"Punjab is all agriculture (sarson ka saag) and no culture" goes an old saying. All set to prove the maxim wrong, the Punjab government has embarked on an ambitious plan to showcase its rich culture and heritage to the world and woo the non-resident Indians to visit places of various historical importance.
From organising road shows in the United States to holding heritage festivals in various cities of Punjab, the government is doing it all, with an aim to make tourism as one of its resource earners in future, state government officials say.
Heritage tourism is infact the new buzzword and the Punjab government has identified tourism as the third most important sector after agriculture and manufacturing. However, because of resource crunch, the government is implementing its tourism policies in collaboration with the private sector, says Romila Dubey, principal secretary, cultural affairs and tourism.
"Punjab has always been a centre of religious tourism because of the presence of large number of temples and Gurudwaras in the state, which also have historical importance. However, we now plan to shift the thrust of culture, heritage and music legacy," says Dubey.
As a first step, the focus would be on domestic tourism for which the policy attempts to concentrate on places of pilgrimage, eco tourism, recreational facilities, heritage sites, rural and farm tourism, sports and adventure tourism, the tourism official says.
The Golden Temple has been recommended to UNESCO for world heritage monument status. Attracting NRI investment would be one of the major focus areas in attempts to promote international tourism.
We started in a modest way last year and the heritage festival at Patiala was a major hit," says Dubey, noting besides showcasing its culture, race courses, mini ropeways, golf course are also coming up with the help of private participation.
"Punjabi diaspora is spread all over the world and the second generation has not even seen their heritage...the main thrust of our new tourism policy is to lure them and show them their culture," Punjab government officials say.
The government is also taking interest in lot of old properties and trying to renovate them with the help of INTACH. But the main problem is of resource crunch; to overcome which we are approaching private parties and also conducting road shows abroad, they say.
The state culture and tourism department has also made documentaries on the potential of the state and tenders have been invited to divest 18 tourism complexes, officials say.
The government also plans to organise heritage festivals in the districts of Kapurthala, Amritsar and Patiala to tap the inherent tourism potential there.
Kapurthala was a natural choice to kick off these festivals as it has a number of heritage sites to boast of. These sites include the Royal Palace and the world-renowned Moorish mosque.
"These festivals are an ideal opportunity to start a movement of cultural renaissance in Punjab. It is still within our bounds to restore the cultural and heritage resources of erstwhile princely states."
They would also set the tone for much needed activism and local initiatives for restoring and conserving the heritage of Kapurthala, government officials say.