Uttarakhand’s new tourism policy aims to facilitate reverse migration
About two decades after its formation, Uttarakhand finally has its tourism policy that aims to “facilitate reverse migration” to the fast emptying-out hills by promoting village-based tourism. The policy also aims to tap the hill state’s potential for wellness and adventure tourism.
“We have a tourism policy in place about 18 years after the state’s formation. It is a comprehensive strategy that aims to tap the state’s vast potential for eco-tourism, wellness as well as adventure tourism,” said VS Chauhan, joint director, Uttarakhand Tourism Development Board (UTDB).
“It aims to facilitate reverse migration to the fast emptying out hills by creating entrepreneurship avenues for the local youth in the tourism sector.”
Chauhan said the state government had an elaborate roadmap ready to achieve that objective. “As per that scheme, we plan to rope in investors in a big way,” he said adding that they (investors) had evinced keen interest in investing in the tourism sector.
Referring to the recently held Investors Summit in Dehradun, he said investors signed about 140 memoranda of understanding (MoUs) worth Rs 15,000 crore with the state government during the high-profile event.
The summit, that saw participation of a large number of foreign and Indian investors, was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“We have an elaborate roadmap ready to retain the proposed investment,” Chauhan said.
As part of that move, a land bank would be created so that investors wanting to make investments in the tourism sector have enough space to set up their commercial establishments.
“The government has introduced some crucial changes in its land policy so that investors could be provided sufficient land in the hills to set up hotels, motels and restaurants etc,” said the official, adding in that connection a nine-member high powered committee headed by the chief secretary had been set up.
Apart from the principal secretary, tourism, the panel will also have secretaries of the departments of industries, finance, revenue and urban development besides a senior forest official as its members.
“It (panel) will be represented by the officials of all key departments to ensure a hassle-free clearance of projects submitted by investors for promotion of the tourism sector,” Chauhan said.
The panel would also have to “ensure that investors are able to avail of various incentives and exemptions granted to them”, as per the provisions stipulated in the tourism policy released on November 26.
Besides, UTDB would also set up investment facilitation centres for a proper coordination between these centres and the online single window portal.
“The mechanism will be put in place to ensure a speedy clearance of projects proposed by investors; it will also ensure that investors are provided all necessary documents like licenses and no-objection certificates,” Chauhan said.
Facilities to be granted to investors would include capital subsidy for large, mega and ultra-mega projects that would be proposed by them for the tourism sector.
Under the policy, exemptions would also be granted to all three categories of the projects.
“Besides, large, mega and ultra-mega projects would also be entitled to 30%, 50% and 50% reimbursement for State Goods and Services Tax (SGST),” the tourism policy document reads.
It also aims to develop the central Himalayan region as a “safe and tourist friendly” destination.
The strategy also proposes to promote winter tourism and alpine tourism in the mountain state so that the seasonality in tourism is replaced with round-the-year tourism and people could be sure of regular income.
Promoting the mountain state as a hub of wellness tourism is also one of the key objectives of the tourism policy.
Those in the tourism sector welcomed the tourism promotion strategy but cautioned that the government would have to ensure its proper and consistent implementation.
“The tourism policy per say is sound in almost all departments but the problem crops up in implementation,” said Praveen Sharma, a prominent hotelier and tourism expert based in Nainital.
“So, they (government) will have to ensure that it is implemented in toto at the level of the district magistrates.”
Mukund Prasad, a prominent hotelier and former member of UTDB, agreed that the concept of tourism policy was good.
“If it is implemented properly it can help facilitate reverse migration,” he said.