To revive the tourism sector affected by the pandemic, Uttarakhand is promoting rural tourism to generate employment and provide better expedition facilities. Dilip Jawalkar, tourism secretary of the state, informed this during the third India Tourism Mart.
Photo: Biswajit Dey/flickr
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been unsurmountable on the tourism and hospitality industry in the country. Tourism sector in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand, which annually attracts over 34 million domestic tourists and over 130,000 foreign tourists, has been badly hit, too. But, the state government is working towards converting the COVID-19 disaster into an opportunity.
“The year 2020 was an unprecedented year with the COVID-19 crisis. Unfortunately, for Uttarakhand, where the economy is highly dependent on tourism, the pandemic has affected adventure activities as well as livelihood of residents,” said Dilip Jawalkar, tourism secretary, & chief executive officer, Uttarakhand Tourism Development Board during a virtual session as part of the India Tourism Mart being held from February 18 to February 20.
“Every challenge comes up with equal opportunities. We had a large number of people in the hospitality industry who came back to the state during the lockdown with a very uncertain future,” he said.
Taking advantage of their talent and experience, “we launched entrepreneur development schemes, such as, trekking thruster scheme, wherein we are promoting homestays in districts. We look at it as a big employment opportunity. Our focus is more on rural tourism,” informed Jawalkar during the virtual session on Natural and Responsible Tourism in India organised yesterday on February 19.
The Union ministry of tourism, Government of India, jointly with the Federation of Associations in India Tourism and Hospitality (FAITH), has organised the third India Tourism Mart — the Travel Trade for their very first mega virtual event with the intention of re-energising Travel to India. This three-day event for the very first time brings together buyers from across the world with exhibitors from India.
Auli, a Himalayan ski resort and hill station in Uttarakhand, is known as the favourite tourist destination. Every year, it attracts thousands of enthusiasts from late December to late March. Auli is also internationally known for its ski slopes located 2,800-2,900 metres above mean sea level.
“We are proud to have Auli in our state and we want to take maximum benefit out of it. Although we do not get snow for a longer period of time, we have been trying to create snow but that is not good enough to host a proper event. We had to cancel national skiing events because of fewer snow,” said Jawalkar.
“However Auli per se is not only a skiing destination, the state government is promoting it as a winter destination. Activities around there are thrilling, we have engaged an internal consultancy which will look into this issue,” he added.
“Based on my interactions with the central government and the fellow colleagues on this, I can say everybody is very much committed to reviving tourism fast. It is important that state governments play more active roles, in the field of ensuring safety skill development, and promoting it internationally,” said the tourism secretary.
Apart from the ‘Natural and Responsible Tourism in India’ event organised yesterday, other LIVE sessions under Leadership Conclave were also held on ‘the Future Competitiveness of Package Tourism in India’, ‘Indian Cuisine — The Emerging Balance of Power & Taste’, ‘Joys of Indian Journey — Safe & Seamless Travel’, ‘Conventional Hospitality and the Balance of Alternate Accommodation’.
During the virtual session, Ashok Abbey, president, Indian Mountaineering Foundation — the apex national body for mountaineering and allied sports, New Delhi — talked about safety and concerns associated with mountaineering in the state.
“Accidents are bound to happen despite all the precautions. It is our endeavour to make sure that every forest expedition has a satellite phone to communicate, it has their own radio sets. It is also good to get those coming to mountains ensured for air evacuation,” he said.
“Whether an accident takes place, whether it is coordination with Indian air force, or it is with the state government, the response is quick. The effort which goes into expeditions in distress is very good in time, so this is a combined effort, we are looking at this in a detailed way,” said Abbey.
Abbey also focussed on promoting training of climbers in mountaineering courses. During the event, he also informed that the national institutes for mountaineering, such as the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering, are functioning in full capacity, which shows awareness among climbers about mountaineering.