To attract more foreign tourists, the Tourism Department will start river cruise and hovercraft during Kumbh 2019.
In an extensive interview to The Sunday Guardian, Uttar Pradesh Tourism Minister Rita Bahuguna Joshi talked on a host of issues, ranging from Kumbh 2019 to increasing the footfall of both domestic and foreign tourists. Excerpts:
Q: Uttar Pradesh has a varied range of tourist attractions, both in terms of natural resources and heritage monuments. How do you plan to increase the footfall of tourists, both domestic and foreign, in the next four years to make Uttar Pradesh the most preferred tourist destination?
A: The presence of Taj Mahal, which is one of the seven wonders of the world, helps place Uttar Pradesh as a must-visit destination in the minds of tourists, both domestic and foreign. In order to make Uttar Pradesh the most preferred tourist destination in the country, the state government and the Tourism Department together are planning to promote tourism not only at the most popular destinations, but also in the lesser visited or unexplored tourism destinations such as the eco-tourism destinations, Bundelkhand and the Sonbhadra region etc. Keeping in mind the tourist destinations that might attract the attention and interest of tourists, especially foreign visitors, the Tourism Department is promoting the following themes:
Kashi (Varanasi) and the Ganges (Holy River Ganga).
Buddhist Circuit: Six cities which hold an important place in Lord Buddha’s path to Nirvana.
Ramayana Circuit: Associated with the Indian mythological epic of Ramayana.
Wildlife and Eco-Tourism Circuit: For wildlife enthusiasts and researchers.
Aadhyatmik circuit: For a spiritual experience.
Mahabharat Circuit: Associated with the Indian mythological epic of Mahabharata.
The state is also set to welcome the upcoming KumbhPrayagraj 2019 which will be a unique attraction for foreign tourists and an opportunity to witness the largest peaceful gathering of people on earth.
Q: Kumbh 2019 is being aggressively promoted by the government as the biggest event on earth to the international audience. What new things does the tourism department plan to do to make Kumbh a larger than life event?
A: Kumbh 2019 is the most important event for almost every national and international pilgrim on earth. And for that, the Department of Tourism, Government of Uttar Pradesh, is making all efforts to make it a successful religious event and is not leaving any stone unturned. The Uttar Pradesh Tourism Department has released its “Bed & Breakfast Scheme” for Kumbh 2019, just to provide a homely atmosphere to its international audience. The Department has planned to set up the “Tent City” through which 5,000 Swiss cottages will be established on an area of approximately 50 hectares. The department is also planning to establish permanent dormitories for approximately 20,000 tourists/pilgrims.
To attract more international tourists, the Tourism Department is also planning to start river cruise and hovercraft during Kumbh 2019. For easy access to its international tourists during Kumbh 2019, the Department has planned to install 300 digital signages in Indian and foreign languages. The Uttar Pradesh Tourism Department has planned to aggressively promote and publicise Kumbh 2019 at national and international platforms through various television channels.
Q: How is the government prepared to handle the huge inflow of tourists from all across the country and abroad?
A: The Uttar Pradesh government is well prepared to handle the huge inflow of national and international tourists for Kumbh 2019 by providing them accommodation and security which is a need for this type of event. The government has planned to set up the “Tent City” which will have approximately 5,000 Swiss cottages and at the same time, the recently launched “Bed & Breakfast Scheme” will also play a big role in providing accommodation to the pilgrims/tourists. The government is also planning to established permanent dormitories which will accommodate 20,000 tourists/pilgrims. The government has included dharamshalas and ashrams in the “Bed and Breakfast Scheme”, which will play a vital role in accommodating tourists/pilgrims during Kumbh 2019. The current infrastructure will be upgraded as per need, to ensure better stay facilities for the tourists.
Q: How do you think tourism helps boost investments in the state? How do you plan to meet the target of Rs 5,000 crore of investments in the tourism sector every year?
A: Currently, India is the seventh largest travel and tourism economy in the world. The sector has a substantial contribution of the economy of the state and the country. With tourism being one of the fastest growing sectors in the state, increase in investments is inevitable. In order to target investments, the state has recently launched the Uttar Pradesh Tourism Policy 2018 which offers lucrative incentives to the investors. Investments worth Rs 14,800 crore pledged during the first ever Uttar Pradesh Investors’ Summit, are proof of the focussed approach the state has adopted to promote investments in the tourism sector. The government will continue to facilitate investors with necessary approvals and clearances in order to enhance the tourism investments in the state.
Q: What will be the focus destinations of Uttar Pradesh for the next four years?
A: The Tourism Department has identified 10 key tourist circuits in the state that it plans to promote over the coming four years to achieve an increase in the footfall of tourists. These are: the Ramayana Circuit, Krishna Circuit, Buddhist Circuit, Sufi Circuit, Wildlife and Eco-Tourism circuit, Bundelkhand Region, Mahabharat Circuit, Shakti Peeth Circuit, Jain Circuit and the Aadhyatmik Circuit.
The Department is also planning to identify and develop textile tourism circuits to promote the indigenous arts by linking them to major tourist destinations.
Q: Eminent wildlife photographer and environmentalist Mike Pandey has recently been entrusted to promote the Dudhwa National Park and Katerniaghat Sanctuary as brand ambassador. What plans do you have to promote eco-tourism in a bigger way?
A: The Uttar Pradesh government is focusing on promotion of eco-tourism in the state. The recently launched UP Tourism Policy 2018 has given special importance to eco-tourism by providing incentives and all necessary assistance to private players for development of eco tourism in the state. The Department of Tourism and the UP Forest Department have signed an MoU for development and promotion of all eco-tourism sites in Uttar Pradesh. The Department is also planning to set up air strips at various eco-tourism destinations for easy commuting between the destinations. In the recent budget, the Uttar Pradesh government has also released Rs 50 crore for infrastructure development at various eco-tourism sites in the state. Our Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has said, “Places having potential of eco-tourism will be equipped with all the necessary facilities so as to make them attractive to tourists.” The Tourism Department, in coordination with the Uttar Pradesh Forest Corporation, will provide civic and tourist amenities in national and wildlife sanctuaries to ensure satisfaction of visitors. The Tourism Department has also planned to organise nature tour programmes, and nature camps for promotion of eco-tourism in the state.
Q: How would you meet the target of giving employment to five lakh people every year?
A: The focussed approach of the state to promote investments in the state will further help to generate regular employment. Additionally, the government offers employment generation subsidy under the new Tourism policy to investors who help generate local employment through integrated tourism development in the state.
Another step taken up by the Department of Tourism is to recognise the short time skill development courses offered by various institutes along with the association of Uttar Pradesh Hotel & Restaurant Association (UPHRA), Federation of Hotel & Restaurant Associations of India (FHRAI), Hotel and Restaurant Association of Northern India (HRANI), Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI), Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO) and Travel Agents Federation of India (TAFI), for employment generation.
Such planned development initiatives taken up by the government will focus on generating employment opportunities, besides enabling households and individuals to produce and supply products that are demanded by the industry, for the local people to get maximum economic benefits out of tourism.