as well as address the needs of a guide. It makes sure that the unique qualities of the site are not missed out, which currently went unnoticed. I added value to existing walks by allowing the tourist to trace his/her path as he/she travelled; I included miscellaneous information in the hand-held booklet so that the tourist does not miss out on anything.
Contact: konarkashara@gmail.com