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Tourism allows us to share humanity’s most valuable cultural and environmental treasures with the world: Satpal Maharaj

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By OUR STAFF REPORTER
DEHRADUN, 18 Sep: A Virtual B2B Travel Trade exhibition on the theme, ‘Reconnect and Restart Tourism’, was organised by Fairfest Media Limited wherein Chief Guest and Minister of Tourism, Uttarakhand; Satpal Maharaj, Director General, Union Ministry of Tourism, Meenakshi Sharma; Ag. Director, Market Development, Kenya Tourism Board, Fred Okeyo; Director, Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority, Arvind Bundhun; Managing Director, Tourism Corporation of Gujarat, Jenu Devan; shared their thoughts on the measures taken for revival and opening of tourism.
The exhibition was organised by Sanjiv Agarwal and was coordinated by Gazanfar Ibrahim, Managing Director and CMO.
Sharing his opinion, Satpal Maharaj said, “We all are going through the toughest of times for not only the Tourism Sector but for entire mankind. I sincerely pray for all of us to get out of this at the earliest and get back to normal times again. We at Uttarakhand tourism have been cognizant of the challenges being encountered by stakeholders like you, who are an integral part of this Tourism Ecosystem. I assure you that we are fully committed to addressing the concerns of each one of you.”
Elaborating further, Maharaj talked about the efforts and initiatives that Uttarakhand Tourism is taking for revival of tourism sector in the state. He stated that there are no restrictions for visitors carrying COVID-19 negative test reports. All such visitors are allowed to seamlessly visit all public places and destinations in the state. He added that Uttarakhand became the first Indian state to launch the ‘Tourist Incentive Coupon’ Scheme. Under this scheme, all the tourists visiting Uttarakhand, who have registered themselves under the Dehradun Smart City portal, will be provided with a discount of Rs 1000 or 25% of the accommodation charges per day (whichever is less) subject to a maximum stay of 3 days.
Talking about the measures taken by Uttarakhand Government to provide succor to the tourism sector, which has been hit the hardest due to the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, it was stated that initiatives like compensation of Rs 1000 to 2.43 lakh workers directly associated with 1,09,818 units had been provided, as also reimbursement of the interest incurred on the principal amount on the loans taken under Veer Chandra Singh Garhwali tourism self-employment scheme and Deen Dayal home stay schemes. The annual increase in the bill of water for the hotels, restaurants and other roadside Dhabas had been pegged at 9 percent instead of the usual 15 percent this year and one-year exemption had been provided on the renewal of permits for all types of commercial vehicles and on the road tax.
Addressing the problem of lost employment in the tourism sector, Satpal Maharaj disclosed that Uttarakhand Tourism is equally focused on generating employment opportunities for the youth. The government had introduced the facility of online registrations under the schemes such as Veer Chandra Singh Garhwali Tourism Self Employment and Homestay Schemes. With a simple click, residents can get registered under these schemes and avail 50% subsidy or up to Rs 15 lakhs for the purchase of new buses. Similarly, under the homestay scheme, the subsidy of 33% (or Rs 10 lakh) is offered for the hilly areas and 25% (or Rs 7.5 lakh) in the plains. In order to alleviate the slump, especially for the people in the rural parts of the state across the hilly terrain, Uttarakhand Government is focusing towards creating a tourism-friendly infrastructure that allows tourists to explore the natural beauty and cultural heritage. Indian Railways too is all set to a lay a railway line connecting Gangotri, Yamunotri, Badrinath and Kedarnath of Char Dham.
Taking cognizance of religious tourism, Uttarakhand Government has already started working on the holy circuits such as Ramayan Circuit, Vivekanand and Mahabharat circuits. Once completed, this new circuit will open new avenues of religious tourism in the state. In terms of medical tourism, Uttarakhand is a repository of polyherbs, which are spices known for therapeutic use and used by the Rishis and exponents of the Ayurveda for centuries. The government is considering developing the State as a culinary tourism hub of ‘Himalayan Immunity Cuisine’ by combining the rich heritage of Kumaoni and Garhwali cuisines.
In terms of adventure tourism, the government is working along with the stakeholders to develop the state infrastructure to deliver an ultimate experience of adventure tourism.