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One year down the line, tourism sector yet to witness ‘real’ buzz

On the face of it, there is no direct connection between Yashpal Negi (43) and Mohan Pandey (38). The two men live at least 300 kms away from each other

dehradun Updated: Mar 12, 2018 21:20 IST
Anupam Trivedi 
Anupam Trivedi 
Hindustan Times
The Kedarnath deluge resulted in nearly Rs 12,000-crore loss to the tourism industry in state, as per PHDCCI calculation.(HT File)

On the face of it, there is no direct connection between Yashpal Negi (43) and Mohan Pandey (38). The two men live at least 300 kms away from each other.

Negi successfully runs a bird watching camp at a place called Mukkumath in the Kedarnath valley. A self-made man from the Garhwal hills whose camp was washed away in the 2013 flash floods, Negi didn’t give up and has once again set up the camp at his village.

Pandey, on the other hand, runs an eco-tourism society in Choti Haldwani, a village that was founded by legendary hunter-turned-wildlife conservationist Jim Corbett. Pandey’s society jointly runs tourism activity with other village youths.

The two men are among several who are running the tourism activity on the grassroot level. However, everyone is not as fortunate. Rohit Pandey, a youngster from Pithoragarh tried to start a small workable tourism project but in the absence of a ‘tourism policy’, he could not get right advice and direction to execute the idea.

WHAT MAKES SECTOR HAPPY

As the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government completes one year in the office this month, the tourism sector is still waiting for the ‘booster shot’ that would push the sector to the next level. As far as the numbers are concerned, the tourism department could be happy over the fact that more and more pilgrims and tourists are reaching the state. Last year, the twin shrines of Badrinath and Kedarnath attracted close to 14 lakh pilgrims. This was the highest after 2013 flash floods that gave enough negative press to the state’s tourism sector.

According to a report prepared by the industry body — PHD Chambers of Commerce and Industry (PHDCCI) — tourism contributes about 32% of Uttarakhand’s gross state domestic product (GSDP). The Kedarnath deluge resulted in nearly Rs 12,000-crore loss to the tourism industry in state, as per PHDCCI calculation.

The officials as well as the experts hope that the numbers will go further go up this year and the financial loss that the sector experienced over the last five years will be gradually covered up. But the tourist traffic is likely to remain concentrated to certain spots such as Nainital, Mussoorie, Char Dham, Haridwar and Rishikesh to name a few.

A draft report prepared by the Uttarakhand Tourism Development Board (UTDP) – a nodal agency that looks after the tourism related works states that the domestic tourist inflow is expected to increase by around 2.5 times and foreign by two times in the next 10 years. The total tourist visits in Uttarakhand are expected to reach around 67 million by 2028.

WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE

The increasing tourist numbers is also creating mess, say the industry insiders. Manish Joshi who runs a tourist camp in the serene valley of Pauri Garhwal says the tourism infrastructure is in really bad shape. He underlines the need of having enough toilets and related facilities in the state.

“This is the age of virtual connectivity. A tourist, before visiting a place, often checks online whether basic amenities are available all along the route or not. Many a times we are forced to ask the tourists to attend the nature’s call in the wild or in the hills” says Joshi.

Sandeep Sahani, president of the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Uttarakhand says the lack of parking facilities also creates a lot of mess in the tourist towns. Sahani, who also runs a hotel in Mussoorie, feels the long traffic jams needs to be addressed on a priority basis.

“Be it Mussoorie, Nainital or any other tourist town, we need to have a solid planning to deal with vehicular traffic. I hope tourism department will take initiative on this,” Sahani adds.

ISSUES WITHIN THE SECTOR

The hoteliers across the state have been running from pillar to post after Rawat cabinet abolished the registration of hotels under the Sarai Act and gave nod to UTDB to register hotels. But there is a lot of ambiguity, as hoteliers have no idea what benefits they will get after registering with the Board.

“The rules have not been framed clearly and it is creating a lot of confusion. Officials are equally clueless but we have been asked to go for registration,” said hotel owner from Nainital.

In a recent meeting with the departmental officials, secretary (tourism) Dileep Jawalkar clearly instructed to settle the issue before the beginning of tourist season next month.

Moreover the hotel and restaurant sector has been pressing for ‘industry status’.

“This (granting of industry status) is taking too long. The hotel industry will become more systematic and transparent if we get the industry status. The financial institutions will provide capital, more hotels will come, and more jobs will be created,” Sahani said.

First Published: Mar 12, 2018 21:20 IST