In recent years, Punjab Heritage Tourism Promotion Board (PHTPB) has constructed a memorial for freedom fighters— Jung-E-Azadi, situated in Kartarpur near Jalandhar. Besides this, there is a memorial called Border Memorial near Attari, Amritsar, says Basanta Rajkumar, Executive Director, (PHTPB), in conversation with Priya Yadav of Elets News Network (ENN).
“Punjab has two gateways – Eastern and Western gateway. Eastern gateway is Chandigarh and western gateway is Amritsar. Hence, we are developing these two cities with tourism perspective.”
What projects are you working on and how are you leveraging the high footfalls of Darbar Sahib, popularly known as the Golden Temple, for these projects?
The main aim of the tourism department is to increase the visitors’ footfall. We want to increase the number of people visiting our tourist sites. Secondly, we want people to extend their vacation in Punjab so that they spend more money here. We plan to uplift the economic condition of local people.
Being the Tourism and Heritage Board of Punjab, we also want to preserve and promote our heritage. People on vacation do not want to visit malls. They want to visit or buy things which are unique to that particular place. That unique item is part of the cultural heritage of that area. Even crafts whether performing or non-performing is part of the heritage in Punjab like Phulkari, Jooti, are quite popular with tourists. We are trying to preserve a lot of these arts.
The once popular cuisines of Punjab are on the verge of extinction. Although ‘Sarson ka Saag’ and ‘Makki ki Roti’ is still popular, still due to neglection, many things are getting lost. To revive tourism, we can take citizens’ concept and ideas and make them a reality.
What initiatives are you taking to preserve the long lost culture of Punjab? Hari Vallabh Festival of classical music is the oldest music festival which happens in Jalandhar every year. It is more than 150 years old which is being organised by a private organisation situated in Jalandhar’s Manzil area. We identify artists who are well established in their respective field and also provide opportunity to young upcoming artists. The aim is to preserve the musical heritage. We are organising sufism festival in Amritsar. Sufism is related to times when Punjab was undivided. Saints hailing from Punjab are related to music. The festival serves as a source of inspiration for youngsters people and has undergone drastic change over the years. From a single day, it has become three-four days event where dance and music performances are done in the evening.
In the morning, a carnival starts where arts and crafts of Punjab are exhibited. We are also trying to develop those areas which are of great importance but have remained neglected due to one reason or the other..
Initiatives for the Promotion of Tourism
- GIS Mapping for Jalandhar and Ludhiana.
- Tie up with travel agents and tourism promotion agencies under PPP to facilitate tourists.
- Creation of more interactive website.
- Upgradation of State Museums and making them more interactive.
- Training of the officials for changing technology.
- Website Development and social media platform
- Reservations and customer relations for accommodation establishments like home stay, farm stay and tented accommodation.
- Online marketing of rural tourism
- Online and off line training of targeted tour operators in core market.
- Online marketing of Crafts of Punjab through created self-help groups.
- Digitisation and Documentation of artefacts of museums other than State Museums.
- Making the tourist sites differently-abled friendly.
- Smart signages in keeping with Internationally accepted norms.
Do you have any specific plan to develop Chandigarh and Amritsar as tourist cities?
Punjab has two gateways — Eastern and Western gateway. Eastern gateway is Chandigarh and western gateway is Amritsar. They are crucial for the arrival of foreign travellers as well. Hence, we are developing these two cities with tourism perspective.
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