In recent times, Rajasthan has made rapid strides on tourism front and the Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation Ltd (RTDC) is committed to introduce many more pro-tourism sector initiatives that would be instrumental in boosting Rajasthan’s image as a tourism hotspot, says Kuldeep Ranka, Principal Secretary, Tourism, Forest and Environment, Art and Culture, Government of Rajasthan, in an exclusive interview with Kartik Sharma of Elets News Network (ENN).
Having recently joined the tourism department how has been your experience so far?
Tourism is an important sector not only for the State of Rajasthan but also of the entire country. The sector holds great significance since it provides employment to a large number of masses, both directly and indirectly. Rajasthan has always been one State which has attracted a large number of tourists for its rich culture, arts and history, monuments, deserts and sand dunes, forests including its wildlife, among other attractions. Each year, the State receives a large number of foreign contingents of tourists. In short, for every kind of target audience, there is something on offer here. The aggressive marketing strategy followed by the State has further bolstered the sector greatly.
Tourism is one of the major components of State’s GDP and economy do you think there is a need for more efforts to promote Rajasthan as a tourism hotspot? What initiatives your department is taking in this regard?
You are right. Apart from other important sectors of the economy, tourism is the backbone of the State. Further, in terms of its importance in providing huge direct and indirect employment, it rightly figures among the high priority segment for the State. So far, the tourism potential of the State has been tapped by various State agencies. In recent times, the State government has been focussing on renovation and providing world-class amenities at various museums spread across the State. Similarly, at the wildlife sanctuaries, such as at the tiger reserves, similar services are being extended. We believe such steps would further contribute towards attracting more tourists to the State.
Apart from this, we have also taken steps to organise various cultural activities throughout the year. For this, we have now drawn a calendar of events, festivals and fairs to be organised throughout the year. As part of this, we have also been focussing to showcase the lesser-known fairs and festivals of the State. In addition, RTDC has been also making efforts in providing budget hotels for tourists, and by running of two luxury trains, giving world-class experience to tourists coming to the State, I believe, we have further bolstered the image of the Rajasthan as a tourism hotspot. We have been also looking forward to showcase cultural events such as Udaipur Music Festival, storytelling festivals, Jaipur Literature Festival and various other such events that in recent times have caught the attention of world community. While we are making all-out efforts in this direction, our advertising and marketing efforts have reaped us great rewards so far.
Rajasthan’s ecotourism, especially its deserts are hugely popular among tourists. What specific steps taken have been undertaken for their promotion?
It is true that Rajasthan’s deserts have always been hugely popular among tourists. Therefore, besides, focusing on the promotion of State’s sand dunes, local flora and fauna, we are actively working on this front. Along with this, attractions such as Havelis of Jaisalmer and other similar havelis are also being promoted on similar lines. Additionally, the State government has been making efforts to develop desert circuit across the State. At present, our luxury tourist train – ‘Palace on Wheels’ also goes to all such desert regions, covering attractions such as the ‘Desert National Park’, and ‘Akal Wood Fossil Park’ (at Jaisalmer). The amenities around these attractions are also being made more tourist-friendly. Here, worth mentioning is the deployment of tourist-friendly police force at all such places. On similar lines, many such developments are being introduced elsewhere across the State and many more are in the pipeline too. Going forward, I am hopeful that the desert tourism in the State is set to grow manifold.
The concept of night tourism is one of the innovative steps that the State government has taken in a big way what other things are you doing to promote night tourism?
Certainly, in recent times, the concept of night tourism has gained immense popularity in the State. There are many tourists who like to visit various monuments in evening and various cultural performances at that time of the day. To cater to such a demand, we have partnered with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and, together have launched the ‘Jaipur by Nite’ concept. Under which, various cultural performances are organised in the evening. The concept has been very well received by tourists in the State.
Forests are also an important component that you are looking after, how are you going forward to promote forest tourism in the State?
Forest and wildlife have always been hugely popular with tourists. RTDC has been making all-out effort to further promote this segment by not just providing the best of amenities there, but by facilitating world-class wildlife sightseeing experiences in various wildlife sanctuaries spread across the State that include tiger habitats, birds’ sanctuaries, day safari such as Jhalana Leopard Safari etc. Similar steps are also being implemented at Udaipur and elsewhere.
Is more connectivity key to bring in increased number of tourists?
Yes, when it comes to tourism, connectivity is one of the most important aspects. I believe, connectivity to the State has improved over the years. Presently, the road connectivity to the State is fantastic and air connectivity has also improved in the recent times. In addition, rail services to the State have also been improved and are being strengthened further. To further boost tourism, ‘air taxis’ have now been introduced.
Technology intervention is very prominent in various sectors. How important do you think is its role in bolstering tourism sector in the State?
We all are aware that technology has today made the whole world a global village. Tourism is one sector which is one of the chief beneficiaries of the digital interventions taking place across sectors. Today, be it booking for a place or going to the place itself, technology has changed the whole process. We are aware of the latest developments in this field and employ the latest tools to promote tourism in the State. With regard to the tourism sector, there are various innovators with cutting-edge solutions that can be utilised for the welfare of the tourism sector.
How is government looking forward to collaborate with such players?
With regard to furthering innovation in the State, we have a very open policy under which, from time to time we interact with various stakeholders. They offer us invaluable feedback. We also get involved in various industry events and conferences – where the learning has always been mutual, and in the light of the feedback received, we further aim to improve upon our product offerings.