Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna won the last Lok Sabha election from the Tehri Parliamentary Constituency and this explains the reason why he continues to have his heart there. Perhaps this is also the reason why in his maiden meeting with State administration officials immediately after assuming the office of the Chief Minister of the state, he asked them to prepare a blue–print for tourism development in the Tehri Dam area. There are, however, other areas of concern relating to tourism development in the state which the Chief Minister will have to address. This is especially when there has been a downslide in the position of the state’s ability to attract tourists not only from abroad, but also from within the country.
Even though Uttarakhand has captivating valleys of the Himalayan rivers and numerous mountain peaks dotting its landscape, its name is conspicuous by its absence in the list of last year’s ‘Top Ten’ states registering maximum inflow of foreign tourists. The hill state figures in the eighth position in the matter concerning inflow of tourists from within the country. The miserable trend has dealt a major blow to the hopes and aspirations of the state’s onward march to becoming a Tourism State.
Following the creation of Uttarakhand, claims were made on numerous occasions regarding establishing it as a tourism state. The previous governments had time and again harped on preparing tourism circuits and tourist destinations. While there are consultations doing the rounds regarding preparation of a master plan for tourism development on the one hand, several noisy claims are being made regarding promoting tourism through development of ropeway projects, on the other. The truth behind the tall claims, however, is completely different. It is worth noting that adventure sports activities such as river rafting, kayaking, skiing, trekking, wild life safari are also conducted in Uttarakhand, but the present trend of tourist inflow is highly disappointing. In order to boost potential, the Tourism Department had also participated in tourism fairs held in various parts of the country and abroad. It also took along hoteliers and travel agents from here. But this also has failed to generate the pull factor in terms of foreign tourist arrivals.
Even in the case of the Tehri Dam region, there are a number of problems that the state government will have to overcome before it can achieve the desired objectives. The Tehri Lake Development Authority (TLDA) constituted by it is not functional as yet. There is little that the authority or its chairman or the members could do even after the constitution of the authority was notified, as no budgetary provision was made for it for two successive financial years. That the authority has continued to remain static while plans are already underway by the Government to develop a water sports complex and other facilities there speaks volumes of the insensitivity of the parties involved towards fostering a planned development in the lake region.
In order to improve the situation, the State Government will have to lay greater emphasis on adventure tourism, religious tourism and yoga–cum–spirituality activities, which Uttarakhand has in abundance. But, first, it will have to focus on removing the various anomalies that bog down the tourism sector in the state.