Saturday, November 8, 2008

NRIs to Help Promote Tourism in Gujarat.

Mahesh Trivedi

8 November 2008

AHMEDABAD - With fewer foreign tourists flocking to the Indian state of Gujarat after the July 26 serial bomb blasts here as also the global economic crisis, the desperate state government has sought the help of the four-million-odd non-resident Gujaratis (NRGs) to boost tourism in their homeland.

Officials of the loss-making, state-run Tourism Corporation of Gujarat have begun dashing off letters and colourful brochures to some of the one million NRGs in the US and the 700,000 Gujaratis settled in the UK, requesting them to help organise tours of Gujarat and acquaint their foreigner friends with the rich cultural heritage of the state.

In turn, the Narendra Modi government promises all facilities and ensures safety to the overseas visitors. The novel idea mooted by Tourism Minister J N Vyas is already proving to be successful with the first batch of 17 Britons arriving for a fortnight-long trip earlier this week. The holidayers, including NRGs and people of Indian origin (PIOs), were brought by NRG Hansa Dabhi who runs a vegetarian restaurant and a heritage tour company in Leeds in the UK.

Encouraged by a good response, Dabhi now plans to bring four groups to Gujarat every year and thus help market the ‘coastal progressive state as a global tourist destination’.

“Even if five per cent of the NRGs staying in various countries of the globe spread the word, tourism in Gujarat will get a major boost,” the minister told Khaleej Times, adding that district-level tourism centres were also being set up to guide the birds of passage.

Though 250,000 foreigners had thronged the state last year, travel agents and tour organisers recorded 15 per cent cancellations during the ongoing Diwali vacation.

The tourism department of the Gujarat government, however, claims that an increasing number of foreign tourists has been coming to the state. During 2003-2004 after the post-Godhra communal riots, only 29,000 tourists from across the seven seas visited Gujarat but the figure has now shot up to 250,000. In order to woo more foreigners, the BJP regime has been gradually relaxing its prohibition policy. Gujarat, which boasts the country’s longest — 1600-km — coastline, and ranked 17th in the list of ‘India’s best tourist places’, has improved its position to eighth.

The total number of tourists, both domestic and foreign, was 6.3 million during 2002-2003, but is now 14.2 million.

Foreigners’ favourite places in Gujarat include Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad, the Mandvi beach, marvelous temples at Palitana, the Gir lion safari camp, the wild ass sanctuary in Dasada and the Modhera sun temple, the Dholavira Harappan site and the Rann of Kutch.


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