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HomeSpecial FeaturesInterviewsDevbhoomi of Uttarakhand stirring to move beyond spiritual tourism

Devbhoomi of Uttarakhand stirring to move beyond spiritual tourism

TravelScapes triumphs in constellating valuable insights of Satpal Maharaj, Honourable Minister of Tourism, Uttarakhand about the game-changing strategies deployed by the state carved out of North Uttar Pradesh

Considering India as one of the countries with diverse cultures, what are the major crowd pullers for tourists that Uttarakhand possesses?
The fame of Devbhoomi Uttarakhand is predominantly due to spiritual tourism. Despite this, the state offers various options to attract a crowd of diverse cultures, which include adventure, nature, cultural heritage, and cuisine. This year Char Dham Yatra saw a huge turnout of devotees which remained at more than 46 lakhs till the closure of winter gates. Now the focus of the government is on the Winter Char Dham Yatra for which the presiding deities of Char Dham have been brought to their winter abodes. Other spiritual tourist places like Haridwar, Rishikesh, revered shrines like Chitai Golu Temple, Binsar Mahadev and Katarmal Sun Temple at Almora, Kartik Swami Temple at Rudraprayag, Surkanda Devi Temple at Tehri Garhwal, Baghnath Shiv Temple at Bageshwar, have seen major footfall in recent times. Apart from spirituality, what draws most of the crowd towards Uttarakhand is its ever-familiar natural beauty. Every place here is surrounded and nurtured by snow-laden Himalayan peaks and lush green valleys, all of which boast of their scenic beauty. These include Nainital, Mussoorie, Chamoli, Almora Tehri Garhwal, Ranikhet, Lansdowne, Mount Abbot, Gartang Gali, and more. For tourists interested in adventure activities, the state government has been organizing Trekking activities from time to time. In the coming February, the government will organize the National Championship of Skiing in Auli, which is called the Skiing Capital of India. Uttarakhand is an ideal spot for river rafting, for which tourists come again and again to Rishikesh, Tanakpur, and Marchula to enjoy in the uninterrupted streams of the Ganga and Yamuna. The state also offers a captivating opportunity for paragliders to witness its beauty from close quarters. Banasur Fort, Katarmal Sun Temple, George Everest, etc. are some of the places that describe the heritage richness of the state. For those who wish to stimulate their taste buds, the recipes made of delicious millets native to Uttarakhand, force them to come here again and again.

What will be the game changers for Uttarakhand Tourism to be expected with the new year?
To keep Uttarakhand best in the field of tourism, the central and state government have started many projects together. The projects which will achieve the state a new milestone in the tourism sector include the launch of an air service between Nepal and Uttarakhand to connect the two abodes of Lord Shiva, Kedarnath, and Pashupatinath, which is in the pipeline. In addition, the recent ropeway projects like Kedarnath-Gaurikund and Hemkund Sahib-Govindghat, the 51-kilometre road project between Joshimath-Malari, the proposed International Airport at Haridwar, New Film Policy, earmarking new destinations for Adventure and Astro tourism will act as a game changer in times to come.

What sustainable tourism initiatives is Uttarakhand Tourism taking since tourism has picked up momentum this year?
The government has launched several initiatives to promote sustainable tourism. The government provides electric buses for tourists, for the purchase of which the residents are given a subsidy of Rs 20 lakhs and self-employment is provided to them under Veer Chandra Singh Garhwali Yojna. For the convenience of tourists, bio-toilets have been built alongside their travel routes. Despite recovering from Covid, we suggest that tourists follow the safety Covid guidelines. At the same time, we expect support and cooperation from the tourists to respect the local culture and customs by creating cordial behaviour with the residents so that they feel happy after returning and are motivated to come here again and again. Overall, it is our endeavour that this region situated in the valleys of the Himalayas should be developed, but in lieu of this, its beauty or sanctity should not be compromised.

What different and exquisite experiences is your state providing for domestic and international tourists making them feel at home? How closely are you working with the tour operators to increase the footfall of tourists?
Our first and foremost endeavour for national or international tourists is to provide them with a homely atmosphere our registered Homestays and Tourist Rest Houses of Kumaon and Garhwal Development Corporation play an important role in this. To provide the tourists with a sense of belonging, the government has motivated the local people to self-employment by running several homestay schemes. These include Deen Dayal Upadhyay Homestay Yojana, Veer Chandra Singh Garhwali Yojana, and more/. Recent tourists have had a pleasant experience spending their time in the homestays built under these schemes. Apart from this, for the appropriate guidance of tourists from the country or abroad, the government has provided employment opportunities to the youth by running tourist guide training programs in different districts from time to time. For the tourists who come for Trekking and other adventurous activities, the local administration and registered tourist guides are always ready to provide all possible help to them.

We maintain a cordial relationship with the tour operators. The state government trains tour operators from time to time on how well tourists should be treated. We have worked seriously on this during the last Corona period. Tour operators registered by the government always keep in touch with the administration at the local level and inform about the trends. The administration resolves its issues while safeguarding its interests. The government brings good tourism-related efforts to the notice of tour operators and tour operators are motivated to work accordingly. The tour operators who excel in their work, for the government also rewards them from time to time.

With the growing trend of HomeStay Tourism, what is your opinion on the share of the footfall of tourists travelling to India in search of uniquely local experiences giving them a chance to spend time with local families this year?
Over the last few years, homestays have gained popularity among tourists in the state. The huge number of tourists this year, most of whom stayed in homestays, confirms this. The homestay operators registered by the govt ensure that tourists receive a warm and welcoming atmosphere during their stay. A lot of assistance is also provided to these homestay operators by the government. Homestays are a medium which enables tourists to experience the natural beauty of the state even more closely, so the government has set up homestays at unexplored scenic locations of the state under its Deen Dayal Upadhyaya and Veer Chandra Singh Garhwali Homestay schemes. The homestays built under these schemes have not only given a unique experience to the tourists but have also provided self-employment to the local people to prevent migration from the mountains.

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