Embedded in the heart of India is Uttar Pradesh, a land where cultures have evolved over time. The greatness of Uttar Pradesh lies not only in this confluence, but also in the emergence of cultural and religious traditions along some of the greatest rivers in the Indian sub-continent— the Ganga and the Yamuna. Throughout history, great cities have emerged and been established along great rivers. Within India, the Ganga and the Yamuna have nurtured a culture because of which religious faith, rituals, culture and intellectual enlightenment have evolved in places along the two rivers.

Exploring Uttar Pradesh along the mighty rivers takes the visitors on a magical trip. 

New tourism policy

The Uttar Pradesh government announced a new tourism policy on 19 February this year to increase the footfall of tourists as well as investments in the state. 

Talking to the media about the policy, state Tourism Minister Rita Bahuguna Joshi said both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath were focusing in a big way to make Uttar Pradesh the most preferred tourist destination in the country. 

She said that the government was aiming to encourage “at least four-five persons” from each of the 6.5 lakh villages in the country to come and participate in the Kumbh Mela at Allahabad in 2019. The Yogi Adityanath government has made it mandatory for all state government letters, letterheads and publicity material including hoardings and advertisements to carry the new Kumbh logo with immediate effect. The logo shows a group of sadhus taking a dip in the Sangam confluence of the Ganga and the Yamuna in the backdrop of temples and the Swastik symbol. UP has also changed the nomenclature of the fair, which is held every six years and was so far known as “Ardh (half) Kumbh”. Now it will be called just “Kumbh”.

“The Department of Tourism envisages an annual increase in the number of foreign tourists by 10% and domestic arrivals by 15%,” Joshi said. 

The state government had also accorded tourism the status of an industry, she added and shared the investment opportunities, fiscal incentives and benefits offered by the government under the new tourism policy, on making investments within a 20-km radius of all tourist sites of the 10 tourist circuits in the state.

These circuits include the Ramayana circuit, the Braj circuit, the Buddhist circuit, wildlife and eco-tourism circuit, Bundelkhand circuit, Mahabharata circuit, Shakti Peeth circuit, Adhyatmik circuit, Sufi circuit and the Jain circuit.

Under the new policy, a “Bed and Breakfast” scheme has also been launched, which also includes ashrams. “The state government also aims at attracting investments worth Rs 5,000 crore every year in the tourism sector,” the Minister announced and informed that 70 MoUs worth Rs 10,000 crore had already been inked in the run-up to the Investors Summit that concluded recently in Lucknow. 

“Under the new policy, through various incentives, the state government also aims to log 100,000 tourists annually to its national parks and wildlife sanctuaries other than converting 10 heritage buildings to heritage hotels every year,” Principal Secretary (Tourism) Avanish Awasthi said. 

Special focus was being given to create land banks for tourism purposes, Joshi said while elaborating on how several acres of land was available with the Revenue and Irrigation Department and efforts were on to take them on long-term lease and utilise them to increase tourist attractions in the state. The state government is also offering 10% subsidy on sports and cruise, 20% on tentage facilities, 20% on small budget hotels, 15% on new resorts and 15% on wellness centres. The maximum subsidy of 25% is being given for light and sound and laser shows. The Minister also said that for the first time funds had been allocated for policy implementation. “The Chief Minister has allocated Rs 70 crore for this in the first phase and has assured a total of Rs 1,000 crore in phased manner for policy implementation.” 

Joshi pointed out that the budget for the Tourism Department had been more than doubled to Rs 687 crore. She said that a pathway would be built for tourists coming to Agra, so that the distance between the iconic Taj Mahal and the Red Fort could be covered easily. Artisans from Uttar Pradesh had earned more than Rs 15 crore at the recently concluded Surajkund Mela in Haryana, the Minister added.  The state government, with a focus on providing more security to foreign tourists, has agreed to increase the present number of tourist police (150) to 650. “The safety and security of all tourists to the state is sacrosanct for us and we will speed up the process of more tourist police,” Joshi added.

‘Tourism sector will create 5 lakh jobs annually’

Uttar Pradesh has now become a major attraction as a destination in the global tourism map. The tourism sector in a vibrant state like Uttar Pradesh has been boosted by the dynamic policies of the state government led by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. The efforts to boost the tourism sector got a further impetus when Rita Bahuguna Joshi announced at the recently held UP Investors Summit in Lucknow that that the sector had immense potential for growth and job creation. The tourism department signed 50 memorandum of understandings (MoUs) with foreign and domestic investors on the first day of the summit. Joshi said that tourism sector will generate five lakh jobs every year by promoting religious, eco, cultural and heritage tourism in the state.

On the occasion, deputy Chief Ministers Keshav Prasad Maurya and Dinesh Sharma were also present. “In Uttar Pradesh, we have tourist destinations like Ayodhya, Mathura, Jhansi, Agra, Lucknow and Lakhimpur Kheri, among other places. If we upgrade transport and hospitality facilities at these places, then the footfall of tourists at these places could be increased,” said Joshi. She also urged tour operators to make such tour packages that common man could easily avail them. Religious tourism is one of the main stess areas of the  Yogi Adityanath government. The Centre has already approved a Rs 133-crore package for Ayodhya for executing several development projects there.

‘Ayodhya Eye’

Deputy CM Dinesh Sharma said that people from all across the world go to London to see the London Eye—a giant Ferris wheel on banks of the river Thames. “We could have similar such attractions in Ayodhya. It will be referred to as the Ayodhya Eye. Such things could also be planned for Lucknow and Agra,” said Sharma. He requested tour operators to frame special tourist packages for religious places.

Deputy CM Keshav Maurya stressed on starting cheap air services to give a boost to the tourism policy of the state. 

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