Prayagraj, Chitrakoot, and Gwalior are among the cities identified in 15 States across the country to be promoted as part of India’s new domestic tourism policy which moves away from theme-based tourist circuits and focuses on revving up destination tourism.
The initiative is being taken as part of the first phase of the ‘Swadesh Darshan 2’ which will be kicked off from January.
Fifteen States are part of the first phase which include Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, and Maharashtra. Two destinations from each State have been identified, sources in the Ministry of Tourism told The Hindu.
Some of the prominent places identified are Jhansi and Prayagraj in Uttar Pradesh, Gwalior, Chitrakoot and Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh and Ajanta and Ellora in Maharashtra.
The sources said that the destinations had been zeroed in on after consultations with the State Tourism Departments, and the Centre was now waiting for approval from Tourism Minister G. Kishan Reddy. The Swadesh Darshan scheme is 100% centrally funded.
The government recently revamped the scheme as Swadesh Darshan 2.0 (SD2.0) to develop sustainable and responsible destinations with tourist and destination centric approach.
‘Vocal for local’
The scheme has been revamped with the mantra of “vocal for local”, a top official of the Tourism Ministry told The Hindu adding that the scheme was essentially aimed at targeting domestic tourists.
According to the Ministry, domestic tourist visits in 2021 were around 677 million and in 2022 (data available till date) is 572 million.
The Swadesh Darshan Scheme was launched by the Centre in 2014-15 for the integrated development of theme-based tourist circuits. Under the scheme, the Ministry of Tourism provides financial assistance to State governments, Union Territory Administrations or Central Agencies for development of tourism infrastructure in the country.
The scheme was envisioned to synergise with other government schemes such as Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Skill India, and Make in India with the idea of positioning the tourism sector as a major engine for job creation, driving force for economic growth, building synergy with various sectors to enable tourism to realise its potential.
Some of the prominent circuits launched under this were the Buddhist tourist circle, Ambedkar Tourist Circle and the North-East Tourist Circle.
Part 1 of Swadesh Darshan I had faced some criticism mainly pertaining to “resources being spread thin due to the many destinations being covered and too many stakeholders being involved”.
“Out of the 76 projects sanctioned under the scheme, 52 have been completed. We would complete all projects and close the scheme by December,” he said.
From December, the revamped scheme would be launched which seeks to enhance the contribution of tourism to local economies. “To create jobs including self-employment for local communities, to enhance the skills of local youth in tourism and hospitality, to increase private sector investment in tourism and hospitality and to preserve and enhance local cultural and natural resources,” the vision document said.
According to the third Tourism Satellite Account for 2017-18, 2018-19, and 2019-20, the contribution of tourism to the employment of the country is 14.78%, 14.87 % and 15.34 % respectively.
The total jobs generated by the by tourism are 72.69 million (2017-18), 75.85 million (2018-19) and 79.86 million (2019-20).
President of Indian Association of Tour Operators Rajiv Mehra told The Hindu: “This is a very positive step as it has made State government as well as the local government as stakeholders. Local community would immensely benefit as It would help create jobs and that would lead to skill development among the natives. All in all, this shall directly boost the economy of the region. Further destination division as adventure tourism, beach tourism, wellness tourism, cco-tourism and several other categories would help segregate the tourists as per their preference”.