Uttarakhand, traditionally known for its religious places and spiritual tourism, is now aiming to become an adventure tourism hot spot.
The state is, slowly yet steadily, going ahead with achieving the aim. The state which has six national parks and six wild animal reserves, is developing 110 trekking stretches which will cover a major chunk of the Himalayan mountain range in the state.
The state is also planning to increase river rafting in the state. Adventure tourism is basically aimed at attract more foreign tourists to the state. The only hindrance to the growth plans is the lack of connectivity and infrastructure. The state has also charted out a plan to overcome this. Uttarakhand will soon have an air taxi service in the state if all goes as planned.
Prakash Pant, the minister of state, Tourism and Culture, Uttarakhand, told Business Standard, "We are developing 110 trekking stretches along the mountain range and many of them will also pass some national parks and reserves. We will have guided trekking tours there. The idea is to tap more foreign tourists to the state."
The number of tourists have increased ever since the state was carved out in 2000. The number of tourists in the 2000 was 1.11 crore (11.1 million) which increased to 1.94 crore (19.4 million) in 2006. The number of foreign tourists also increased to 94,000 from 54,000 in 2000. However, the number of foreign tourists against the domestic tourists is quite small.
The domestic tourists visit the state because of the religious places like Badrinath-Kedarnath, Gangotri-Yamunotri, Kumbhkshetra Haridwar, Hrishikesh, Hemkund Sahib, Piran Klear as well as annual pilgrimage like Kailash Mansarovar yatra and Nandadevi yatra. However, for foreign tourists there were not enough attractions to visit the state besides its natural beauty till now.
"With this additions of adventure sports and the concept of adventure tourism we will be able to tap 15 per cent of growth every year in foreign tourists arrivals," Pant said.
To overcome the major hindrance, a lack of sufficient connectivity and infrastructure, the state is planning to expand both existing airports in the state. Three air strips in the state are being renovated to facilitate the landing 45-seater planes.
Moreover, the state will also have an air-taxi service in place within a year's time.
"We have decided to start air-taxi service in the state for the benefit of tourists. If all goes as planned the service will be functional within a year. It will be a public-private partnership project and we are deciding on the private firms," Pant added.
Uttarakhand tourism ministry is also looking at earning revenues by leasing out land to hospitality firms for setting up luxury hotels. Recently the ministry leased out 10 acres to a hospitality major to set up a five-star hotel for 30 years. In return, the company will pay Uttarakhand around Rs 7 crore (Rs 70 million) per annum.