MEASURES TO PROMOTE TOURISM IN HIMACHAL Dr. Rakesh Kapoor
Each Tourist Place in the world, whether it be Switzerland or Kerala, have over the years developed a BRAND NAME for themselves. While Switzerland is known for its European Splendour, Kerala is known as God’s own country. In fact, Himachal is Switzerland of India. However, it requires to be marketed smartly, especially when Uttaranchal is competing with Himachal.
Similarly, we should market the tourist destinations of Himachal by creating a Brand Name. Brand Name emnates out of USPs (Unique Selling Points). Suggestions to create brand name (Brand Name Contest) could be invited from intellectuals, college students, employees from within the State. Marketing Professionals could also be consulted on this point.
5 to 10 minutes Film depicting the most important scenic spots; snow clad mountains; cultural heritage; popular Religious Institutions; traditional dance performances; International Melas/festivals; Trekking Routes; Angora Farms; Shall Weaving; Apple orchards; Floriculture etc. of International Quality be produced for showcasing the BEAUTY OF HIMACHAL. Such a Film should be screened in all the Duty Free Shops, Air India Flights and Lounges of International Airports within the country as well as other Countries, where it is feasible and also in TV channels devoted to Travel and Tourism.
A large percentage of the Tourists who come to Himachal Pradesh travel by road following by rail and air. Although the road network in HP is by far better than several other states, a Tourist enjoys only when the Road on which he is traveling is good without any bumps. Roads are the lifelines of Tourism Industry in H.P. With a view to improve the quality of road network, the following steps are suggested:
All Centrally Sponsored Schemes which allow the State Govt. to secure funding from Govt. of India for expanding the road network should be tapped.
Wherever necessary the important Road Networks connecting the Tourist Destinations of HP could be considered for private investment on BOOT/BOLT(any other appropriate method) basis. Or alternatively, WB funding could be obtained. In either case, the State is not the loser, in as much as, a normal Tourist does not mind spending some money in the form of Toll Fees. He and his family enjoy the drive and recommend to their other friends and relatives. Each tourist visitng Himachal could be a Brand Ambassador, because, they only will further propagate about the quality of Roads. For example, the quality of Road between Simla and Ghaghas, Dharmasala to Mcleodganj, Mcleodganj to Naddi Point leaves much to be desired, while the quality of road between Ghaghas and Mandi is very good.
Before every Tourist season (assuming that the main tourist season starts sometime in March/April) the PWD and National Highways Dept. should be asked to rectify all road defects and each important road should be travel-worthy. Each Superintending Engineer should be held responsible for maintenance of these roads.
In case the State Govt. finds it difficult to maintain certain roads due to financial constraints, the Tourist is ever-ready to pay a little extra, provided he gets an excellent road.
Under the PMGSY the selection of Roads should be such that they connect not only the remotely important tourist destinations, but also the remotely located HPTDC Units.
Road safety is of utmost importance. If a tourist loses his life in Himachal, it is a painful experience for him/her and their family. Important signposts along the important roads in the State should be put up. ( A truck carrying good no. of persons from Jyeotsidh overturned before Nadoun in Hamirpur and 5 persons died on the spot. A suitable signpost/blinking red light would have saved those lives)
Himachal is endowed with better climatic conditions as in Europe compared to Chandigarh. Nevertheless, when we travel within the Chandigarh City, we feel joyous, mainly because of two reasons, namely, firstly, excellent roads with traffic lights and secondly, beautiful Horticultural Plants were raised at all the important Road Crossings. If Chandigarh Admn. Could do it, the Himachal Govt. can also do it.
Certain important junctions where adequate space is available could be identified and beautification could be undertaken. In case, the space is not available in the middle of the Junction, the sideways could be opted for horticultural plants. Since the climate in Himachal is very congenial for certain plants, tourists will enjoy the scenery while driving past the road. Several Industrial Houses in H.P. would enjoy sponsoring such horticultural projects.
PWD in HP has a large contingent of manual labour and equipment. However, as and when the landslides take place either on Swarghat-Bilaspur road or on Mandi-Kullu-Manali Road, they take unduly long time causing tremendous inconvenience to the Tourists. Standing instructions should be given to the Officers concerned fixing a timeframe to remove the Landslides. In fact non-clearance of landslides also causes the loss of innocent lives as for instance 5 to 6 Tibetans died on the spot enroute Swarghat road due to a land slide. In exceptional circumstances, if the PWD or NH Dept. can not clear the landslide in time, a caution/warning could alert the driver and save the lives.
All Accident-prone areas/sites should be freshly identified on the basis of the last five years accidents and suitable guidance posts be established at appropriate places immediately for the guidance of Tourists.
Several beautiful flower-bearing tree species which grow flowers in different seasons of the year can be grown in different parts of Himachal. They add beauty to the Landscape. For example, such flower-bearing trees are seen occasionally on the road between Bilaspur and Swarghat Road.
Some of such important species are as under:
albizziaprocera(light green) albizzialebbec (black) sires (local name) bombaxceiba buteamonosperma (flame of the forest) jacarandaindica (blue) cassiaglauca (yellow flowers..Aug/Sept) cassiacsamea (Sept/Oct) delonexregia (orange) (List is only illustrative; Forest Dept. have a list of all such plant species)
Some of the best scenic spots in Europe, where the Indian Film Directors visit for shooting have such flower bearing trees, offering out of the world beauty for the visiting tourists.
The Horticulture Wing of Public Works Dept or the Forest Dept. should plant such flower bearing trees on either side of some select roads, where the tourist traffic exist. This will prove immensely attractive to the tourists.
Moreover, even the Directors of Films also may be attracted to shoot such beautifully attractive places.
* A Study may be conducted about the tourist arrivals in all the important tourist destinations in the State. In fact, most of the Tourists flock to places like Simla, Manali, Dalhousie, Dharmsala, although there exist more beautiful places in Himachal. The study should focus on the following:
* Identify the virgin places in the State where Tourists could travel (In fact, tourists would like to witness Apple fruits hanging from Apple trees), such as some important/notified Orchards; Deep Forests with excellent scenic beauty; Snow Points; Lovers’ Points;
* Promote facilities such as Road Network, hotels and other facilities.
* Publicise such tourist destinations
* Most of the Star Hotels in Mumbai and Bangalore have recently established facilities such as SPA, where the tourists release their tensions and get relaxed. In fact, Himachal is the right place for establishment of such SPAs, some of the HPTDC units should be selected for providing such SPAs.
* A Band of educated unemployed could be selected from within Himachal and train them to be Excellent Professional Guides who can speak in fluent English and Hindi. Their services could be utilized by the Tourists. It is understood that presently some of the employees of HPTDC are acting as Guides from the Transport Wing. Tapping the talent from Private Sector would be desirable.
* Leh in J & K is an important tourist circuit for attracting tourists to Manali, HP. Suitable packages must be developed to attract them.
*Although some of the important trek routes have been identified and hosted on the Web site of Tourism Dept. yet, there is a need to take the Local People into confidence in various districts such as Kangra, Chamba, Kullu, Simla, L & S, Kinnor to identify the TRADITIONAL TREK ROUTES, which have been used by people for generations and offer them as a package to tourists. The Trekking Associations, if any, in the districts concerned needed to be consulted while formulating a package.
*The Tourism Dept. in collaboration with the Dept. of Art, Language and Culture should organize “Talent Hunt” on the lines of “INDIAN IDOL” by appropriately naming the event ( Himachal ki shaan….suggestion only) and identify the best artistes of Himachal Pradesh. These best Artistes of Himachal could be exposed to the visiting Tourists in various Hotels. This will not only help in identifying the new talent and enabling them acquiring new means of livelihood, but also help promote our culture.
*Some of the most important and exquisitely beautiful scenic spots like NADDI Point near Mcleodganj, Dharmasala having been located in a Panchayat area, were completely spoiled due to haphazard construction of hotels/motels. Such unregulated activity requires to be checked and planned development of hills should take place, in order to protect the fragile ecological balance.
The Tourism Dept. in collaboration with Town and Country Planning Dept. should locate such places in the State for regulated and orderly development.
Strategic Public and Private Partnerships with the Indian Corporate Sector for promotion of Tourism Related Activities as already initiated by the Tourism Dept. in the form of Tourism Conclave should be intensely followed up. The suggestions in this regard are as under:
a) Invite Himachali NRIs for investment like in Jwalaji Temple
b) Non-Himachali NRIs interested in investment be encouraged.
c) The Business/Industrial Houses within the country who have already evinced interest in setting up their units in the State, could be encouraged to adopt one or two Tourism villages. We can develop the concept of Tourism Village based on certain criteria that may be conceived such as proximity to the main In ternationally known tourist attractions; access to Snow Points; access to communication including road transport; friendly and cooperative Panchayat; This will be the partnership between the community and the Corporate World.
d) The cost of acquiring a piece of land in Himachal is increasingly becoming prohibitively costly for even Govt. of India projects and the Private Sector also must be sharing a similar experience. Ways and means have to be developed to identify suitable lands in important tourist destinations which could be given on a reasonable cost. This aspect has to be viewed in the context of incentives being offered by Uttranchal and J & K.
A study may be conducted to ascertain from which of the countries in the world tourists are visiting India and especially Himachal Pradesh. Aggressive marketing of Himachal as a Tourist Destination should be done in those countries from where the tourist arrivals are substantial. The Private Tour Operators/Travel Agents in those countries may be tapped for enhancing tourist arrivals.
International/National/Regional Painting Competitions may be organized in memory of late Roreich, in Himachal Pradesh. The Painting Competition should be held at important Landscape Points for On-the Spot-Painting like Roreich. This will bring all the painters from all over the world.
The Tourism Policy of a state encompasses the Transport Policy; Hospitality Policy; Health Policy; Forestry Policy; Public relations Policy and Culture Policy. At the State govt. level, there is an immense need to co-ordinate the programmes of Tourism Promotion in a concerted manner.
It is, therefore, suggested that the Administrative Secretaries of all the Departments concerned may meet periodically under the chairmanship of the worthy Chief Secretary to provide the necessary impetus to tourist promotion.
All Centrally Sponsored Schemes under the Ministries of Tourism, Surface Transport, Health, Water Resources, Rural Development, Forests should be collectively tapped for promoting tourism in the state of H.P.
The tourism policy should focus on two man made lakes namely Pong and Gobind Sagar, the former has already been declared a national wet land and Ramsar site for development of adventure tourism, water sports and developing way side amusement parks and tourist villages to attract large number of tourist ready to visit from peripheral districts of Punjab and Union Territory of Chandigarh on week ends and vacation.