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HindustanTimes Thu,23 Oct 2014

Disaster-hit Uttarakhand slips out of top ten tourist destinations

Anupam Trivedi, Hindustan Times  Dehradun, July 29, 2014
First Published: 18:00 IST(29/7/2014) | Last Updated: 18:25 IST(29/7/2014)

Uttarakhand may be 'simply heaven' with its picture-postcard locations and pilgrimages but tourists seem to be abandoning the land of the 'char dhams'.
 
For the first time since 2001, the state has failed to find a place among the top ten popular tourist destinations in India in the year 2013.
 
The latest list released by the tourism ministry has Tamil Nadu in the top with 244.2 million domestic tourists while Chhattisgarh took the 10th position with 22.8 million tourists.

PHOTOS: Rain fury returns to Uttarakhand
 
Uttarakhand – sold by the tourism department as 'simply heaven' -- was in the 8th position among top 10 states in 2012.
 
In June last year, the state was hit by devastating floods which had left 5,000 people dead, according to official figures. However, the unofficial death toll was pegged at nearly 10,000 as many bodies were never found.
 
The floods had also caused severe damage to infrastructure like roads.

A man trying to cross a mud-filled Gangotri highway in Uttarkashi. (HT photo)

Though Uttarakhand is not a preferred destination for foreign tourists but it has been witnessing a surge in domestic tourists since 2007.
 
Most of domestic tourists to the state are pilgrims to the four holy shrines known as the 'char dham'. The shrine of Kedarnath and its adjoining areas were the worst affected in last year's floods.
 
In 2007, the number of domestic tourists visiting Uttarakhand was 22.1 million. In 2013, when the state was hit by natural disaster, the number came down to 20 million.
 
Since last year, pilgrimage to the 'char dhams' -- Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamnotri --  has virtually come to a standstill.
 
Tourism industry sources, however, said that this year the situation has improved slightly though the final tourist figures will be available only after the end of the financial year.
 
Industry body PHD Chambers of Commerce and Industry (PHDCCI), in one of its report, has estimated a loss of Rs. 12,000 crore to the state's tourism sector after the 2013 disaster.
 
Concerned with the deteriorating image of Uttarakhand in the tourism map, state government has planned an investors' meet on September 27, 2014, when world observes International Tourism Day.

A file photo of the Kedarnath shrine and its surrounding areas amidst the debris caused by the 2013 flood. (HT photo)

Chief minister Harish Rawat recently instructed officials to look into investment opportunity in the tourism sector.
 
Tourism minister Dinesh Dhane said that, Uttarakhad will rise to its prominent position once again.
 
"We will continue holding tourism marts in India and abroad, the idea is to attract people's attention.
Negative publicity has dented Uttarakhand's image but we will overcome that," Dhane told HT.
 
The union government last year sanctioned 30 projects worth Rs. 265 crore in a bid to improve tourism infrastructure. The Centre had also sanctioned Rs. 541 crore for the development of Haridwar- Rishikesh- Munikireti- Swargashram as a mega tourism circuit in 2011.


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