Far from the madding crowds are several destinations in the country that are equally, if not more, enthralling, but are still not on the tourist map. A Ficci-EY knowledge paper explores why is that and how it can be changed
Interventions needed to boost tourism
Marquee events/festivals: Theme-based events such as a global race, trek or excursion can be organised, like a camel race on the lines of the Boat Race Festival in the Rann of Kutch and Rajasthan. These should be global events held over several days to attract tourists.
Theme-based activities: Options of diverse activities make tourists stay at a place for longer. Sporting activities could be promoted based on the nature of each location. For instance, a good mix of water sports could turn Diu (as also Goa) into a destination sought after by younger tourists.
Basic tourist facilities: Some of these locations lack basic tourist facilities such as security, guided tours, clean and accessible toilets and easy access for differently-abled persons.
Heritage and nature: Tourism should be promoted in an ecologically sensitive manner. For instance, preservation of the Elephanta Caves and the ruins in Hampi should be ongoing to ensure they remain as close to their original state as possible.
Tourism policy: A dedicated state tourism policy is needed that includes focus areas and specific plans.
Brand ambassadors: Some states such as Gujarat (Amitabh Bachchan) and Kolkata (Shah Rukh Khan) have involved leading Bollywood stars as brand ambassadors to promote tourism. This should be replicated.
Social media: It is important to provide accurate information easily accessible through various media, and for this a good website with full information on tourist issues is a must.
Located in Tamil Nadu, 10 km north of Puducherry, it was conceptualised as an ideal township dedicated to the unity of humanity as a project of the Sri Aurobindo society.
Has a Matrimandir in the centre of the town, which is a domed amphitheatre with the Urn of Human Unity containing soil from 121 countries and 23 Indian states. Covered with 56 kg of gold, the centre of the dome holds a crystal ball that glows with a single ray of sunlight.
But needs more luxury accommodation options for tourists, restaurants serving multi-cultural cuisine, eco-friendly conveyance within the city and nearby areas.
Located in West Bengal, it has the largest single block of tidal halophytic mangrove forests in the world. The Sundarbans delta was formed by the super confluence of the Ganges, Padma, Brahmaputra and
Has the Sundarbans National Park, a tiger reserve and a biosphere reserve. It is
home to a myriad variety of trees, reptiles and crocodiles.
But needs more cruises/boats from Kolkata (the booking for these should also be available online), wildlife specialist tours for enthusiasts, adventure sports, camping and bonfire arrangements.
Located in northern Jammu & Kashmir, the Gurez or Gurais valley is situated at about 8,000 ft (2,400 m) above sea level.
Has natural beauty, as it is surrounded by snowcapped mountains. The Kishenganga river flows through the valley, adding to its picturesque beauty. The most famous peak in the valley, shaped like a pyramid, is the Habba Khatoon.
But needs improved road connectivity, provision of basic accommodation facilities, packages for organised treks.
Located in Madhya Pradesh, the town’s spiritual legacy dates back to the period of the Ramayana.
Has attractions like Ram Ghat on the banks of Mandakini river, Gupt Godavari Caves, Hanuman Dhara temple, Bharat Milap temple, among others.
But needs eco-friendly conveyance, specialised heritage tours with knowledgeable guides, luxury hotels and cottages, restaurants serving authentic local cuisine.
- DESERT CAMPS OF RAJASTHAN
Located in Jaisalmer, Jodhpur and Bikaner, which have large stretches of desert.
Have fully-equipped tented accommodation with food and toilet facilities, and electricity. A single-night stay package includes exclusive deluxe camel safaris, desert jeep safaris, folk music and dance performances at night, camp fires, etc.
But need smart toilets with bio-digesting facilities, special desert tours for enthusiasts, luxury camps, adventure sports such as para sailing and desert skiing.
Located in northern Karnataka, the village—13 km from the town of Hospet—is a place of religious and architectural significance.
Has Virupaksha Temple, which is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Its history can be traced back to the 7th century. Other famous temples include Vittala Temple, Hazara Rama Temple, among others.
But needs eco-friendly conveyance to and from Hospet, specialist heritage tours, joint tours and activities, tourist support services such as signage and interpretation centres, parking facilities and easy access for differently-abled persons.
Located off the southern coast of Gujarat, Diu is part of the union territory of Daman and Diu.
Has Diu Fort, built in 1535 and overlooking the Arabian Sea; Fortress of Panikota, a stone structure built in the sea with a lighthouse and a chapel; Diu Museum, converted from St Thomas Church, which has antique carvings, statues and other artefacts.
But needs better maintenance of beaches with an enhanced focus on cleanliness and facilities such as restrooms, maintenance of Diu Fort, improved connectivity, development of public transport, development and promotion of
water sports facilities at lesser-known beaches.
- GREAT RANN OF KUTCH
Located in the Thar desert in Gujarat, it is a seasonal salt marsh. Apart from being the largest salt desert in the world, what makes Kutch the most interesting is the endless desert on one side and the sea on the other.
Has a large variety of birds, such as flamingos and larks, which flock in the migratory season. It is the refuge of the last endangered Asiatic wild asses as well.
But needs installation of bio-digesting toilets and/or other non-networked toilets across the Rann, especially in winters, enhanced medical facilities, special luxury cottages, annual camel races, adventure sports such as desert racing, water sports, etc.
- DUDHWA NATIONAL PARK
Located in Lakhimpur-Kheri district of Uttar Pradesh.
Has the most endangered ecosystems on the planet. These include Sal forests, grasslands and swamps. Apart from being home to a sizeable number of tigers, it is the last refuge of a critically endangered sub-species of the swamp deer known as the Barasingha.
But needs medical facilities, wildlife specialist tours, adventure sports such as river safaris and mountaineering, special luxury cottages.
- ELEPHANTA CAVES
Located on Elephanta Island, also known as Gharapuri, 10 km to the east of Mumbai.
Have beautiful stone carvings of Hindu gods and goddesses. On the eastern part of the island is the Stupa Hill, where Buddhist caves are located.
But need medical facilities, improved power supply, basic and recreational facilities, security arrangements, maintenance, including cleanliness in and around the caves, enhanced connectivity by high-speed boats to cut down the number of hours taken to reach
Located in the river Brahmaputra in Assam. The largest river island in the Indian subcontinent, it was formed due to the river Brahmaputra and its tributaries changing course.
Has natural beauty and is home to many different kinds of plants and animals. It also hosts many birds such as the Siberian Crane, the Greater Adjutant Stork, the Pelican and the Whistling Teal.
But needs improved connectivity by boats, ferries, etc, medical facilities on the island, promotion of the island’s culture and local traditions, including its tribal culture, handlooms, boat-making craft, etc.
- LAHAUL & SPITI
Located in Himachal Pradesh.
Has beautiful scenery and Buddhist monasteries. Places to visit are Pattan Valley, Kunzum Pass and Rohtang Pass. Famous Buddhist monasteries include Key Monastery and Tabo Monastery.
But needs heritage tours with knowledgeable guides, environment-friendly luxury hotels and cottages near or in town, skiing festivals/competitions.
Source: ‘Unexplored Tourism Destinations of India’, a knowledge paper by Ficci and Ernst & Young