By Arun Kumar Das
Aiming at increasing footfalls of domestic and global tourists alongwith enhancing visitor experience, government announced development of 17 sites in the country as iconic tourist spots.
According importance to the tourism sector for job creation and GDP growth, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her maiden budget speech announced that 17 sites across the country will be developed as model tourist spots.
The identified locales are expecting to attract not only tourists but also to boost film shooting for domestic and global filmmakers.
“The government is developing 17 iconic Tourism Sites into world-class tourist destinations and to serve as a model for other tourism sites. The Iconic Tourism Sites would enhance visitor experience which would lead to increased visits of both domestic and international tourists at these destinations,” she said in her maiden Budget speech.
Tourism Ministry got Rs 2,189.21 crore allocation for for 2019-20, an increase from Rs 2,113.48 cr in the 2018-19.
She also announced one hundred new clusters to be set up in 2019-20 to enable 50,000 artisans to come into the economic value chain.
“One hundred new clusters will be set up in 2019-20 to enable 50,000 artisans to come into the economic value chain. The Government will launch a mission to integrate traditional artisans and creative persons with the global market to obtain patents for them,” she added.
India, world’s seventh-largest country, is a paradise for tourists as it has high mountains of the Himalayas to the tropical greenery of Kerala, and from the sacred Ganges to the sands of the Thar desert.
Besides the vast country has more than one billion inhabitants are divided into two thousand ethnic groups and speak over 200 different languages.
According to the plan, these 17 sites have been identified in 12 clusters across the country — including Taj Mahal and Fatehpur Sikri (UP), Ajanta & Ellora (Maharashtra), Humayun’s Tomb, Red Fort and Qutub Minar (Delhi), Colva (Goa), Amer Fort (Rajasthan), Somnath and Dholavira (Gujarat), Khajuraho (Madhya Pradesh), Hampi (Karnataka), Mahabalipuram (Tamil Nadu), Kaziranga (Assam), Kumarakom (Kerala) and Mahabodhi Temple (Bihar).
Tourism Minister Prahlad Patel said that by mentioning these sites in her Budget address, the Finance Minister has drawn the focus on tourism.
“When 17 sites will be developed in such a big way, it will not only boost tourism, but also employment,” he said.
Apart from its size and population, India has an almost endless variety of cultures, landscapes, monuments and places to explore as there are ancient ruins, religious structures and diverse landscape to attract tourists.
Taking note of the rich tribal culture, Sitharaman said the government will take measures to ensure that the rich tribal culture of the country is preserved.
She also said a digital tribal repository will be created, in which photos, videos, details of origin, education, lifestyle, skill sets, traditional arts and other anthropological information will be stored.
In order to boost artisans’ income, the government will soon launch a mission to integrate traditional artisans and creative persons with the global market to obtain patents for them.
“With the objective of preserving rich tribal cultural heritage, a digital repository is developed where documents, folk songs, photos and videos about their evolution, place of origin, lifestyle, architecture, education level, traditional art, folk dances and other anthropological details of the tribes in India are stored. The repository will further be enriched and strengthened,” Sitharaman said in her speech.
There are endless collection of tourist attractions in India that will never cease to awe and fascinate the visitor.
Tourism Ministry has already launched the Swadesh Darshan scheme, under which thematic tourist circuits are developed and allotted Rs 1,106 cr for it while the PRASAD scheme, formulated to develop religious sites, got Rs 160.50 cr for the current fiscal.
However, there was no change in the 18-28 per cent Good and Services Tax despite the industry demands.
Meanwhile, tourism sector, considered an engine of economic growth and a significant contributor to GDP, registered a slowdown in 2018-19.
While foreign tourist arrival dropped to 2.1 per cent, forex from tourism plummeted to -3.3 per cent in 2018-19, according to the economic survey.
The survey showed that while outbound tourism increased by 9.5 per cent, it was more than double that of foreign tourist arrivals in India. Domestic travel and tourism market registered a slowdown from 12.7 per cent in 2016 to 2.4 per cent in 2017.
Taj Mahal, with a footfall of 5.6 million, attracted the most number of domestic visitors.
In May this year there were were 6,10,590 foreign tourists as compared to 6,06,522 in May 2018 registering a growth of 0.7%.
Foreign tourist arrivals during the period January-May 2019 were 45,45,883 as compared to 44,67,393 in January-May 2018 registering a growth of 1.8%.
Welcoming the announcement of new tourist spots in the budget, tourism expert Subhash Goyal said it would enhance tourism scope and experience for visitors.
However, Goyal said it should not be limited to 17 only and all demanded that all UNESCO World Heritage Sites should be made iconic digital experience.
Another expert Rajan Sehgal said some golf sites should also be taken up as part of golf tourism to attract increased footfalls of international golf players.