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“Want to cultivate a more market-oriented tactic to boost tourism”

Sonal Mishra, Secretary - Tourism, Devasthanam Management and Pilgrimage, Government of Gujarat shares how the state is aggressively showcasing it’s potential

Gujarat has always been on top of its game, what sort of growth has Gujarat registered so far?

The ‘Khushboo Gujarat ki’ campaign did wonders for the state and renewed interest in Gujarat tourism. Registering a hike of 13.30 per cent during 2013-14 with 287.88 lakh domestic tourist arrivals, the Government has set up a strong base. New to this office it is my duty to continue providing quality service and further developing the state’s tourism infrastructure and increase tourist footfall into the state.

Gujarat Tourism has also initiated a public private partnership (PPP) model to boost this growth and offer better facilities. According to an ASSOCHAM study, attracting the highest amount of investments worth over Rs 34,800 crore in India’s hotels and tourism industry, Gujarat has emerged on the top with a share of about 29 per cent amid 20 major states attracting combined investments worth over Rs one lakh crore in the sector, as of financial year 2012-13. We want to position Gujarat as a ‘visitor friendly’ destination globally.

How different will your approach be in developing the sector in comparison to your predecessor?

In order to boost earnings from tourism sector, I want to cultivate a more market-oriented tactic to develop lesser known destinations in the state. Through various initiatives and planning a clear road map, we aim to make different forms of tourism including adventure, wildlife, cultural, festival tourism more market-oriented to generate maximum business in all the districts.

Through the PPP model, I want to invite investments into lesser known areas within the state that hold the potential to attract tourists. Through various platforms such as the Vibrant Gujarat summit, we plan on promoting the states potential globally. This Summit provides an attractive opportunity to its participants to understand the potential of Gujarat in various sectors. Besides, it provides platform to interact with policy makers, industry leaders, and renowned academicians from all over the world.

Along with developing new destinations, I also want to develop new tourism segments to increase the brand value of Gujarat as a tourist destination.

Which are the different tourism sectors you plan on developing?

Very soon, we plan on adding agriculture-tourism into our portfolio. The state government has identified two districts, Sabarkantha and Banaskantha, to develop as agri-tourism circuits. We think it will be very interesting to see the tourist taking part in the day to day activity of the village, farm and the entire community.

We also want to further develop our wildlife circuit by building infrastructure such as lodges, toilets, accommodation options, resting area, etc.

The state tourism board also plans on allocating various cities within Gujarat a tourism specialisation. After endorsing Gandhinagar and Ahmedabad as business destinations through Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors Summit since 2003, a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) has been set up to develop Vadodara as the state’s cultural capital and encourage tourism in the city.

We have also launched Industrial tours for students with an aim to showcase the industrial growth of Gujarat. Students will be taken on a guided tour and given an insight into these plants and their functioning.

Who is your target tourist segment?

We do understand that International tourists are extremely important for business and to be recognised at the global level, hence the Government has taken various initiatives to be seen on the international podium by organising events such as the Pravasi Bhartiya Divas and Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors Summit, participating in international trade fairs and travel exhibitions, creating online marketing campaigns to increase and extend its reach to every corner of the world.

We will also focus on domestic tourism as this sector has been outperforming the international tourism growth in India. If domestic tourism nurtures then international tourism will inevitably flow in.

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