Kaziranga National Park, Assam, Morjim Beach, Goa are among the 10 ‘iconic destinations’ identified by the Ministry of Tourism (MoT) for ‘holistic development’ as proposed in the annual budget of 2018-19 by Union Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley. The budget had proposed this exercise under the National Heritage City Development and Augmentation programme of the government.
Besides one wildlife destination and one beach destination, the rest of the iconic destinations identified are all heritage monuments under the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). They include Delhi (Red Fort, Qutab Minar, Humayun Tomb), Taj Mahal and Fatehpur Sikri (Agra), Dholavira and Somnath (Gujarat), Khajuraho (Madhya Pradesh), Hampi (Karnataka), Mahabalipuram (Karnataka), Amer Fort (Rajasthan), Ajanta and Ellora (Maharashtra).
This was informed by Rashmi Verma, Secretary – Tourism, Government of India while speaking to the media at an event organised to see off first batch of 15 international travel bloggers on board luxury train ‘Palace on Wheels’ from Delhi to the Golden Triangle. A total of 60 bloggers from 23 countries will be travelling on a week-long journey on four luxury trains – Palace on Wheels, Maharaja Express, Deccan Odysssey and Golden Chariot – in groups of 15 in each train as part of a new social media marketing campaign of the government.The government has appointed a consultant to conduct the gap analysis in all the identified iconic destinations. A DPR (Detailed Project Report) will be formulated after due consultations with stakeholders in each destination. The government has started the stakeholder discussions last week from Kaziranga and is expecting to complete the exercise before March 31.
Verma said, “ The idea is to convert these destinations into ‘world-class destinations’ by looking at the gaps holistically in relation to connectivity, skilling, sustainability, etc. Detailed DPR will be prepared for each destination and then a committee comprising secretaries of tourism, culture, and other associated ministries of the government will work on the implementation part of it.”
When asked about the progress of the proposals of the 2017-18 budget like tourism development of five islands in Andamans and Lakshadweep, as well as the five Special Tourism Zones (STZ), Verma said both are under advanced stages of finalisation. “Those five islands have more or less been identified and the committee constituted by NITI Aayog will be visiting those islands this week. While development of uninhabited islands is not difficult, developing inhabited islands could pose some challenges. The final list of islands will be prepared looking at all aspects, she added.”
The Secretary Tourism said that final EFC report has been prepared in consultation with private stakeholders and the state governments and submitted to the Ministry of Finance for approval. Once the guidelines are approved, the interested states will be asked to bid for STZs (Special Tourist Zones) under a ‘challenge mode’. “The best proposals will get the offer. This process is likely to be completed in this financial year itself,” she informed.