A new tourism policy will serve as an umbrella for the development of Punjab which will also provide long term sustainable development, says Dr Mahesh Verma, Consultant, United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), in conversation with Priya Yadav of Elets News Network (ENN).
“A new policy will serve as an umbrella for the development of the region in terms of tourism which will also provide long term sustainable development. We are going to provide assistance to the State for long term sustainability in tourism.”
GIve us a brief about UNWTO.
The United Nations World Tourism Organisation is a special entity of the United Nations (UN) for the development and promotion of tourism at a global level. On the lines of UNICEF and WHO, we are also a specialised agency of the UN. Development of tourism across the globe is our main mandate.
How is UNWTO helping the Punjab Government in revival of tourism in the State?
We entered into an agreement with the Government of Punjab under which we constituted a tourism development masterplan to guide the promotion of tourism across the State. The masterplan was made for a period of 16 years. In the next stage, the State Government came to the conclusion that UNWTO still needs to hold their hand to drive the implementation of the major recommendations of the masterplan. So we continued our association and entered into various implementation phases of the project.
We have submitted a proposal to the State Government which focuses on five major elements to draft the tourism policy in the State. Over the last 8-9 years, scenario has changed both at the local and the global level. And the State needs new aims and objectives as well as the guidelines for the revival of tourism. A new policy will serve as an umbrella for the development of the region in terms of tourism which will also provide long term sustainable development.
We are going to provide assistance to the State for long term sustainability in tourism.
What are your plans to develop tourism in Punjab?
If you look at the structure of tourism in Punjab, no tourism destination has been developed for the past few years. As a result, destinations which were formulated many years ago are still being used. We think that Punjab still has a lot to offer in different forms of tourism. Therefore Government wants help from us for the development and bifurcation of the tourism plan so as to develop new attractions at the destinations which already exist.
After the proposal gets approved, we are going to carry out a ground survey on what are the options available and make an inventory of the monetary assessment of the project.
Some of the destinations are highly local by nature which serves purpose only for the domestic tourists. International tourists will not be attracted to these places. We have formulated three categories for tourist destinations. First is primary product which are essential tourist destinations which need to be developed. Secondary products are destinations which are desirable. Tertiary products are the ones which consume a lot of time to visit and can be accomodated only if time is left with the tourists. They are minor attractions.
Tourist guides provide assistance, information on cultural, historical and contemporary heritage to people. Is UNWTO providing any kind of training to them?
We have conducted several programmes to train tourist guides all over the State. They are taught history, geography and culture of the historic monuments. We also teach them about their mannerism, eye contact, how facts should be presented to the tourists, why history should not be distorted and why sensationalism of the historic monuments should not be done. If the passport of a tourist is stolen or misplaced, a guide should know how to do and what to do. There is still a lot which needs to be done. So we are going to further conduct ‘guide training’ courses in a selective mode and we hope to train a number of guides and give them proper accreditation to provide better facilities to the tourists. These initiatives will bring quality to the guide services.
What kind of awareness programmes are being run to promote tourism in the State?
There is very little awareness about tourism and its benefits. People in rural areas are completely unaware of tourism. They don’t know the social benefits of tourism. In my view, localites can be involved in making small and medium scale enterprises which can provide better amenities to the tourists.
During the earlier phases of the project, we conducted several programmes for awareness in schools and colleges. We plan to conduct more programmes so that young minds can be trained in what tourism is all about and how it can benefit them and enhance their lifestyle.
Punjab has so far not been able to make a mark of its tourist destinations both in international and domestic market. There is very little awareness about Punjab except Amritsar. We are trying to build more tourism based market areas and marketing campaigns to increase the visitors’ footfall in the State.