Uttarakhand will emerge as a tourism powerhouse: Harish Rawat

In his inaugural address at the recently held Tehri Cultural Festival & Investors Meet, the Chief Minister of Uttarakhand, Harish Rawat underlined that Tehri would be that next big tourism offering from the ‘Dev Bhumi’ land while emphasising that the state machinery is firing on all cylinders to take Uttarakhand tourism to the next level. Excerpts from his speech:

Harish RawatIt is no secret to anybody that tourism is one of the major draws of Uttarakhand. And in our scheme of things, its strategic importance is only going to grow. This obviously entails modifying the products we have and also making subtle additions in our portfolio. Our focus in developing Tehri as a world class tourism destination now is an ample proof that we are moving in this direction.

The economic potential of Tehri region with tourism as a key driver is immense. The natural beauty of the entire region is unique and if we could manage to put in right tourism components, it will not only significantly uplift the economic condition of the region but could also emerge as a major asset for the national tourism. Here I must admit, we have been somewhat slow in giving a push to the tourism development of this region. But now we are committed to go all hog on it.

To attain our ultimate objective of making Tehri a world class tourism destination, we must evolve a participatory culture wherein the concerns of the local and their upliftment should be given the paramount importance. It should not be just seen as a function of getting private investments. I have instructed the local authorities to encourage local participation. We must have a comprehensive plan with two-pronged strategy. Firstly, there should be a robust skillset development programme which should help local youths to embrace new opportunities in tourism in the region (e,g., guides, personnel for the hospitality industry, etc.). And secondly, the pace of the tourism growth in the region should be such that it should promote local entrepreneurship as well.

This region can well embrace some of the natural strengths which we have developed elsewhere in the state. For instance, water-sports can become a major attraction here. The nearby destination of Shivpuri is already well-recognised for water based activities and is, in fact, called the capital of river rafting. River rafting has evolved as a culture giving employment to thousands of locals which can be emulated here.

Even on a broader basis, developing more tourism centric sites in the state is a key pursuit for us now. Pancheshwar for instance has a lot of potential and we are keen to develop some new tourism sites there. Para-gliding and mountaineering are the key activities wherein we want to scale up our offerings. We have plenty to offer to the nation and the world and I must appreciate the center and the union tourism ministry in providing us with adequate support.

We have started Himalayan- Darshan scheme (helicopter services for tourists to view mountain peaks) which will significantly add to Uttarakhand Tourism profile. We have also drawn a plan to give a further boost to our religious tourism segment which is a stronghold of the state. We have many ancient temples which are relatively lesser known and we will push them to the spotlight zone by creating lakes around them. A major positive trend which we have noticed in the recent past is that the typical state cuisine is also becoming popular with our visitors and we want to tap this segment in a major way. I have instructed the tourism department to promote and standardise the outlets which are at strategically important tourism locations in the state.

The entire idea is to emerge as a major tourism powerhouse in the next two-three years. It will create thousands of jobs making tourism development inclusive going ahead. We had considerable momentum to attain this objective before but the natural tragedy two years back had slowed the process. But the good news now is: tourists have begun coming back to our main draw, Char Dham, in large numbers again. I am happy to share with you that we noticed a footfall of about 10 lakh religious tourists to Char Dham this year and in 2016, this number is likely to further shoot up to 14 lakhs. So we are getting back to the normal mode again. We have also planned to supplement the new momentum with a series of year round cultural festivals which could be another significant addition to our portfolio. Very soon, we will come out with a cultural calendar.

Our big vision on tourism certainly includes apt support from the investors’ community. And there is ample opportunity for them on several fronts starting from hotel units of all kind to basic facilities in mountaineering and also training. From the state government side, I can assure all assistance and support to the investors who would like to partner our journey to take Uttarakhand tourism to the next level.

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