The Heritage Walk of Amritsar, which was launched on September 27, 2011, by minister of tourism Hira Singh Gabria and local MP Navjot Sidhu under the Punjab Heritage and Tourism Promotion Board (PHTPB), has apparently lost its charm.
The walk was inaugurated with pomp and show, but with the passage of time it has lost its charm as the PHTPB failed to promote it in a right way.
Of thousands of tourists, who come to pay obeisance at the Golden Temple, very few have an idea about the heritage walk. As the HT team asked tourists about it, no one had any idea about the heritage walk, but most shocking words came from Schranz Hans, a Swiss tourist, who rued the poor condition of streets around the Golden Temple by saying, "It is painful to walk on the streets of the Golden Temple as most of these are filthy. But if locals and authorities wish to, they can keep the streets clean and make the
heritage walk popular among tourists."
He added that, "Before coming to Amritsar, I explored a lot about it through books and, of course Internet, but I never came across the heritage walk in Amritsar."
His words speak volumes of the manner in which tourism is promoted in the city. The HT team also went to different hotels to speak to tourists but no one knew about the heritage walk. Most concierge officials also had no idea of it.
The heritage walk touches the important points around the Golden Temple, which, as per brochure of heritage walk by PHTPB, starts from Town Hall and culminates at the ancient passage of the walled city.
It covers Gurdwara Saragarhi, Qila Ahluwalia, Jalebiwala Chowk, Udasin Ashram, Akhara Sangalwala, Chitta Akhara, Darshan Deori, Baba Bohar, Thakurdwara Dariana Mal, Chowrasti Atari, Taksal Chowk, Thakurdwara Rai, Thakurdwara Raja Tej Singh and the Crawling Street.
Although the brochure highlights all the prominent points of the walled city, it is a futile activity if tourists are unaware of the heritage walk.
Simply inaugurating the stone of heritage walk and then not doing anything to promote it takes the project nowhere.
On Thursday, the World Tourism Day, Swaran Singh Phillaur, Punjab minister of tourism, cultural affairs, printing and stationery and jails, and Surjit Singh Rakhra, minster of rural development and panchayat, inaugurated the second heritage walk project in Patiala.
It will be useful only if the initiative is promoted well but will prove futile if it goes the Amritsar way.
When HT brought the issue of the heritage walk to the notice of Balraj Singh Kang, district tourist officer, Amritsar, he said it takes time for such projects to get popular. The irony is that the project was inaugurated in 2011 and it is yet to become popular.
"We will involve schools and colleges soon who can help us popularise the project with the word of mouth," said Kang. His Patiala counterpart Gursharan Singh Bhimber is elated over the second project of heritage walk at Patiala. Bhimber, the Patiala district tourist officer, also has a similar opinion. "My team and I will take the help of different educational institutions to make the heritage walk popular and will promote it with sheer enthusiasm," he said.
However, the reality will be defined in the course of time as it has been said, "Time will tell". Hope it will not be a flop show like the heritage walk in Amritsar.