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What ails Tourism in Uttarakhand?

Dr Nitin Pandey

With imposing majestic snow clad mountains, deep blue rivers, friendly people, good roads and negligible crime, Uttarakhand should be a tourist’s paradise. One look at its high altitude meadows should be enough to make one fall in love with it. Yet sadly, even the internationally famous Valley of Flowers laments the virtual absence of tourists, year after year.

Uttarakhand’s tourism policy is unfortunately based primarily on the Char Dham Circuit. Though the number of people undertaking this pilgrimage is mind boggling and it does contribute substantially to Government’s kitty, yet its benefit is limited to the people living in the four towns. Bus loads of pilgrims’ breeze through the State doing all the four Dhams in as little as 4 days. Focusing excessively on the Char Dhams downplays the importance of development of tourism in other parts of the State and prevents more equitable distribution of economic gains. Facilities developed for pilgrims may not be appropriate for general tourists.

An indicator to the sad state of affairs is the virtual absence of foreign tourists in Uttarakhand. Barely 0.75% of all foreign tourists visited Uttarakhand in 2006. Growth in absolute numbers was 12.2%, way below the National average of 14.7%. Comparison with Himachal Pradesh reveals an even more sorry state of affairs. (See table)
Foreign Tourists in India
All India83,60,22699,39,7821,14,03,661
Himachal Pradesh2,04,3442,07,7902,81,569

To encourage tourists, basic changes need to be incorporated into Uttarakhand’s tourism policy. Building five star hotels in Dehra Dun, airports or helipads will not improve the situation. It may increase the arrival of very wealthy travelers but the employment it will generate for locals only be as porters and dish washers. Also a very small percentage of domestic and foreign tourists will travel by air or helicopters in Uttarakhand or stay in 5 star hotels in Dehra Dun.

The answer could lie in building a huge number of small but modern and comfortable 3 - 4 roomed hotels in all villages of Uttarakhand. They could be built by the Government in land belonging to locals, who could then be employed by the Government to run it and once the Government recovers the amount it invested, the hotel should be handed over to the locals and another new hotel built and started in the same village. That would change the face of Uttarakhand and also reverse the mass migration of men to the plains.

Marketing of these hotels must be done by GMVNL even after the hand over. Almost all villages of Uttarakhand are exceptionally beautiful and can serve as weekend hangouts for urban people, as a place of relaxation for the stressed out and as places of inspiration for writers and poets, if properly marketed.

The existing GMVNL hotels need a major overhaul. At present they can best be classified as budget hotels catering to lower middle class tourists. Even though they are cheap, middle class and foreign tourists look for quality and don’t mind paying more for it. Smelly carpets, stained bed sheets, out of order bath rooms are common in all GMVNL guest houses. The brand new GMVNL Guest House at Raithal is a typical example. When we visited it 2yrs ago, none of its bathrooms were functional. Sinks were leaking, flush was broken and water from the bathroom floor drained into the bedroom! GMVNL should charge a lot more than what it presently charges for its rooms, but it must give a much better service. In smaller places it is usual to find one person doubling or tripling as the manager, cook cleaner and receptionist, all in one! This doesn’t give a professional appearance.

Another problem with the GMVNL hotels is the food. The Canteen is given on contract for one year to the highest bidder. This contractor needs to extract maximum money from his guests and knows that he does not have to deal with repeat visitors nor does he have to cater to a brand image and he is also not sure about his continuing the contract next year. All these factors result in poor food quality. While on our way from Raithal, we stopped at Uttarkashi GMVNL Guest House for breakfast. Food was atrocious and parathas came in the shape of a map of India! We were later told that the only cook was on leave that day.

Not all GMVNL hotels have a cook though, the one in Hanol had no contractor at all, as the contract rates were allegedly too high, and tourists are left to fend for themselves in the middle of a jungle. The system of Contractors needs to be reviewed as it is ultimately brand GMVNL which suffers.

Knowing that most tourists will not go to Dehra Dun to complain, sometimes GMVNL staff can be outright rude to tourists. At times rooms are not given to walk in tourists even when they are vacant, as the hapless tourists have no way of confirming the actual status of accommodation. Managers and Complaint books are rarely available even when asked for. To avoid such situations, all GMVNL hotels could have an Information board displaying the current bookings and of the next few days and the mobile numbers of the Manager and his immediate superior. Encouraging positive and negative feedback will go a long way in improving GMVNL.

Another common turnoff is the dirt and garbage. Starting from the banks of the Ganga in Haridwar and Rishikesh right up to Gangotri, the banks of this holy river are strewn with human feces and filth. It is impossible to stand along the river bank, leave alone taking a stroll along it. A river comparable to Ganga is Nile in Egypt. Its banks are the prime attraction in all cities it flows by and strolling down the bank is an enchanting experience for tourists and locals alike. Also glaring is the absence of public toilets in most places. When present they are inadequate in numbers and most people prefer open spaces to them.

During yatra time, it is a common sight to see tourist buses stopping in scenic places, with some people preparing food and dozens of others relieving themselves in the open. They leave behind huge amounts of litter and also risk starting forest fires. Drivers of tourist buses leaving Rishikesh should be warned against this and if still found, penalized heavily. All vehicles leaving Rishikesh should also be checked for pollution.

Uttarakhand could also be the first in India to have a specialized Tourist Police. Expecting regular police to be tourist friendly is not realistic. Instead special educated English speaking young local men should be enrolled into a Tourist Police with a distinct uniform. They should be available in train stations, bus stops, taxi stands and patrol most tourist sites. This will enhance tourist confidence and prevent their exploitation. Tourist Police Patrol Vans should move up and down the roads in the hills regularly instead of waiting at specific points. They should be able to catch people dirtying the countryside and be involved in keeping the banks of Ganga / Yamuna and other tourist places clean.

Waste disposal from hotels needs to be looked into. Hotels often pollute the area they are in, by simply dumping all the garbage down the hill. Tourists should be encouraged to report such hotels to GMVNL which then should forward the information to concerned authorities. Expecting well meaning tourists to search out Corporators or village headmen or Pollution board for complaints is ridiculous. One of the responsibilities of the Tourist Police could be to prevent such pollution.

Marketing of Uttarakhand as a tourist destination should not be limited to TV advertisements. A 24hrs toll free helpline and a 24hrs live chat at GMVNL Website could be started, with expert personnel ready to woo tourists. Bookings should also be accepted by phone /chat and amount manually charged using a Credit Card Machine. This helpline / chat line should also accept feedback / complaints from tourists. While GMVNL Guest houses can be booked online, online booking of bus tickets should also be started. In places where GMVNL does not have a guest house, it should book with reputed hotels / guest houses on behalf of tourists, instead of just referring them. Forest Rest Houses could also be booked by GMVNL on behalf of tourists, as direct booking is a cumbersome procedure. This will open a much wider and richer area for tourism.

Adventure tourism has a great potential in Uttarakhand. At present, it is very difficult for lay tourists to differentiate reliable operators from fly-by-night operators. A list of registered Adventure Tour Operators and their contact details should be available on the GMVNL website. This will serve as an incentive to operators to ensure minimum safety norms and enhance consumer confidence.

Finally, to enable the local youth in villages to gain more meaningful employment other than as porters or dish cleaners, outreach programs should be started to train them as Tourist Guides, with relevant local information. With a certificate in hand, with a hotel nearby and with the Tourism Police in vicinity, they will contribute much more to the economic development of Uttarakhand than building 5 star hotels in Dehra Dun.

Uttarakhand is second to none as far as natural beauty is concerned and it would be beneficial if we could attract well spending middle class tourists and foreigners to our State. Increase in the number of pilgrims should not lull us into complacency. We must empower the local population all over the State to benefit from tourism, only then will a new dawn break over Uttarakhand.

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From: Great news the assembly ecnltioes in the state are in the month of Jan last week perhaps 30 Jan 2012. so what you think about the next upcoming Government in Uttarakhand state. I think Congress will going to losse their some seats and BJP will also Loose,
Great news the assembly ecnltioes in the state are in the month of Jan last week perhaps 30 Jan 2012. so what you think about the next upcoming Government in Uttarakhand state. I think Congress will going to losse their some seats and BJP will also Loose, but In the state there is no one other big party so may be independent leaders can get benefited so keep watching and give your views on this election 2012

From: Bipin Chandra Pant
MERA ALMORA A major district in Uttaranchal, the identity of Almora is much more then just another tourist attraction. The place apart from its interesting geography also has a rich history and cultural heritage to boast of. A major district in the state of Uttaranchal, it is a busy township. At a height of 1638 metres and a moderate temperature, Almora rests among a picturesque setting. On a horse saddle shaped hillock, surrounded by thick forests of pine and fur trees, flowing alongside the city are rivers of Koshi and Suyal and to top it all are the snow capped Himalayas in the background. Adding to the colours of nature is the colourful culture of Almora, people with rosy cheeks dressed in colourful attires, all this adds to the charm of the town. The town unlike more developed Nainital and Mussoorie is quite virgin a land. The place is untouched by urbanisation and the people here have preserved their culture and tradition well. The roads and pavements are rather unplanned here but the beauty of the terraced fields and barrack like houses here and there can not be missed. Sightseeing: Govind Vallabh Pant Public Museum, Bright & Corner, Simtola, Khajanchi Mohalla, Tamta Mohalla, Collectorate,Martola ,Kosi etc. Pilgrimage:Nanda Devi temple,Chetai temple,Kalimath,Katarmal, Excursions:Jageshwar temple,Gannath,Bageshwar,Baijnath,Nainital,Ranikhet,Kausani,Binsar,Dhaulchena, Handicrafts: Pashmina shawls, woolen products like shawls, chutka, carpets and thulma are very popular here. One can also easily get products of ringal like musta and dalia. Apart from that in local art, you will get Kumaon Folk art, decorative candles, drift wood products like ekebanas, statues etc. Copper ware is also very famous here, the city's connection with coppersmiths dates centuries back. Kalmatia sangam almora is one such place where you can buy these products. Fairs and Festivals: Almora is a land of rich culture and tradition which has been well preserved and passed on from one generation to another. It is a land of fairs and festivals. Not a month passes without any fair or festival and people of Almora hold close to their hearts their religious values. Nanda Devi Festival is the most famous of all celebrated in the month of September. Celebrated with great joy here near Nanda Devi temple, a fair is also held during the same time. The magnitude of the festival can be realised by the fact that 25,000 people come to attend the festival. Another important festival celebrated around the place is Uttraini festival celebrated in January and a week long fair accompanies it. This is the most popular fair in the entire region. People from mountains and plains come here in this festival and fair organised in Bageshwar, 90 kms from Almora. Jageshwar monsoon festival is celebrated in the month of July and August. The festival is very significant from religious and historical point of view. Each day during the festival, approximately 1000 tourists pay visit to Jageshwar temple. Dushhera, the famous Hindu festival is another important festival here and is celebrated in a unique manner drawing large crowds from far and wide. Almora being so culturally active and rich has many many other fairs and festivals round the year. So next time you plan to go there have a look at the best Almora hotels accommodation. Fall in love with the city and its beauty and for more info about the city Almora map will help you. Also do not forget to capture the beauty of this place with Almora photos.

misbehaviour of photo-grapher are very important factor, controling on mis-bihave is very ncecssary in many times they quarrel with tourist which is very harmfull for tourism so u.K.GOVT should give attention on this fact.

From: avtarrawat
uttarakhand my janam bhumi,janambhumi swargadiupy

From: mukesh
sir i search pooblum of uttarakhand tourism i make project.

From: Medi Bhatt
Hello Friends my name Medi Bhatt. I am 27 Year's Old & My Motherland In Kedarnath Rudraprayag Uttrakhand. I Am a theater aartist, & singer. I am worked with Sonu Nigam Stage Show in Pared Graound Dehradun Uttrakhand. I Love My Uttrakhand. " Yen Dharti ma Yadi Kakhi Swarg Cha Ta u Mera Uttrakhand Ma Cha. Or Kakhi Ni.............. Plz send your opinion medibhatt007@gmail.com mob-919650281013

From: shailendrarawat

From: yogesh pandey
1. I am an Army officer with native place at Panyali,Ranikhet. I am presently at Kolkata and wants to take my family to Kumaoun hills to show them their roots and make them aware about our rich heritage. 2. I would be honoured if you could help me with list of govt guest houses at Nanital,Ranikhet,Kausani,Almora, Pithoragarh and Corbett national park.

From: yogesh pandey
1. I am an Army officer with native place at Panyali,Ranikhet. I am presently at Kolkata and wants to take my family to Kumaoun hills to show them their roots and make them aware about our rich heritage. 2. I would be honoured if you could help me with list of govt guest houses at Nanital,Ranikhet,Kausani,Almora, Pithoragarh and Corbett national park.

From: alexa
That is a wounderful information I got from your post. Really Uttaranchal is ideal destination for tourism. I serach over net an found an another good site related to Uttarakhand Tourism - http://www.myuttaranchal.com

From: Surendra Singh Rawat
Very good artical ya goverment should see why our tourisome is not improving keep it up hope we sill suceed Thanks and wish u Rawat from mumbai

From: saadia lodi
tourist inflow can also be increased if measures are taken to develop adventure tourism in UK

From: Jaswant
Personal attention to the foreign visitors will increase the tourism industry in uttrakhand. More the number of foreign tourists will increase tourism industry in uttrakhand. i am government officer, we have the duty structure of 24 hours of duty followed by 48 hours of rest. in spare time i want to personal attention to the foreign visitors. My number is 09917419444

From: Mangat Ram Vill. Syunsi (Pauri)
Hi Dr Nitin Pandey your suggestions is very good. Thanks

From: anil devli
very major concern how to attract tourist to uttrakhand. the problem can be solve , if government authorities do there duty properly, make right campaign policy, regarding this people should be aware. village tourism is a new good concept.

From: abhishek singh
plz send me reply for my uttarakhand form was accept or not

From: Pawan bohra
Good suggetions,but as u very well aware that how difficult for our governments to implement.i am from rajasthan and there is huge tourist inflow but still facilities are very poor.

From: maan singh Rawat
maan singh Rawat village- Ratkoti(PABBO) DIST- PURI GARHWAL (UTTARAKHAND)

From: bhupender

From: C.M.Joshi
Dear Dr. Saheb, Kudos to you. I am born and brought-up in Maharashtra, and living in a commercial hell called Mumbai, all my life.Every moment , I dream of the great Himalayas, and pray God that let a time come in my life, when I shall be permanently settled in "Dev Bhumi".I have seen and read almost all web-sites on Uttarakhand and am eagerly waiting to be over there, for a long spell.I have no words to appreciate your efforts.Unlike many others, who simply choose to curse everybody else, you have taken a concrete step of creating a web-site, and are painstakingly persuing it to create awareness and to help others in many possible ways.Me, for one, admire your patience and efforts, and would like to be in regular contact with you.I shall write to you separately, on your e-mail. I congratulate myself for having got a good friend. With best regards, Chandrakant Joshi. July 24, 2008.

From: Pankaj
Hi Your writings are very powerful. I am truly impressed with this side of you. I agree with some parts and not with some. Reminded me of the SJA days when you use to be the secretary of the school magazine. Be well. Say my hello to everyone. Cheers.