A recently unveiled state tourism policy, coupled with the hosting of PATA Adventure Travel And Responsible Tourism Conference And Mart 2019 in Rishikesh last week, are expected to be stepping stones in attracting more international tourists to the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand.
The new tourism policy, which was released at the end of last year, came 17 years since Uttarakhand’s first tourism policy was released in 2001. The policy accorded industry status to the sector, which opened up incentives for investors, and focused on new segments and products such as adventure tourism and homestays. The new policy also aims to develop one new tourism destination in each of its 13 districts.
“We have different products to offer to international markets but at present we are confined to yoga, wellness, high-altitude mountaineering and wildlife. New segments like adventure travel will be promoted,” said Dilip Jawalkar, secretary, tourism, religious affairs and culture department, government of Uttarakhand.
“We are also looking to host more international events in the future (like the PATA conference) so that so that local stakeholders know about best international practices,” he added. “Also, considering that we have ecological fragile areas, the focus is on increasing international arrivals in a sustainable way.”
Welcoming the proactive efforts that the state government have rolled out in recent time to promote tourism, Ravi Gosain, president, Uttarakhand Tourism Professionals Association, shared: “Interest from markets like France, Spain and Italy is picking up. The focus on homestays in the new tourism policy will help target international travellers interested in experiencing local culture. Events like PATA will also offer a global exposure to the destination and help in increasing inbound numbers.”
Rishikesh’s inbound arrivals are already mostly international, but there are a number of other destinations in the state that if can draw more international tourists with greater promotion, noted Anil Gusain, head, sales & marketing, Divine Resort & Spa Rishikesh.
In 2018, Uttarakhand received 120,000 international visitors, a growth of 20 per cent over the previous year. Key international tourist markets for the state include the US, Europe, Israel, Latin American and Central Asian markets.
International tour operators, such as Tom Parsley, personal travel consultant of UK-based Hays Travel, who attended the PATA event in Rishikesh, are already taking note of Uttarakhand’s emerging prominence for foreign visitors.
“Uttarakhand is a new, unheard of and diverse tourist destination. If infrastructure can be developed for easy access helping tourists to reach different points easily, it can become popular in overseas markets. Enough information on various tourism products and experiences available in the state should be made available to foreign tour operators,” Parsley said.