LUCKNOW: The Uttar Pradesh government on Monday announced a new tourism policy to increase footfalls as well as investment in the state.
Talking to the media about the policy, state Tourism Minister Rita Bahuguna Joshi said both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath were focusing in a big way to make Uttar Pradesh the most preferred tourist destination in the country.
She said the government was aiming to encourage "at least four-five persons" from each of the 6.5 lakh villages in the country to come and participate in the Kumbh Mela at Allahabad in 2019.
"The Department of Tourism envisages an annual increase in the number of foreign tourists by 10 percent and domestic arrivals by 15 percent," the Minister stated.
The state government had also accorded tourism the status of an industry, she added and shared the investment opportunities, fiscal incentives and benefits offered by the government under the new tourism policy, on making investments within a 20-km radius of all tourist sites of the 10 tourist circuits in the state.
These circuits include the Ramayana circuit, the Braj circuit, the Buddhist circuit, wildlife and eco-tourism circuit, Bundelkhand circuit, Mahabharata circuit, Shakti Peeth circuit, Adhyatmik circuit, Sufi circuit and the Jain circuit.
Under the new policy, a "Bed and Breakfast" scheme has also been launched, which also includes Ashrams.
"The state government also aims at attracting investments worth Rs 5,000 crore every year in the tourism sector," the Minister announced and informed that 70 MoUs worth Rs 10,000 crore had already been inked in the run-up to the Investors Meet slated for Wednesday-Thursday.
"Under the new policy, through various incentives, the state government also aims to log 100,000 tourists annually to its national parks and wildlife sanctuaries other than converting 10 heritage buildings to heritage hotels every year," Principal Secretary (Tourism) Avaneesh Kumar Awasthi said.
Special focus was being given to creating land banks for tourism purposes, Joshi said while elaborating on how several acres of land was available with the Revenue and Irrigation Department and efforts were on to take them on a long-term lease and utilise them to increase tourist attractions in the state.
The state government is also offering 10 percent subsidy on sports and cruise, 20 percent on tentage facilities, 20 percent on small budget hotels, 15 percent on new resorts and 15 percent on wellness centres. The maximum subsidy of 25 per cent is being given for light and sound and laser shows.
The Minister also said that for the first time funds had been allocated for policy implementation.
"The Chief Minister has allocated Rs 70 crore for this in the first phase and has assured a total of Rs 1,000 crore in a phased manner for policy implementation."
Joshi pointed out that the budget for the Tourism Department had been more than doubled to Rs 687 crore compared to what it was in the Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party government.
She said that a pathway would be built for tourists coming to Agra so that the distance between the iconic Taj Mahal and the Red Fort could be covered easily.
The UP artisans had earned more than Rs 15 crore at the recently concluded Surajkund Mela in Haryana, the Minister added.
The state government, with a focus on providing more security to foreign tourists, has agreed to increase the present number of tourist police (150) to 650.
"The safety and security of all tourists to the state is sacrosanct for us and we will speed up the process of more tourist police," Joshi added.