Shimla: A number of initiatives including a professional approach for promoting tourism over the last three years had resulted in a record number of tourists visiting Himachal Pradesh. The thrust enabled the state to secure Rs 104.70 central funding for various tourism related projects, chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal let the Vidhan Sabha know on Wednesday.
Responding to a debate on steps taken to promote tourism initiated by Govind Thakur, a BJP member, the chief minister said that against a tourist arrival of 19.42 lakhs in 1990, there were 1.32 crore tourists who visited the state in 2010, which included 4.54 lakh foreigners.
He said that tourism promotion books Har Ghar Kuch Kehta Hai about the heritage buildings of Shimla and Unforgettable Himachal had been widely acclaimed as unique ideas for promoting the state.
Among those who have appreciated the efforts is congress president Sonia Gandhi, said Dhumal and read out excerpts of a letter she had written to the chief minister about the two books.
To promote rural tourism, the department is cataloguing tales under Gaon Gaon Ki Kahani, and the whole sector has been linked to MNREGA by seeking funds and creating jobs to improve tourism infrastructure in rural areas.
In fact the Himachal has pioneered the idea of linking the rural employment scheme to tourism, he said.
To develop bigger airports, two places at Nadaun and Dhameta had been identified.
For development of wayside amenities, central government had released Rs 15 crore. In three years, 2008-09, 2009-10 and 2010-11, the central government had given Rs 104.70 crore for various tourism related projects, he said.
Tourism would also get a boost from the Asian Development Bank funded $ 95.16 million project. From these funds about Rs 60 crore would be spent to develop Pong Dam wetlands, which included setting up bird watching towers.
In 2010-11, the department had registered 300 new hotels and also collected Rs 37.42 lakhs as fines imposed on hotels not adhering to standards.
The chief minister said that a Rs 12 crore Hotel management institute was coming up in Hamirpur and a Rs 5 crore food craft institute in Dharamshala. Keeping the tourism importance of Kullu-Manali, the central government would be approached for setting un an hotel management institute in the circuit, he said.