Rajasthan readies for Commonwealth Games tourists

April 28th, 2008 - 11:49 am ICT by admin  

By Kavita Bajeli-Datt
Jaipur, April 28 (IANS) With its rich history, culture and desert landscape, Rajasthan sees a golden opportunity in the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games to up its tourist inflow and is sprucing up its roads, hotels and monuments to lure foreigners who come visiting the Indian capital. Places like Jaipur, Jaisalmer, Udaipur, Jodhpur and Ajmer that boast of ancient monuments, art, royal heritage and handicrafts and are a must-see for tourists in India are being given a facelift.

“We are sitting at Delhi’s doorstep and expect many tourists. We are ready to receive them. We have some of the best hotels and some of them figure among the best globally,” Chief Minister Vasundhra Raje said at an event here.

Raje, who heads the tourism ministry, said the government has started a number of projects to ensure repeat tourists in the state.

Speaking to IANS, Rajasthan Minister of State for Tourism Usha Punia said: “The state is like a Pandora’s box where there are a lot of hidden treasures. Every stone has some history here. One just needs to explore,” Punia said.

And this Pandora’s box is what the state plans to open for the Commonwealth tourists. Festivals and fairs are being planned, uncharted areas being explored to design them as new destinations and old ones beautified.

“All our projects will be ready by the Commonwealth Games. We want to showcase the best.”

“We want tourists to come here 365 days a year and are planning programmes and destinations to this end. We have started summer and monsoon festivals, cruises on the Chambal river and have planned fairs during Dussehra that will continue till Diwali,” she added.

The state has started upgrading its Udaipur airport, while the Jaipur airport will start functioning as an international airport from the end of this year or early next year. Another airport has been planned for Kota, the minister said.

Hoping to get double the number of tourists in 2010, Punia said the state has 15 airstrips and plan to lease them to private players so that small aircraft could use them to ferry travellers or even to start flying schools.

Tourist inflow to the state has been rising. While about 16.03 million domestic tourists visited the state in 2004, the figure for foreigners was around 971,772. In 2007, these had gone up to 25.92 million Indian visitors and 1.4 million foreign visitors.

Giving importance to the sector, the tourism budget was increased from Rs.130 million in 2004 to Rs.660 million this year, Punia said.

“In four years’ time, we have focussed our attention on the growth of tourism. We want repeat tourists and for this we need to have more attraction and more variety. We know we have to diversify our product,” she said.

As travellers enjoy the experience of spending time in rural settings and living among the locals, the authorities have started identifying 20 villages that could be developed for rural tourism. District collectors have been directed to identify such villages.

“Most foreigners come here for culture, cuisine, dresses and handicrafts. We want these ideal villages to be tourist-friendly. This will also generate jobs. Our handicrafts and folk dances would also be a major draw,” the minister said.

But developing these villages would be incomplete if these rural areas could not be assessed. For this the government is linking them with the main roads.

Keeping in mind a shortage of 2,000 rooms in Jaipur itself, the government is planning to give incentives to private players, including those owning ancestral properties, to construct hotels.

At the moment, there are about 3,000 rooms available for tourists in Jaipur. Also, the state would have another 12 five-star hotels in major cities by 2010.

Under its public-private partnership, the government has invited investors to work in different fields, including tourism. Thirty MoUs were signed in November to build entertainment parks, spas and wellness centres and resorts, Punia said.

To bring alive the ancient monuments, the government is conserving and restoring them and planning sound-and-light shows. Crafts bazaars, camel and horse rides and cuisine shows are all being organised.

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