A GLOBAL TOURISM DESTINATION
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Uttarakhand boasts of beautiful scenery and spirituality, what new projects and implementation are you planning to come up with?
We have so much beauty here, yet, many are migrating to the plains from the mountains to avail better medical and educational facilities, leaving behind vacant villages. My vision is to reverse this migration by creating a winter destination here, similar to the world class skiing resorts of Chamonix, France. Nobody visits Mont Blanc in the summer, whereas there are a billion people in the winter for skiing. Here in Garhwal, we have Auli and many more beautiful locations, which we must work upon. With our four sections of tourism--adventure tourism, religious tourism, yoga and wellness tourism, and culinary tourism—we are attempting to make Uttarakhand a global tourism destination. To make conveyance easier in the terrain we have plans for building rope-way connectivity within the state. We are also conducting a dhol competition for which about 1240 dhol vadaks have already registered to participate this time. If we get a registration of about 1500 then we’ll enter the Guinness World Records beating the 1365 dhols played at Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s event in New Delhi.
According to latest reports, there has been a 13 per cent increase in the footfalls of international tourists in India over the past six years. How are you planning to attract them to Uttarakhand?
People are interested in knowing more about the Valley of Flowers. We want to develop home-stays. If the foreigners can come and reside in rural areas they can experience the lifestyle of authentic India. We will also give star ratings of the facilities they provide and help the hosts come up with innovative ideas. Since there are no issues of terrorism here, we’ll encourage more people to visit the mountains, especially in the winter to experience snowfall and skiing.
How are you planning to promote rural tourism, given the connectivity issues among home-stays and resorts from tourist spots?
The Pradhan Mantri Gramin Sarak Yojna (PMGSY) scheme is not being implemented fully since we cannot deforest the jungle to make roads. If our Chief Minister takes the initiative of announcing a Sampark Yojna instead of Sarak Yojna, we will be able to connect places through ropeways without destroying the forest, like they have in La Paz where they have connected the entire saturated area with ropeways.
What plans do you have to encourage people to take up adventure sports?
We are planning to develop adventure sports like paragliding, parasailing, zorbing, and also introduce a glass submarine which will enable tourists to view the underwater town in the Tehri Jheel. We have plans of hot air balloon services as well. With these, the hills will provide potential employment opportunities to those who are migrating. I was amazed to see the Garhwali’s servicing and efficiency at the helipads near Sitapur for services to Kedarnath.
How would you promote ‘ghost tourism’?
For that we have spread the word among people; if they can identify such haunted places we will try to promote them. We are also planning to utilise the hot water springs into our tourism promotion.
In the coming years there will be a boom in the hotel industry here. What plans do you have for skill development?
We are establishing an IHM here to increase the potential of the hotel industry. We will introduce training centres for Panchkarma, spas, Yoga, and Karamkand. Many foreign lands with the Indian diaspora, lack enough Brahmins to conduct pujas and yajna; our pundits trained here can also begin to work there.