Friday, July 03, 2009

Govt aims to promote tourism in naxal-hit states

2 Jul 2009, 0336 hrs IST, TNN

NEW DELHI: The government is keen to aggressively promote tourism in naxal-affected states to encourage employment and battle poverty.

Announcing that promotion of domestic tourism was a priority, tourism minister Kumari Selja said, "We would like to see more domestic tourism in areas affected by naxalism like Orissa and Jharkhand. There needs to be more constructive activity to wean away the youth from terrorism."

The minister's statement appears ambitious under the current circumstances when central forces are battling naxalism in several states.

Selja outlined her ministry's plan to boost the sector with niche tourism products like caravan tourism and heliport tourism. The minister said the new policy guidelines for promotion of caravan tourism and facilitating infrastructure for the project would be finalised soon. "It will be developed as a niche tourism product," she said.

Under the project, tourists can enjoy the countryside on a caravan -- a home on wheels complete with bed and attached bathroom. The policy will work out details related to licensing of such vehicles.

Caravan tourism is popular in Australia and New Zealand. The ministry hopes to target areas that have a good road network, picturesque surroundings but scarcity of accommodation. Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Western Ghats, Delhi NCR are some of the areas that are likely to make the cut. The ministry hopes that caravans will supplement the shortage of rooms for the Commonwealth Games.

Tourists can plan their overnight stay at places that have facilities for electricity, water and open area for parking the caravans. Ministry officials said several companies were keen on the project. About 25 acres is required for caravans that can be rented for Rs 3,000-Rs 5,000.

Noting that the ministry's focus would be on development of tourist places in a holistic and integrated way, the minister said inter-state regional conferences would be held at least once a year.

After witnessing a 10% drop in the flow of foreign travellers due to global economic slowdown and Mumbai terror attacks, the government hoped the inflow of tourists would pick up following announcement of innovative schemes for the revival of the sector.

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