Deep inside Thein dam lake in Pathankot where two lush green islands are tucked — with the snow-capped Dhauladhar mountain range in the backdrop — the Punjab government will unroll a red carpet on November 8 to woo top investors in a bid to turn this scenic land mass into a money-spinning tourist destination.
The idea of harnessing the untapped tourism potential of these two islands at Thein dam -- also known as Ranjit Sagar dam — was first conceived by deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal while flying in a helicopter over this region a few months ago.
But the ambitious move by Sukhbir of hosting the investors, who primarily deal with the hospitality sector, is being kept under the wraps. For, the government is unsure if the investors will lap up the proposition.
Top guns of the hotel industry such as ITC, Taj, Oberoi, Hayat, Lalit, Sherwood Westin are some of the leading players of the hospitality sector coming for this meet. The government has received confirmation from Kapil Chopra, president of Oberoi hotels; DK Beri, senior vice-president of Indian Hotels Limited; Rajiv Singh, vice-chairman of DLF Universal Limited; Dilip Puri, MD Star Wood Hotels and Resorts; Cyrus Madan, vice-president of Lemon Tree Hotels.
“Two top travel agencies are also likely to participate in this meet,” a government source said.
The government’s objective is to develop the tourism-cum-theme destination through investment from private sector which has been assured of one-stop clearance. The investors’ meet will be held on Kulara island which is spread across 18 acres -- an acre is about the size of a football field.
Another island is called Musharba which is near three acres. At the core of government’s plan is to persuade the private players to turn this place into high-end tourist destination and also promote the lake with water sports activities.
In this direction, the government took the first step when it recently set up Shivalik (Dhauladhar) Tourism Development Board being headed by the deputy CM as its chairman along with finance and tourism ministers as its members.
Sources in the Pathankot administration said the preparations were in full swing. The investors will fly from Delhi to Pathankot in a chartered plane being hired by the state government.
At Kulara island, venue of the meet, a helipad has been set up. The “guests” will fly to the island in two helicopters from the Pathankot airport. The state civil aviation department has been given the duty of making arrangements for bringing the guests from Delhi to Pathankot civil airport and back through a chartered flight. Sources say a road has been laid from the helipad on the island to the venue of the meet—a ridge. A garden is being set up by the irrigation department and the boats have been brought in for excursion in the lake. Besides the scenic beauty of the site, another selling point is that the place is well connected by air.
The exercise of inviting investors began last month when the government sent detailed letters to the investors giving details of the island such as its elevation — 500-645 metres — thick forest and glacial waters of the lake as the dam is on the Ravi.
Chief secretary Sarvesh Kaushal also held a meeting on October 21 to finalise the preparations of this investors meet and it was decided that Punjab Infrastructure Development Board would release Rs 3 crore to the Shivalik Board as financial assistance of Rs 10 crore grant which the cabinet had approved.