Jharkhand registered more than 385% increase in foreign tourist visits between 2012 and 2014, revealed Union tourism ministry’s data.
Jharkhand’s foreign tourist growth was unprecedented, particularly when arrivals in Bihar declined by 24% and West Bengal witnessed an increase of just 12%.
The minister of state for culture and tourism, Mahesh Sharma, tabled these figures in Rajya Sabha on Wednesday. A state tourism department official said the 2015 data was being compiled and would soon be submitted to the Centre.
Though Jharkhand is blessed with immense natural and cultural beauty, political instability, Maoist threat and poor budget allocation were major obstructions to tourism growth, experts said. Nonetheless, a steady rise in foreign tourist visits is being seen since 2011.
Merely 3,111 foreign tourists had visited Jharkhand in 2001. That number rose to 1.54 lakh in 2014. Similarly, arrival of domestic tourists also increased 73 times in the last 15 years. Around 4.50 lakh domestic tourists visited Jharkhand in 2001, which increased to 3.30 lakh in 2014.
However, the rise is mostly restricted to the religious places.
“Jharkhand’s religious places have been a major attraction for foreign tourists. Parasnath, Baidyanath Dham in Deoghar and Rajrappa draw large numbers of foreign tourists every year,” said state tourism director Suchitra Sinha.
She said the number of tourists would increase further in 2016-17 as several initiatives, including ad campaigns and publicity on TV, to promote Jharkhand tourism were being taken.
With an aim to attract more tourists, the state tourism department has drafted several plans to promote heritage tourism, rural tourism, mining tourism, religious tourism and eco-tourism. Another plan entails developing an eco-circuit connecting places of natural beauty within a radius of 250km at an estimated cost of `100 crore. “We have hired a private agency for better security, maintenance and hospitality arrangements,” Sinha said.
The state government wants to make India’s ODI cricket team captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni the brand ambassador for Jharkhand tourism to cash in on his popularity among foreigners.
“Dhoni is an international brand. I have talked to him for his cooperation to make Jharkhand a brand on the world map,” said chief minister Raghubar Das, while unveiling the state tourism policy on September 27, 2015. However, Dhoni’s nod on the proposal is awaited, said a tourism department official.