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Eco-Tourism: The Inflection point for India’s Travel and Tourism Industry Downturn

 

Eco-tourism offers new ways of creating tourism value, that goes beyond leveraging the historical importance, built heritage, natural beauty of the destination or providing superior comfort in travel mode and stay.

India’s $250 billion travel & tourism industry is without doubt the worst affected sector in the COVID-19 pandemic. The imperative for maintaining social distancing has adversely impacted air and rail travel, package or group tours across segments, right from foreign tourists to teerth yatris. This adversity may also be seen as an opportunity for the tourism industry to reinvent itself and emerge back stronger out of this slump. In fact, now is the time to completely turn around many of our conventional approaches, create new segments, destinations and experiences. Let’s examine the case for eco-tourism in this context.

India’s $22 billion outbound spend is waiting to be attracted to be spent within India. For this, Indian destinations will need to offer cleanliness, orderliness, ease of travel and newness of experience in ways never delivered before. Even for the $72 billion domestic tourist spend segment, travel to destinations can sometimes limit themselves to ‘sightseeing’ – an itinerary where the tourist ‘came-saw-took pictures/selfies-left’. Travel to a place can also be about experiences a tourist goes through and the memories they create. Eco-tourism holds the secret to this new value creation. It holds the potential to overcome the pandemic induced challenges on one hand, and it offers new places and experiences inducing travel demand on the other hand. Eco-tourism creates jobs where livelihoods need to be created; rather than pushing people to migrate where jobs are created. Built on the 3 pillars of – tourism value creation, environmental sustainability and community participation – eco-tourism potential exists across India’s landscape.

Many State Governments like Odisha, Meghalaya, and other North-Eastern states are gearing up for this opportunity, while Kerala, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh have been adopting these approaches with good success. State Governments are exploring comprehensive State-wide approaches to enable eco-tourism and not limited to few popular destinations. Adopting sustainable tourism practices and indicators, evolved by the Ministry of Tourism together with the Sustainable Tourism Society of India can be a good starting point in our journey.

Eco-tourism offers new ways of creating tourism value, that goes beyond leveraging the historical importance, built heritage, natural beauty of the destination or providing superior comfort in travel mode and stay. In the past few months, there has been a clear trend of tourists opting for locations of natural beauty with dispersed accommodation (homestays / BnB / resorts) at destinations drivable from cities. The first pillar of eco-tourism, i.e. value creation, can build on this base to engage tourists in – nature discovery walks/treks; local farming activities; adventure sports; local cuisines; crafts, folklore and arts; volunteering for community development; mental and spiritual rejuvenation… and the list goes on. All of these can potentially enhance duration of stay and tourism spend, while lowering environmental footprint and achieve more with lower tourist volumes.

To build on the second pillar, i.e. environmental sustainability, carrying capacity studies and protection of fragile ecosystems are essential. Palau islands, Costa Rica and Sarara Camp, Kenya are good examples where sustainability and conservation are well integrated with tourism development. Eco-tourism planning needs to target a diverse set of destinations across a state or region. Tourist activities need not be limited to seashores, lake banks, pinecone mountains or forests with endangered wildlife. Eco-tourism can be curated across our village landscapes, fertile agriculture lands, terraced farms, semi-arid forests, rolling hill ranges (aka Aravallis) and even urban forests. Irrespective of the location, integrating nature appreciation in the tourist experience is important.

The third pillar we need to build on is the ‘community’. ‘Atithi devo bhava’ – the spirit of observing godliness in our guests is ingrained into the Indian ethos and can be experienced across the country. While the hospitality is cherished and enjoyed, eco-tourism enables us to respect the sensitivity of the host communities. Evolved practices can take this further, where tourists intermingle with host communities, learn, understand and appreciate their way of living, exchange ideas, thoughts and experiences and not just transact in monetary terms. Kumbalangi, Kerala and Khuri, Rajasthan are good examples of rural tourism offerings well integrated with the village communities. Building community organisations, enabling the host communities’ sustainable practices, upskilling and creating sustainable livelihoods, building entrepreneurial capabilities and nurturing arts, crafts and intangible heritage are steps in the right direction.

The world is gradually emerging from the pandemic with the motivation to ‘build back better’ – to not just get back to where we were but evolve a better society and economy. For India’s tourism industry, eco-tourism practiced in the right earnest can be our mantra to achieve the same.

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The New Structure of the Proposed Goa Tourism Board Upsets Goa Tourism Industry

The new tourism policy for Goa approved by the state cabinet yesterday proposes a Tourism Board for Goa largely controlled by the bureaucrats rather than the private industry.

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The travel and tourism industry in Goa is upset over the new proposal to constitute a Tourism Board for the state, which is controlled and dominated by the bureaucrats and the government nominees. Although a Tourism Board for better planning and implementation of the tourism programmes and schemes in the state was a dream of the private industry in Goa, the way the government has proposed to constitute it has garnered major criticism from the private industry and the industry associations.

“What we proposed to the government was a Tourism Board in the model of Singapore and other places which is largely industry driven. But the proposed Tourism Board in the new Tourism Policy is nothing but another government body. We don’t want another white Elephant to be created in the state,” said Nilesh Shah, President, Travel & Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG).

While welcoming the new Tourism Policy, which was approved by the cabinet yesterday, Shah said that the policy was in the making for a very long time and they are glad that the government has finally decided to implement the same.

However, he shared the industry’s displeasure with the proposed Tourism Board. “This was not what was initially visualised. The Tourism Board was to have 5 members each from the industry and the government. But suddenly, I now see that 3 members have been added to the government side and another 3 to be nominated by the government from the industry. As a result the Board is now constituted of 12 members appointed from or by the government,” he said.

According to the private industry, the idea behind the Tourism Board was to replace the Tourism department and reduce its role to some administrative and licencing work. But the new proposal of the board will create another unnecessary layer without adding any value to the existing system.

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Nearly all of India will Welcome Tourists from October

9-Oct-2020

If you have been down with cabin fever, here’s some relief. Most Indian states are emerging through the haze of lockdowns and unlocks and now welcoming tourists. Hotels and homestays are back in business, with strict health protocols. E-passes are nearly gone. Flights to major destinations in India are back and most tourist attractions are reopening. Here’s a quick round-up in case you are finally ready to venture beyond your pincode.

Ready and waiting

Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka have already started taking tourists with very minimal restrictions, if at all. Uttarakhand is even willing to pay for a room-night if you come visiting. Rajasthan hotels have been open for a few months now. Madhya Pradesh has rolled out workation programmes, in case your boss feels you are indispensable. Next door, nearly all tourist attractions in Agra, Uttar Pradesh are now fully open—including the Taj Mahal.

Maharashtra is unlocking cautiously: hotels and homestays are back in business and the state has also launched a campervan rental programme. The state’s premier tiger reserve in Tadoba reopens on 1 October, with a new set of rules.

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The forests of West Bengal reopened to tourists on 23 September after an extended closure. While these forests are locked down every year for two months during the monsoon—from 15 July to 15 September—this year, they have been out of bounds for tourists since March. Darjeeling, the state’s favourite hill-station, is also now accepting visitors.

Tamil Nadu’s state of lockdown continues till October, but its hill-stations are open, with some exceptions. The Union Territory of Puducherry is also taking visitors and the Himalayan heights of Ladakh are also open (here’s what it is to holiday there right now). Even the Andaman & Nicobar islands have restarted some tourist activities. As a result, flights from the mainland will increase to 14 per week from now. Kerala was expected to reopen its tourist experiences in September or October, but there is no word on it yet.

Tourist places opening in October in India

Most of India’s eastern states will start welcoming tourists at some point in October.

Odisha has decided to open up the beaches of Puri and Gopalpur, temples of Bhubaneswar and Konark, Chilka Lake and other experiences to tourists from October, though it has yet to announce a date. The government has launched the ‘Odisha by Road’ campaign to urge travellers to explore the state’s tourist circuit by road.

Sikkim will reopen to tourists from 10 October. The state government has allowed hotels, homestays and other tourism-related services to resume operations and will also open the state border with West Bengal for unrestricted travel by road from 1 October. Bookings for hotels and homestays resumed from 27 September. Inner Line Permits for foreign tourists with valid visas shall be issued from 10 October.

Tripura will also reopen all tourist spots in the state from 1 October. To promote tourism, the state will construct a helipad near the popular Dumbur Lake in the Chabimura region, famous for its rock carvings along the River Gomti. The tourism department has introduced water scooters as well as floating jetty and speed boat services at Dumbur Lake.

The chief minister of Arunachal Pradesh Pema Khandu has indicated that the state will reopen for tourists after October, given how crucial tourism is to the local economy.

In short, most of India is open for tourists. But remember that there are strict rules in place—masks are mandatory everywhere you go; physical distancing is obligatory and the need to respect local sensitivities and concerns is now more than ever.

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Noida to See its First Musical Fountain Today

 

7-Oct-2020

An attractive musical fountain in Noida is set to open for the public at 7 PM on October 6 by the Noida Authority. The CEO of Noida Authority, Ritu Maheshwari, said that no entry fee will be charged for now, but only a restricted number of visitors shall be allowed.

As per a tweet posted by Ritu Maheshwari, the inaugural ceremony would feature a free musical/light/laser show, with medicine for its theme, at Sector 91 medicinal park. She also invited the public to be a part of the ceremony but with due COVID-19 precautions.

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Reportedly, the Noida Authority has spent INR 4.4 crores to build the musical fountain at the medicinal park, which is a part of the Biodiversity Park near the Noida-Greater Noida Expressway. The site will have a daily music and sound show.

The Biodiversity Park in Sector 91 has been made over a 75-ac green area along the Noida-Greater Noida Expressway. It is expected to be Noida’s biggest park after it is fully constructed.

Noida was in the news lately for another reason – the proposed Film City project. Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath has already sanctioned this project, which is expected to put Noida on the tourism map in the coming years.

Source: Times Of India

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Ministry of Tourism Launches SAATHI App for Hospitality Industry on World Tourism Day

Source: Economic Times

28-Sep-2020

NEW DELHI: The ministry of Tourism celebrated world tourism day on Sunday through a virtual event and launched the SAATHI application for the hospitality industry.

The ministry said SAATHI is an initiative of the tourism ministry with the Quality Council ofIndia to assist the hospitality industry in continuing to operate safely and instill condence among sta, employees and guests about the safety of the hotels and units.

Union minister of petroleum and natural gas and steel Dharmendra Pradhan was the chief guest for the event. Tourism minister Prahlad Singh Patel, Yogendra Tripathi, secretary, ministry of tourism, Meenakshi Sharma, director general, tourism, Rakesh Kumar Verma- joint secretary, tourism , additional DG(tourism)-Rupinder Brar and other oicials of the ministry also participated in the virtual event.

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The app was launched by Pradhan who also launched a lm ‘Pathik’, an initiative on Incredible India Tourist Facilitators Certification Programme (IITFC) and an ICPB MICE promotional lm.

The ministry said the objective of the ICPB Mice promotional lm is to communicate a positive message for welcoming events to India when competing destinations are already actively marketing their products.

United Nations orld Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has designated 2020 as the year of tourism and rural development. The tourism ministry said the year is an opportunity to promote the potential of tourism to create jobs and opportunities.

Pradhan appreciated the eorts of the ministry of tourism in launching the SAATHI application and the online learning module IITFC. He also lauded the ministry’s eort of showcasing Indian culture, heritage and lesser known destinations, cuisines etc through the webinar series Dekho Apna Desh.

Talking about sustainable environment, he said operating boats at tourist spots could substitute petrol, diesel, kerosene with CNG/LPG which are pollution free. He also emphasised on using battery operated vehicles in and around tourist spots.

Addressing the event, tourism minister Patel reiterated the vision of the prime minister asking every citizen to visit at least 15 destinations by the year 2022 to promote domestic tourism.

He said that the ministry of tourism has launched the Dekho Apna Desh (DAD) initiative in January 2020 with the objective of creating awareness among the citizens about the rich heritage and culture of the country, encouraging citizens to travel widely within the country and enhancing tourist footfalls leading to development of local economy and creation of jobs at the local level.

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Unlock 5.0 Guidelines: More Relaxations Likely as Cinema, Tourism Sector Look to Make Recovery

Source: News18

29-Sep-2020

With the fourth stage of lockdown drawing to an end, the Union Home Ministry will soon be announcing a slew of relaxations for October. Earlier, in a key development, the MHA had allowed metro trains to resume services.

The ministry had also said that more curbs would be eased in the coming days and activities would slowly be permitted in areas outside the containment zones. As industries look to make gains during the festival season, more relaxations are expected under Unlock 5.0 which will come into effect from October 1.
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Prime Minister Narendra Modi had last week, asked states to reassess if lockdowns of one or two days are effective in containing Covid-19 and told them to press on with full strength in opening economic activities while fighting the virus. Against this backdrop, industries and sectors are batting for more easing of restrictions.

Previously, the Ministry of home affairs (MHA) had permitted public places like restaurants, malls and salons to resume operations. Under the Unlock 5.0 guidelines, more activities are expected to be allowed from October with social distancing norms in place.

However, despite repeated requests by the Multiplex Association of India, the MHA has allowed only open-air theatres to be opened, from September 21. Notably, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announced on Saturday that cinema halls and open-air theatres will be allowed to operate in West Bengal from October 1 with a limited number of participants.

Meanwhile, the embattled tourism sector recently saw marginal recovery with the reopening of tourist spots, including Taj Mahal. The Odisha government announced on Sunday, that it would reopen all tourist centres from October.

The state’s tourism minister JP Panigrahi said his department had drawn out a master plan to promote several destinations in a bid to attract tourists. Under the Unlock 5.0 guidelines, more tourist sites and places are expected to be open for people.

A decision on resumption of normal classes in schools and colleges was taken and students from Classes 9-12 were asked to attend schools from September 21 on a voluntary basis.

The system is likely to continue during the next month. However, Hindustan Times, citing sources aware of the developments, reported that primary classes would stay shut for some more weeks.

Universities and colleges have already commenced their admission examinations and the new academic year may start through the online mode.

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 International Flights: Who are Eligible to Fly to These 13 Countries?

Source: Hindustan Times

21-Sep-2020

The civil aviation ministry has released a detailed guideline on who can travel to these countries from India along with the criteria for travelling to India from these countries.

India has already established air bubble agreements with 13 countries, while more such agreements are on the pipeline. The civil aviation ministry has released a detailed guideline on who can travel to these countries from India along with the criteria for travelling to India from these countries.

1. Afghanistan

From India to Afghanistan

i. Afghanistan nationals/residents and foreign nationals holding valid Afghanistan visas, if required; and

ii. Any Indian national, holding any type of valid visa from Afghanistan and destined for Afghanistan only. “It would be for the airlines concerned to ensure that there is no travel restriction for Indian nationals to enter Afghanistan with the particular visa category before issue of ticket/ boarding pass to the Indian passenger,” the ministry’s document said.

From Afghanistan to India

i. Indian nationals stranded in Afghanistan;

ii. All Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders holding Afghanistan passports

iii. Foreigners (including diplomats) holding valid visa issued by an Indian Mission in any category covered under Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) guidelines dated June 30 as amended from time to time, the document said.

2. Bahrain

From India to Bahrain

i. Bahraini nationals/residents

ii. Any Indian national holding any type of valid visa from the Kingdom of Bahrain and destined for Bahrain only. It would be for the airlines concerned to ensure that there is no travel restriction for Indian nationals to enter Bahrain with the particular visa category before issue of ticket/ boarding pass to the Indian passenger.

From Bahrain to India

i. Indian nationals stranded in Bahrain

ii. All Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders holding Bahraini passports; and

iii. Bahraini nationals (including diplomats) holding valid visa issued by an Indian Mission in any category covered under Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) guidelines.

3. Canada

From India to Canada

i. Stranded Canadian nationals/residents and foreigners with valid Canadian visa eligible to enter Canada;

ii. Indian nationals with valid visas eligible to enter Canada. The airlines concerned will ensure that there is no travel restriction for Indian nationals.

iii. Seamen of foreign nationalities, seamen holding Indian passports would be allowed subject to clearance from the ministry of shipping

From Canada to India

i. Stranded Indian nationals

ii. All Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders holding Canadian passports; and

iii. Foreigners (including diplomats), who are eligible to enter India as per MHA guidelines

4. France

From India to France

i. Indian nationals who are permitted to travel abroad as per MHA guidelines dated 01.07.2020 and destined for EU;

ii. Stranded EU nationals/residents, foreign nationals destined for Europe and transiting through France or spouses of these persons, whether accompanying or otherwise; and

iii. Seamen of foreign nationalities; Seamen holding Indian passports would be allowed subject to clearance from the Ministry of Shipping.

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From France to India

i. Stranded Indian nationals;

ii. Foreigners (including diplomats and OCI card holders), who are eligible to enter India as per Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) guidelines .

5. Germany

From India to Germany

i. Indian nationals who are permitted to travel abroad as per MHA guidelines dated 01.07.2020 and destined for EU;

ii. Stranded EU nationals/residents, foreign nationals destined for Europe and transiting through Germany or spouses of these persons, whether accompanying or otherwise; and

iii. Seamen of foreign nationalities; Seamen holding Indian passports would be allowed subject to clearance from the Ministry of Shipping.

From Germany to India

i. Stranded Indian nationals;

ii. Foreigners (including diplomats and OCI card holders), who are eligible to enter India as per Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) guidelines.

6. Iraq

From India to Iraq

i. Nationals/residents of Iraq;

ii. Any Indian national holding any type of valid visa from Iraq and destined for Iraq only.

From Iraq to India

i. Indian nationals stranded in Iraq;

ii. All Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders holding passports of Iraq; and

iii. Nationals of Iraq (including diplomats), holding valid visa issued by an Indian Mission in any category covered under (MHA) guidelines.

7. Japan

From India to Japan

i. Stranded nationals/residents of Japan and foreign nationals holding valid Japanese visas subject to the border measures and travel restrictions imposed by the government of Japan at the time of travel; and

ii. Any Indian national holding any type of valid visa from Japan subject to the border measures and travel restrictions imposed by the government of Japan at the time of travel.

From Japan to India

i. Stranded Indian nationals;

ii. All Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders holding passports of Japan; and

iii. Foreigners (including diplomats), holding valid visa issued by an Indian Mission in any category covered under MHA guidelines.

8. Maldives

From India to Maldives

i. Maldivian nationals/residents and foreign nationals holding valid Maldivian visas, if required;

ii. Any Indian national.

From Maldives to India

i. Indian nationals

ii. All Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders holding Maldivian passports, and

iii. Foreigners (including diplomats) holding valid visa issued by an Indian Mission in any category covered under MHA guidelines.

Nigeria

From India to Nigeria

i. Stranded Nigerian nationals/residents, foreign nationals destined for Africa and transiting through Nigeria or spouses of these persons, whether accompanying or otherwise;

ii. Any Indian national holding any type of valid Nigerian visa and destined for any country in Africa.

iii. Seamen of foreign nationalities; Seamen holding Indian passports would be allowed subject to clearance from the Ministry of Shipping.

From Nigeria to India

i. Indian nationals stranded in any country in Africa;

ii. All Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders holding Nigerian passports;

iii. Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders holding passports issued by any country in Africa who are eligible to enter India as per MHA guidelines.

iv. Foreigners (including diplomats) holding valid visa issued by an Indian Mission in any category covered under MHA guidelines

10. Qatar

From India to Qatar

i. Qatari nationals

ii. Any Indian national holding any type of valid Qatar visa and destined for Qatar only.

From Qatar to India

i. Indian nationals stranded in Qatar;

ii. All Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders holding Qatari passports, and

iii. Qatari nationals (including diplomats) holding valid visa issued by an Indian Mission in any category covered under MHA guidelines.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)

From India to UAE

i. UAE nationals.

ii. ICA-approved UAE residents destined for UAE only.

iii. Any Indian national holding any type of valid UAE visa and destined for UAE only.

From UAE to India

i. Stranded Indian nationals

ii. All Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders holding UAE passports; and

iii. UAE nationals (including diplomats) holding valid visa issued by an Indian Mission in any category covered under MHA guidelines

United Kingdom (UK)

From India to UK

i. Stranded UK nationals/residents, foreign nationals transiting through UK or spouses of these persons, whether accompanying or otherwise.

ii. Any Indian national holding any type of valid UK visa and destined for UK only.

iii. Seamen of foreign nationalities; Seamen holding Indian passports would be allowed subject to clearance from the Ministry of Shipping.

From UK to India

i. Stranded Indian nationals

ii. All Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders holding UK passports; and

iii. Foreigners (including diplomats), who are eligible to enter India.

United States of America (USA)

From India to USA

i. US citizens, legal permanent residents, and foreign nationals holding valid US visas;

ii. Any Indian national holding any type of valid US visa.

iii. Seamen of foreign nationalities; Seamen holding Indian passports would be allowed subject to clearance from the Ministry of Shipping

From USA to India

i. Stranded Indian nationals

ii. All Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders holding US passports; and

iii. Foreigners (including diplomats), who are eligible to enter India.

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Gujarat Govt Announces its First Heritage Tourism Policy

Source: Telangana Today

12-Sep-2020

Gandhinagar: Opening up ancient palaces, forts and other heritage monuments for international and national visitors to boost the tourism sector, the Gujarat government on Friday announced the state’s first heritage tourism policy.

The new policy, which will provide an opportunity for the tourists to enjoy and experience a stay in the historical monuments of the state, is also expected to boost the local employment and the state tourism industry.

The Gujarat Chief Minister, Vijay Rupani announced the state’s first heritage tourism policy, which was given the final touch during the high level meeting held earlier Friday. According to the policy, historical monuments, palaces, forts and structures constructed before January 1950 in the state, could be converted into hotels, heritage museums, banquet halls and heritage restaurants.

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The policy is believed to not only provide the tourists with an experience of staying at the ancient historical and heritage sites and monuments, but it will also open up a new window for job opportunities for the local people. The policy also envisages the utilization of unused ancient and heritage structures while adding attraction in Gujarat tourism.

The state government will provide an aid of Rs 5 to 10 crores to new or existing heritage hotels for renovation and expansion. According to the policy provisions, the developers will be provided an aid of Rs 45 lakh to Rs one crore, to start new or restore an existing heritage museum, heritage banquet hall and heritage restaurant. The restoration or expansion work should be done without altering or damaging the existing original structure.

The state government believes that the new policy will place Gujarat on the world heritage tourism map where international tourists will not only be able to enjoy at the sites like Rani ki Vaav, Champaner or Ahmedabad walled city, all world heritage sites, but also enjoy a stay at ancient palaces, forts owned by Kings and other ancient monuments. This move will develop the tourism sector in Gujarat and add up in resource building of earning foreign currency.

Gujarat is a state rich with many ancient city ruins, palaces, forts, tombs, beautiful stepwells and temples. It is also home to the archaeological sites of the Indus Valley Civilization like Lothal, sacred summits of Jainism, Buddhism and others.

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British Airways to Start London to Hyderabad Flights from Today

Source: Financial Express

12-Sep-2020

British Airways has announced its flight services to Hyderabad from London Heathrow, starting September 12. As of now, the UK-based carrier has only been operating outbound flights from Hyderabad, the capital city of Telangana, under the bilateral air bubble pact between India and the UK.

The airline will operate four flights a week on the route, British Airways said in a release on Thursday. It is already operating outbound flights from Hyderabad to London following the opening up of Indian skies for special flights in August, the airline said.

“British Airways, which is already operating outbound flights from Hyderabad to London following the opening up of Indian skies for special flights in August, will now be flying from London Heathrow to Hyderabad as well, starting September 12,” said the release.

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British Airways is also flying to Heathrow five times a week each from Delhi and Mumbai and four times a week each from Chennai and Bengaluru, making it a total of 23 flights a week from India to the UK, including flights from Hyderabad, the airline stated.

As scheduled international air passenger services are suspended since late March, India has established air bubble pacts with the US, France, Kuwait, Qatar, the UK, Canada and Germany, which allow overseas carriers from the respective countries to resume flight services. Under the pact with the UK, Indian carriers SpiceJet and Vistara have also been allowed to operate into Britain.

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Plant Trees to Compensate Loss of Forest Area on Char Dham Highway: SC

 

A bench headed by Justice Fali Nariman also ordered the Centre to comply with the 2018 circular of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways on the aspect of the width of the road while constructing Char Dham national.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Central government to undertake plantation activities to compensate for the loss of forest area due to the construction of Char Dham national highway in Uttarakhand.

A bench headed by Justice Fali Nariman also ordered the Centre to comply with the 2018 circular of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways on the aspect of the width of the road while constructing Char Dham national highway in Uttarakhand.

As per MoRTH 2018 circular, the intermediate carriageway of 5.5 meters tarred surface is adopted for hilly terrain. The Centre has sought top court’s permission to make it seven-meter but the court refused saying that the government can’t violate its own circular.

Recently, one report with the signatures of four members of the 26-member committee, including chairperson Ravi Chopra, an environmentalist and former director of the Dehradun-based People’s Science Institute, had recommended that the Supreme Court take the final call on road width while suggesting an intermediate width of 5.5 metres.

Plant-trees-to-compensate-loss-of-forest-area-on-Char-Dham-highway-SC

It cited a circular issued by the Union MoRTH in the year 2018.

The other report has the signatures of 21 members and suggests the government stick to the project’s present design and roads all along the highway be expanded to double lanes as planned.

The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, had in March 2018, recommended against ‘double laning and paved shoulders’ in hilly terrain and recommended a narrower intermediate road width.

The Supreme Court had set up the High Powered Committee in August 2019 and mandated it to consider the ecological impact of the 900-km project, which the government has said will improve access to four Hindu pilgrim sites in Uttarakhand.

Char Dham national highway connectivity programme, launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in December 2016, comprises projects of improvement of over 889 km length of national highways leading to Yamunotri Dham, Gangotri Dham, Kedarnath Dham, Badrinath Dham and part of the route leading to Kailash Mansarovar yatra.

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WTTC Launches Safe Travels Protocols for Adventure Travel

Source: Hotelier India

5-Sep-2020

The latest protocols for the global Travel & Tourism sector focus on measures to ensure the reopening of adventure tourism, which should see an increase in popularity as travellers seek more unique experiences post COVID-19.

He World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has unveiled the latest set of measures designed to rebuild global consumer confidence, reduce risk and encourage the return of Safe Travels. The latest protocols for the global Travel & Tourism sector focus on measures to ensure the reopening of adventure tourism, which should see an increase in popularity as travellers seek more unique experiences post COVID-19.

WTTC, which represents the global Travel & Tourism private sector, held detailed discussions with key stakeholders and organizations to ensure maximum buy-in, alignment and practical implementation. The measures help to set clear expectations of what travellers can experience in the ‘new normal’ which offer safe environments as travel restrictions are eased.

Backed by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the WTTC protocols also take into account guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the WTTC Safe Travels stamp recognizes those destinations, countries, businesses and governments worldwide which have adopted them.

Adventure Travel

Protocols for the adventure tourism industry were compiled on the basis of insights and frameworks developed by the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA), in collaboration with a number of key tour operators in the segment such as Abercrombie & Kent, Eurotur, Intrepid and The Travel Corporation (TTC), to support the safe, healthy and responsible restart of adventure tourism around the world.

Within these protocols, the adventure tourism industry refers to a wide variety of adventure tourism experiences including cycling, rafting, trekking, skiing, snowboarding, wildlife safaris and culinary tours, among others.

Not only are these activities mostly outdoors, thus limiting time spent in indoors; but group sizes can be managed to allow for physical distancing. It is expected that this type of tourism will see growth in the post-COVID landscape.

Gloria Guevara, WTTC President & CEO, said: “Adventure tourism is becoming increasingly popular amongst travellers and will represent a key component to travel in the new normal. According to our recently launched COVID-19 Travel Demand Recovery Dashboard, it is also one of the fastest growing segments, which is why it is vital to establish measures allowing safe travels for adventure travellers.

“Consumer confidence is crucial for Travel & Tourism to resume. We know travellers will want to explore the world around them once more, so long as they are confident in their safety. The return of Travel & Tourism will help power the world’s much-needed economic recovery, which is why these protocols are so important.

“We would like to pay tribute to all those companies in the global private sector who have stepped forward and rallied around in support of the WTTC Safe Travels protocols. They create the consistency needed to allow a re-invigorated Travel & Tourism sector to re-open for business. The expertise from businesses large and small has contributed to define the new experience for travellers, and these robust global measures have been embraced around the world.”

The welfare of travellers and the millions of people employed throughout the Travel & Tourism sector at the heart of WTTC’s comprehensive package of Safe Travels protocols. They avoid the emergence of multiple standards, which would only confuse the consumer and delay the sector’s recovery.

They also provide consistency to destinations and countries as well as guidance to travel providers, airlines, airports, operators, and travellers, about the new approach to health and hygiene in the post COVID-19 world.

WTTC divided the new guidance into four pillars including operational and staff preparedness; delivering a safe experience; rebuilding trust and confidence; and implementing enabling policies.
Measures announced today include:
• Reduce participant capacity limits for activities as appropriate to allow for physical distancing
• Ensured activity difficulty levels do not exceed guest ability and skill, thus decreasing the need for a possible rescue
• Provide clear, consistent, and up-to-date communication on new health & hygiene protocols via the organization’s channels, both digitally and physically through clear signage
• Promote contact tracing apps if required by local legislation
• Inform guests about support available if questions or concerns arise
• Share guest guidelines ahead of trip or activity digitally and in person upon arrival on the basis of advice from health authorities, which may include the wearing of face masks or coverings, guidance on hand hygiene and avoiding physical contact.

Consider having consumers acknowledge guidelines:
• Encouraged guests to purchase tickets online if possible
• Keep the same households, families, or members of group bookings together for all activities to lower risk of exposure for those outside of that unit, wherever possible
• Ensure, where possible, that each guest can handle their own equipment and gear for the duration of the trip. Where possible, guests should be encouraged bring their own equipment or gear, such as bikes, skis, and helmets among others
• Limited physical contact and queuing where possible

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Covid Tourism’: Mt Abu Sold Out on Weekends

Source: Times of India

3-Sep-2020

JAIPUR: Try booking any hotel or resort in Mount Abu on weekends, the answer is invariably going to be, “It’s sold out.”

The local hospitality industry calls it “Covid tourism”. Continuous rains over the past one month, misty mountains, gurgling streams and water falls are just the cherry on the cake. Till June, the hill station was in green category, but isolated cases started since then and went almost unnoticed. Mount Abu has so far reported 54 cases out of which 15 are active now.

Being a four-hour drive from Ahmedabad, Mount Abu is a popular among for Gujaratis, as it also serving as a watering hole for the liquor-starved neighbours. As borders opened after the lockdown, they were the first ones to arrive. But the rush began from August.

NTP India Tourism

“We lost the summer rush to the pandemic. In July, travellers were tentative … As rains came in August, it opened the floodgates of cooped up tourists. Now, the destination is a full house on weekends,” said Kashyap Jani, former president of Mount Abu Hotel Association. He said while Gujaratis traditionally account for 80-90% of tourists, people from nearby cities like Udaipur, Jodhpur and Jaipur are also thronging the destination.

“It’s been too long a confined life, depression is not far away. With almost negligible coronavirus cases, Mount Abu is safer than my place,” said Heeral Mehta from Ahmedabad, who along with his family spent the last weekend in the hill station.

The rates charged by hotels are as high as pre-Covid days, but Jani said, the weekday rates are cheaper by about 50%. With occupancy during weekdays rising from 10-15% a month back to about 40% now, rates are also rising proportionately.

District collector Bhagwati Prasad said, “We are not worried about the rush, but the administration is strictly monitoring adherence of SOPs by hotels and visitors.” It’s hard to guess how long the hill station can remain as an oasis in the Covid world.

India Releases New SOPs for International Travel
27-Aug-2020

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The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has issued Standard Operating Protocol (SOP) for international travel on non-scheduled commercial flights under the Air Transport Bubble arrangement and the Vande Bharat Scheme. As per the protocol, anyone wishing to travel to India will first need to register themselves with the Indian missions in the country that they are currently stranded or residing in, along with all the required details as prescribed by the Ministry of External Affairs.

Reportedly, the SOP has been issued to contain the spread of COVID-19 infection, and is aimed to keep a check on the movement of international passengers in a calibrated manner.

However, those coming to India on flights under air-bubble arrangements will not be required to register themselves with the Indian missions.

As of now, India has managed to create bilateral ‘air bubbles’ or air travel arrangements with the following countries—the United States of America, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and the Maldives. Apart from these, India is also negotiating with 13 more countries for similar kind of arrangement.

Reportedly, the SOP outlines that priority will be given to certain cases in distress, such as those short-term visa holders who are nearing the expiry of their vias, workers who have been laid off, pregnant women, elderly persons, those persons with medical emergency, or those required to return to India due to death of family members and students.

For all inbound travellers, the External Affairs Ministry will prepare a flight/ship wise database that will include all the required details, such as name, age, gender, place of residence, mobile phone number, their final destination, and information on their RT-PCR test taken and its result. Then, the same will be shared by MEA in advance with the respective state or union territory.

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Indians Can Now Fly to Germany, USA and France

New guidelines have been issued for Indian travellers flying abroad. Now that India has introduced air bubbles with other countries such as Germany, the USA and France, there are new visa rules for travellers. Indian nationals flying abroad can do so on any type of visa, as per a tweet by the aviation ministry.

The tweet stated, “Indian citizens can now travel to countries with which air bubble arrangements have been finalised by MoCA on any type of visa.

In the coming days the list of countries that have an air bubble with India is likely to increase, as the government is lifting restrictions in phases. Air bubbles are basically travel agreements between two countries during this trying time.

However, there are certain things to keep in mind. For example, not all airports will be accepting international flights in the destination countries. Travel could be limited, and you also might have to spend days in quarantine upon landing in those countries. While the air bubble only allows you to travel to a destination, it can in no way give you any immunity from quarantine rules that may apply.

Until now, only certain groups of people in India, those who hold residency status visas, were able to fly out of India. Now, for the first time, three international destinations have opened up for travellers holding any kind of visa.

Additionally, there was yet another tweet in which it was announced that the Overseas Citizen of India cardholders can now enter India from the USA, France, and Germany. Also, foreign nationals who want to enter India on business, medical, or employment visas can do so from the above mentioned countries.

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Ayodhya Blue Print is Ready for Implementation

New Delhi: The groundbreaking ceremony for the proposed Ram temple at the Ram Janambhoomi site in Ayodhya will take place today amid hopes of a better future following massive upgrade plans that involve a brand new airport and a glitzy railway station. The Uttar Pradesh government has announced a number of development and beautification projects in the temple town, with a budget of more than Rs 500 crore.

There are plans to promote Ayodhya as a big religious tourism destination. The government is expecting huge footfall by 2024, when the long-awaited Ram temple is expected to be completed.

The advance planning includes not only a new airport and railway station, but also an upgrade of the nearby highway and local tourist spots.

As of now, Ayodhya has an airstrip for the use of VIPs. But the government has announced that it will be converted into an airport. Not much has happened since the announcement made two years ago. The government is still in the process of land acquisition.

The national highway upgrade has a budget of Rs 250 crore. The water supply project will also be upgraded which has a budget of Rs 54 crore. Rs 7 crore has been earmarked for the bus station and an equal amount for the police barracks.

Rs 16 crore has been set aside for the modernisation of the Tulsi Smarak. The local Rajshri Dasrath Medical College will also be upgraded, for which 134 crore has been allotted. Despite dominating politics in north India for decades, Ayodhya had been a sleepy little town, where the young people demanded development.

“We have moved on from mandir-masjid,” students at the Saket College, Ayodhya’s most prestigious educational institution, had said ahead of the 2017 state elections.

“Where are the jobs, the factories,” they asked, claiming that the BJP’s development mantra has passed Ayodhya by.

According to government figures, between 2003 and 2012, the number of industrial units in Ayodhya-Faizabad area went up by just 50 — from 377 to 426.

In November 2018, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had announced grand plans for an airport and a medical college. There were plans to build a Ramayan circuit by the river Saryu that passes through the town.

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Uttarakhand to Develop ‘Ramayana Circuit’

Source: Hindustan Times

The Uttarakhand tourism development corporation is likely to develop a ‘Ramayana’ circuit comprising all holy sites linked with Ramayana in the state to boost religious tourism.

Under the initiative, officials are keen to bring holy sites associated with Ramayana and build them for tourists to visit and learn about. “We have some holy sites and temples in the state which are linked with Ramayana. We will develop all of them and bring it under our initiative of Ramayana circuit to boost religious tourism in the state,” state tourism minister Satpal Maharaj said. The minister was among the saints present in Uttar Pradesh’s Ayodhya during the foundation stone-laying ceremony.

“We have some holy sites and temples in the state which are linked with Ramayana. We will develop all of them and bring it under our initiative of Ramayana circuit to boost religious tourism in the state,” Satpal said.

Revealing more details on the concept, Satpal said, “We have Bharat and Shatrughan temple in Rishikesh where it is believed that the two met Lord Ram to urge him to return to Ayodhya from his sojourn in the forest. Apart from this, we also have Raghunath temple in Devprayag which was visited by Lord Ram.”

“We will link all of these places and develop them. It will help the people know about the significance of Uttarakhand in Ramayana as well as attract them to visit,” said Maharaj.

The tourism minister also said that he had discussed the concept with Union minister of tourism Prahlad Singh Patel a few days ago.

“I urged him to assess the possibility of developing similar circuits in all those states which have some connection with Ramayana. I also urge him to get a study done on the significance of Ramayana on some of the South East Asian countries where it is a part of their culture,” said Maharaj.

Uttarakhand tourism department has also been developing Mahabharat circuit and Sita circuit in the state to boost religious tourism.

“We are already working on them. This new circuit will also open new avenues of religious tourism in the state,” said Maharaj.

In November last year, chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat had announced that the state government will be developing a Sita Mata circuit in Pauri Garhwal district to attract pilgrims and tourists from across the world. It is in this part of the Himalayas, according to Hindu tradition, Sita went inside the earth.

It is believed that Goddess Sita went inside the earth in the Phalswari village of Pauri Garhwal district where a small Sita Mata temple stands to mark the event. The village is situated at a distance of 15 km from the Pauri town, which witnesses a Sita Mata fair every year for three days in the month of May.

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Press Information Bureau
Government of India
Ministry of Tourism
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Ministry of Tourism is promoting India as a holistic destination under the Incredible India brand-line: Shri Prahlad Singh Patel

Ministry of Tourism undertakes promotional activities in domestic and international markets through its schemes of ‘Domestic Promotion & Publicity including Hospitality (DPPH)’ and Overseas Promotion & Publicity Including Market Development Assistance (OPMD). Under these schemes, Ministry of Tourism promotes India as a holistic destination under the Incredible India brand-line. As part of its on-going activities, the Ministry releases print, electronic, online and outdoor media campaigns in the international and domestic markets, to promote various tourism destinations and different types of tourism including health tourism, adventure tourism, cultural tourism, heritage tourism and wildlife tourism of the country.

The Ministry of Tourism has recognized Medical and Wellness Tourism as Niche Tourism Products and offers various facilities to promote India as a preferred destination as well as facilitate the visit of medical tourists to the country. A National Medical and Wellness Tourism Board has been constituted to provide a dedicated institutional framework to take forward the cause of promotion of Medical and Wellness Tourism including Ayurveda and any other format of Indian system of medicine covered by Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy (AYUSH).

The Ministry of Tourism has recognized Adventure Tourism, as a “Niche” tourism product in order to promote India as a 365 days’ destination and attract tourists with specific interest.  The Ministry has issued guidelines for the approval of Adventure Tour Operators, open to all bona-fide Adventure Tour Operators. A Task Force on Adventure Tourism has been set up to act as a forum for resolving issues related to development and promotion of Adventure Tourism in the country. The Ministry of Tourism has formulated ‘Indian Adventure Tourism Guidelines’ (Version 2.0) on Safety and Quality Norms on Adventure Tourism as Basic Minimum Standards for Adventure Tourism Activities covering 31 verticals involving land, air and water in respect of adventure tourism activities. These Guidelines have been forwarded to the State Governments and Union Territory Administrations for compliance.

The Ministry of Tourism under its schemes of Swadesh Darshan, PRASHAD and Assistance to Central Agencies provides Central Financial Assistance (CFA) to State Governments/UTs/Central Agencies for development of tourism infrastructure in the country. Submission of project proposal by the State Government’s/Union Territory Administrations and its sanctioning is a continuous process. The projects under the scheme are identified by the respective State Governments/UTs & then taken up for development in consultation with the State Governments/UTs and are sanctioned subject to availability of funds, submission of suitable Detailed Project Reports, adherence to scheme guidelines and utilization of funds released earlier.

For integrated development of Theme-Based Tourist Circuits in the country, Ministry of Tourism has launched Swadesh Darshan Scheme in 2014-15 with a vision to develop theme based tourist circuits in the country. Since its launch in January 2015, the Ministry as on date has sanctioned 77 projects worth projects for Rs.6035.70 Crores to 30 States and UTs covering the thematic circuits under the Swadesh Darshan Scheme.

Ministry of Tourism has sanctioned following two projects under Wildlife Theme Circuit under Swadesh Darshan Scheme: (i) Development of Wildlife Circuit at Panna-Mukundpur-Sanjay-Dubri-Bandhavgarh-Kanha-Mukki-Pench in Madhya Pradesh during 2015-16 & (ii) Development of Manas – Probitora – Nameri – Kaziranga – Dibru – Saikhowa as Wildlife Circuit in Assam during 2015-16.

Since its launch in January 2015 the Ministry has sanctioned 29 projects under PRASHAD Scheme in 18 states with estimated expenditure of Rs. 889.54 crore from FY 2014-15 to FY 2019-20. 

Ministry of Tourism provides Central Financial Assistance for celebration of fairs and festivals to various States and UTs under the relevant guideline. Financial Assistance was provided to State Govts/UT Administrations under this scheme for organising 149 Fairs and Festivals between 2014-15 & 2019-20. 

This information was given by the Minister of State (I/c) of Culture and Tourism, Shri Prahlad Singh Patel in a written reply in the Lok Sabha today.