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What are the major guidelines and latest developments for the tourism sector in the fifth phase of Unlock?
UTDB is committed on the revival of tourism sector in the state and therefore in Unlock 5, the Uttarakhand government has removed all restrictions on the inter-state movement of persons/goods. Tourists/visitors can now enter the state after mandatory registration on the smart city portal [http://smartcitydehradun.uk.gov.in/] and can freely visit any public places without the need of being quarantined. The restrictions on the minimal stay/booking in hotels/homestays have also been removed by the state. In addition to above, the helicopter services for Chardhaam and the adventure activities like rafting in Rishikesh has also been opened up for the tourists.
We are fully committed towards the revival of the tourism business and working under the guidance of the MoHA for more relaxations in the months to come.
How long do you think is the road to recovery for tourism?
We have already set our journey towards recovery. With the restrictions being lifted for tourists to visit Uttarakhand, including the mandatory Covid negative report, business activities are gaining ground in the tourism sector. Uttarakhand is the obvious choice for many travel enthusiasts as our destinations pampers the mind, body and soul of all kind of visitors. Following the relaxations we have seen a huge upsurge in the number of tourists entering the state. The Hotels across major tourist destinations have received over 80% bookings following the relaxations. The Chardhaam yatra and Adventure tourism have also started picking up the pace. According to the recent data available to us, over 30,000 e-passes have already been issued for Chaardham Yatra from 13th to 31st October, and Rishikesh alone-recorded over 12,000 tourist’s inflow since Sep 26, following the reopening of the popular white water river rafting adventure activity.
Looking at the positive impact of the initiatives I am hopeful that very soon we should be able to bring back the normalcy in the tourism sector.
What role will tourism play in the economic recovery?
For Uttarakhand too, tourism is an important economic pillar for the state. Its development is no longer a choice or a luxury. The return of normalcy in tourism sector will have a direct impact over the economic recovery in the state and further in the creation of jobs.
What are the prerequisites for travellers willing to come to Uttarakhand?
With Unlock 5 we have removed all restrictions for the travellers. After registering themselves on the smart city portal [[http://smartcitydehradun.uk.gov.in/], the tourists are free to enter Uttarakhand and visit any public places.
Keeping social distancing in mind, what will be the top traveller-friendly destinations?
Uttarakhand is blessed with the rolling mist and towering deodars which has always attracted travellers and tourists from all over the world. The destinations like Munsiyari in Pithoragarh, Binsar in Almora, Mukteshwar and Pangot in Nainital etc., in Uttarakhand offer the best offbeat places that one can visit while still maintaining social distancing, thanks to the remoteness of these locations. The tourists can also choose from an array of homestays in these places, which are tailored to provide lodging facilities to the visitors, without the latter having to worry about the social distancing aspect. These homestays are located in isolated yet accessible areas, offering state-of-the-art facilities to the guests.
Are there any benefits for travellers choosing homestays over hotels?
Homestays in Uttarakhand offers the budget friendly accommodation amidst the mesmerizing view of forests, hill, meadows and starry night skies. Additionally, the immunity boosting and unadulterated delicacies, the off beat locations and outdoor activities such as hiking, trekking, bird watching etc., allow visitors to experience the ultimate cultural immersion. Some of our homestays also offer pet-friendly environment. Being located as the remote rural areas, Home Stays are an ideal destination to follow the social distancing norms during the Covid era. Tourists may choose the wide variety of Homestays from Ancient Havelis, heritage buildings, rural huts to modern abodes, located in different parts of the state.
What do you think the world of travel and tourism holds in the future, with respect to Uttarakhand?
The post-pandemic travel behaviour analysis has brought Health & Wellness and Rural tourism into the lime-light and we see a huge potential of these new segments of tourism in our state. We are working along with the relevant partners to explore the opportunities and develop the tourism-friendly ecosystem around these sectors. For instance, Uttarakhand is a repository of polyherbs, spices that are known for its therapeutic use and used by the Rishis and exponents of the Ayurveda for centuries. We are considering developing the State as a culinary tourism hub of ‘Himalayan Immunity Cuisine’ by combining the rich heritage of Kumaoni and Garhwali cuisines.
Similarly, the return of the migrants has breathed fresh life into many ghost villages across our borders, that are looking lively again as many have begun ploughing their fields. In the post-pandemic, we see it as an opportunity to give boost to the rural tourism. We are in discussion with the centre to lift the 'Inner Line Permit' in some areas of the hill state adjoining the border areas with an aim to develop areas for 'border tourism'. Additionally, we are making efforts to repopulate empty villages in border areas and have sanctioned Rs. 10 crores for developing necessary infrastructure. We also see a huge potential for Home Stays in the post-pandemic era. Understanding this trend, we recently introduced the ‘Trekking Traction Centre Homestay Grant Scheme’, which aims to build the associated infrastructure and provide necessary financial aid for the development and maintenance of Homestays in the villages, near the trekking traction centres of Uttarakhand leading to self-employment opportunities for the residents across villages.
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