Chandigarh is all set to celebrate World Tourism Day on Sunday with a musical extravaganza, food festival, shopping bonanza and an assortment of activities for both the city dwellers and for the tourists coming to this union territory.
The festivities begin on Saturday with an evening of rock fusion music at Sector 17 plaza, the commercial hub of Chandigarh. This will be followed by Sur-Nandan, an Indian classical and fusion music show by renowned artists at Sukhna Lake, one of the prominent tourist destinations here, at 5.30 a.m. on Sunday.
City residents of all age groups will also take part in a unique morning tourism walk, 'Run for Tourism', that will start from Sukhna Lake and cover various tourist places like the open hand monument (Capitol Complex) and Zakir Rose Garden. UT Home-cum-Tourism Secretary Ram Niwas told IANS, "This year, the focus of World Tourism Day celebrations will be at two most popular tourist destinations, Sukhna Lake and Sector-17 plaza. The idea is to involve people of all age groups in these celebrations in one way or the other."
"Special discounts will be offered at CITCO (Chandigarh Industrial and Tourism Development Corporation)-run hotels in the city. We take this day as an opportunity to portray Chandigarh as one of the most sought after tourist hubs in the world," he added.
There will be an antakshari programme and a DJ will be on hand at Sukhna Lake on Sunday evening to entertain the tourists. There will be a buffet as well. Besides, passengers arriving at the Chandigarh railway station and at the airport will be given a special welcome by students of a local hotel management institute.
"Underprivileged children will be given free rides in an open-air bus. A painting competition based upon famous tourist spots of Chandigarh will be organised at Sukhna Lake," an official spokesman said. "Special discounts, ranging from 10 to 15 per cent, will be offered by CITCO hotels and restaurants that also include the five-star hotel Mountview," he added.
The tourism industry in Chandigarh is already booming, despite the global recession, and officials here are expecting the arrival of nearly one million tourists here in 2009. "Chandigarh is experiencing an increased rush of tourists with the passing of every month and this year we are expecting to cross the mark of one million," Vinod Kalia, deputy director, tourism department, said.
"From January to July this year, around 542,000 tourists including 20,000 foreign tourists have visited the city, which is more than the number of tourists who came here in the corresponding period last year," he said.
The tourism figures of the last few years shows a clear rise in tourist inflow to the city, considered a gateway to Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Haryana and Punjab. According to tourism officials here, 960,912 tourists visited the centrally administered city, which is the joint capital of Punjab and Haryana, in 2008. Of these, 32,074 were foreigners.
In 2005, nearly 638,000 tourists visited the city, 730,000 in 2006 and 954,726 in 2007. The city, with its wide, clean roads and large gardens, was designed by legendary French architect Le Corbusier in the 1950s. It boasts of many acclaimed tourist destinations like Sukhna Lake, Rock Garden, Rose Garden and the Museum and Art Gallery.
Last year on World Tourism Day, the administration here had launched tourism police and special city cards for tourists, but these schemes could not be implemented properly.