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Could you please tell us about the response of tourists in the winter holiday season? How many tourists visited Rajasthan in the winter?
The year 2020 ended with a positive note in terms of tourism and high occupancy levels were registered in hotels across several cities. There were nearly a million tourists in the state during the winter season despite the New Year events were restricted due to COVID-19. The tourists were rather supportive of the measures being taken by the state government for safeguarding people from the pandemic, the tourists too were more disciplined and observed safe behaviour on monuments and public spots. The visitors too bid goodbye to 2020 differently and celebrated in small groups and secluded destinations.
Which were some of the destinations which received great tourist footfall?
While the state capital of Jaipur leads the most visited cities, the other major districts of Alwar, Udaipur, Sawai Madhopur, Mount Abu (Sirohi), Jodhpur and Jaisalmer too registered high tourist turnout.
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In December, Jaipur claimed nearly 75,000 in footfall at its popular tourist destinations, Udaipur was visited by more than 60,000 tourists, Jodhpur registered 48,425 visitors in December, another 11,281 had arrived in the city in first week of 2021. The hill station of Mt. Abu in Sirohi welcomed more than 41,000 visitors between December 25-31, and there were nearly 20,000 visitors in Alwar in the period.
Recently, a lot of celebrities and famous personalities visited Ranthambore for a tiger safari. Do you think wildlife tourism can help the tourism sector revive after a tough 2020.
Wildlife has been a major attraction among visitors and the new Tourism Policy 2020 also holds wildlife and eco tourism as a focus area under Experiential Tourism. The Rajasthan Tourism Department looks forward to work closely with the environment and other concerned departments to develop the sector.
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Rajasthan along with Ranthambore has tiger reserves at Sariska and Mukundra, the Kaeoladeo Bird Sanctuary in Bharatpur, Jorbeed in Bikaner where birds like Steppe Eagle, Griffon and Egyptian Vultures are abundant. There are several other sanctuaries and biological parks spread across the state. These while continue to draw wildlife enthusiasts, they are an added attraction for majority of tourists visiting nearby cities and monuments. Thus, these wildlife sanctuaries are expected to attribute in revival of tourism in post COVID time. Our concern is though not just to develop tourism business but also to promote responsible tourism and awareness towards environment conservation.
What are some of the travel trends that you have observed as far as tourists who visited and continue to visit Rajasthan are concerned?
The rich cultural and architectural heritage of Rajasthan has been a major attraction for most domestic and foreign tourists travelling to the state. There has been emergence of newer trends such as MICE tourism, Wedding Tourism, Craft and Cuisine Tourism, and Adventure Tourism. These emerging trends though have also been impacted by COVID pandemic and subsequent lockdown.
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After the pandemic, trends such as Weekend Getaway Tourism and Rajasthan by Road (Routes of Revival) are gaining pace. Every weekend, large number of tourists from neighbouring states visit Rajasthan for spending quality time with friends and family. During winters the warm weather and clear skies of Rajasthan have also attracted many on workation. The new tourism policy identifies and provisions for promotion of several such emerging trends and also to facilitate other emerging trends.
Has tourism in Rajasthan revived after the pandemic?
It has picked up, the inflow of visitors registered in the last month of 2020 has been promising, yet, a complete revival is still a far-off thing. Foreign tourists have been few due to restrictions on international travel. Our fairs and festivals are still on hold, this also limits spending opportunities for the visitors. Several services such as the luxury Palace on Wheels remain suspended. However, it is all in favour of a sustainable revival. As Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has stated on several occasions, saving life remains top priority and thus Tourism department too is more focus on ensuring ‘Safe Tourism’.
What are your plans to boost tourism in 2021? What can tourists expect this year?
Rajasthan has been the first of states to adopt a new tourism policy post COVID, thus the policy also reflects upon learnings from the pandemic. The policy lays out short and long term goals for promoting Rajasthan as a leading tourism brand in national and international markets.
In order to boost tourism in 2021, the department will be promoting tourism products, working towards collaborations with international travel and tourism organisations, there will be more stress on digital marketing to reach out to millennials. There will also be emergence of new destinations and products, especially in rural areas.
What are some of the travel trends that will dominate 2021?
Safe Tourism is likely to stay the most dominating trend in the contemporary times and near future. The pandemic has altered travel preference of people, they are more cautious of safety and safe behaviour during travel and on public places. Thus, as many people might still be wary towards public transport and longer journey, road tours in smaller groups are likely to remain popular during 2021. Rajasthan has several such routes that can offer travellers to safely explore the cultural and monumental heritage of the state. Thus, in 2021 tourism is expected to be driven by domestic tourists and safe behaviour.
What are the steps that Rajasthan Tourism is taking to get tourism back on its feet?
The pandemic affected the survival of numerous tourism units. CM Ashok Gehlot was also concerned about the wellbeing of those associated with the sector and extended financial relief from several fees and charges. Soon, as the lockdown got waived, the tourism department issued ‘Safety and Hygiene Guidelines for Tourism and Hospitality Sector’ thus enabling tourism units to open safely and without any conflict with the administrative measures being taken by the government to safeguard public from the infection.
The department also took note of the changing demands and promoted concept of ‘Short Stay, Safe Stay’, the campaign for Routes of Revival, a collaboration with UNESCO for development of intangible cultural heritage and other initiatives like short movies and videos to celibrate the local heritage and attract local tourist. The department is in process to strengthen the sector by improving skilling, infrastructure and policy.
Which are some of the destinations that tourists should look forward to visiting in 2021 for a unique and offbeat experience?
That is a tough decision to pick among the numerous destinations in Rajasthan, each of these have unique historical, cultural and ecological heritage to explore. Each of the fort and palace is unique in its architecture and legacy, so is the biodiversity. If Jaisalmer has desert dunes and golden fort, Sambhar has a salt lake, Bikaner while is famous for its spicy snacks, it is also a city with great palaces, havellis and Deshnok Temple which amazes people around the world due to large number of rats that are inmates to the temple.
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The district of Kota along with its historical monuments and places also has added new attractions like the Seven Wonders Park and Mukundra Tiger reserve. Sawai Madhopur while is more identified for the Ranthambore National Park, the grandeur of Ranthambore fort is also impressive, the district has attractions such as Hathi Bhata and also has a new Shilpgram that is living ethnographic museum of local arts.
A visit to the Rajasthan Tourism website shall help the aspiring tourist to pick the cities of interests.
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Do you think 2021 will be a better year in terms of tourism in Rajasthan?
We are optimistic on success of vaccination and resumption of international travel services. Thus 2021 is expected to be a year of revival and resurgence. It will also be a period where we expect emergence of new sustainable initiatives in the sector.
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