AHMEDABAD: The Asiatic lion in its last abode is proving to be a huge draw for tourists across the country. The flow of visitors is growing with each passing year. On an average about 1260 daily tourists have visited Gir forest in the year 2012. This was just 417 odd tourists in the year 2010-11.
In a written reply to the question of Talala MLA, Jasubhai Barad, forest and environment minister Ganpat Vasava said that in Sasan, from April 1 to December 31, 2012, a total of 3.02 lakh tourists visited the Gir forest. The reply stated that as there are three more months for the financial year to close, the numbers will be very high.
The minister said that this figure was only 1.50 lakh in the year 2010-11. In 2011-12, this number increased to 1.72 lakh but in 2012-13, there was a sudden rush and the figure crossed to 3.02 tourists.
The minister said that the increase in the number of tourists was only because of the campaign 'Khushboo Gujarat Ki'.
Officials at Gir said that the sanctuary had on November 14, received a record 9,384 tourists. This is 27% higher than the highest recorded number in the past few years. The previous best was 7,356 tourists in a single day last year.
Sources in the forest department said that looking at the rush, the forest department was forced to introduce additional 20-seater buses. Since the number of individual permits was only 150 a day, it was not easy to meet the rush and it was decided to have 20-seater buses. Last year, two such buses were pressed into service, but in 2012, 12 such buses were pressed into service in the Gir sanctuary with 14 other buses at the Devalia interpretation zone.
The heavy tourist inflow also paved way for large scale infrastructural growth. In the past one year, the number of hotel rooms has doubled in the area from 200 to over 450.