Rajasthan: Flaunting camels, palaces and forts is no more the charm offensive for Rajasthan. Not one of the six new advertisements put out by Rajasthan Tourism has a camel in it. At the most, you might get a glimmer of a turban-clad man. Shot in a slick drone-eye-view format, the quirky promotional ads made by Nirvana Films cleverly focuses on the serendipitous discoveries that tourists are likely to chance upon in the land of the Great Indian Desert.
The campaign slogan is a wacky play on this idea: “Jane kya dikh jaye” (Who knows what one might see). The new tagline, which gives thrust on new offerings like ecotourism, desert tourism and tribal tourism, highlights lesser-known and newer destinations like Jhalawar, Karauli, Bharatpur, Alwar, Sawai Madhopur and the like.
The ‘Vision 2020’ initiated by the Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje targets five crore tourist footfalls in the State by 2020, and today Rajasthan is on a robust growth trajectory with the State allocating large tranche of funds in the Budget for the past few years.
Bidding adieu to hackneyed tourism pitches, Rajasthan has hopped on the bandwagon of quirky advertising campaigns to promote its lesser-known tourism offerings like ecotourism, desert adventures and the rustic lure of its tribal hinterlands. Its new charm offensive has already started to pay off as the state has been recording an envious inflow of tourist arrivals. It’s the beginning of the alchemy of the land of the Great Indian Desert!
The State has recorded close to 47 million tourist arrivals in 2017 itself, and with new initiatives and continued marketing campaigns, Rajasthan is set to achieve the set goal and even outperform its own predicted numbers. A new strategy document called ‘Vision 2025’ is being drawn up to double the current number of tourist arrivals by 2023 – a target of 100 million tourists. More budgetary allocation is also expected to fuel this mission.
Currently, tourism contributes 15 per cent of the State’s GDP. Tourism, including all ancillary services, is the largest employer in Rajasthan. Bhim Singh, Chairman, IATO Rajasthan Chapter and President of FHTR (Federation of Hospitality and Tourism Rajasthan), says, “We (FHTR) are organising the maiden edition of Rajasthan Domestic Travel Mart in July to bring together 200 buyers from across India and 250 sellers from Rajasthan to boost our tourism receipts. We will host the buyers so they get to experience new circuits like ecotourism, desert tourism and tribal tourism.”
The Government of Rajasthan’s cleanliness drive, which was launched in Jaipur, is a great initiative. This has now been expanded to other destinations. Also, the painting and lighting up of key monuments are making the sites more attractive and tourism friendly.
In 2015, before the Resurgent Rajasthan Partnership Summit, the Chief Minister had stated while launching a new tourism campaign: “Tourism is the world’s biggest industry and Rajasthan with its rich heritage is poised to fully exploit the opportunities the State offers. Tourism has a multiplier effect by way of creating direct and indirect jobs, which improves the economic status of people across the State. Our plan is nested within the broader Rajasthan Model of Development, which has three pillars – job creation, social justice and effective governance.”
Krishnendra Kaur, Minister of Tourism, adds, “The Department of Tourism is developing new circuits and experiences in the State with stress on activities other than forts and palaces which is synonymous with Rajasthan. The good thing is that our road connectivity is the best in India. Rail connectivity is also well established. Now, we are launching hotels, restaurants and camping sites in these new destinations.”
The Minister said, “We have kick started a campaign called Rajasthan Tourism 3.0. Rajasthan Tourism 1.0 of the 80s was about our landscape, the terrain, and the adventures immortalised by legendary filmmaker Satyajit Ray on celluloid. The 90s saw Rajasthan Tourism 2.0, with a forward looking vision, which included our heritage properties. With Rajasthan Tourism 3.0, the CM envisions to implement an integrated plan that revolves around experience, infrastructure, cleanliness, security and marketing.”
Ahead of the Resurgent Rajasthan Partnership Summit held in November 2015 in Jaipur, the CM had launched a Tourism Unit Policy which attempted to remove hurdles in setting up hospitality units, especially in rural areas. The State also inked 139 MoUs with an estimated investment of Rs. 6277 crore in the hospitality sector alone.
These projects are now under various stages of development and expected to provide employment to about 20,000 youth. The Tourism Unit Policy has defined tourism units comprehensively, which includes hotels, motels, heritage hotel, budget hotels, restaurants, camping site, MICE/convention centre, sports resort, resort, health resort, amusement parks, animal safari park, ropeways, tourist luxury coach, caravan and cruise tourism.
Another major highlight of the policy is the free-of-cost conversion of land in urban and rural areas for new tourism units. Under the policy, no development charges would be levied in urban areas. The policy has induced fresh investments. Nearly 1500 tourism unit projects were approved by DoT worth Rs.12,264 crore during the operating period of Tourism Unit Policy 2007 from 2007 to 2015.
Rajasthan 4.0 Getting Ready
A new State Tourism Policy document is at an advanced stage of development and review in consultation with all relevant stakeholders. The new policy will have attractive tax concessions, online single window clearance and specific benefits for investors and entrepreneurs focussing on film tourism, religious tourism, MICE, ecotourism and tribal tourism.
The Central Government has allocated funds for tourism circuits in Rajasthan like Pushkar (Rs. 40 crore), Sambhar (Rs. 63 crore), Heritage (Rs. 100 crore), Spiritual (Rs. 93 crore) and Krishna (Rs. 91 crore).
Pradeep Kumar Borar, Special Secretary and Director (Tourism), Government of Rajasthan, says, “The Government of India has been extremely supportive of Rajasthan’s vision for tourism by approving funds for five projects under the Swadesh Darshan Scheme. Around Rs. 400-crore worth of projects have already been approved and we are undertaking various activities ranging from conservation and restoration works to creating tourism-friendly infrastructure at these places.”
“Rajasthan has many forts and palaces and historical sites that need constant upkeep. Hence, a lot of investment goes in that direction to ensure timely maintenance. We are also spending on areas like toilets, seating, food and beverage outlets, landscaping, signage etc.”
In a bid to add depth and diversity to its tourism products, the State Tourism Department has sent three new proposals to the Central Government under the Swadesh Darshan Scheme for developing tourist circuits that would require investments of close to Rs. 300 crore.
The proposals sought to create new opportunities in ecotourism, tribal tourism and desert tourism and enlisted development of various infrastructure works that can enhance tourist appeal in the locations and improve the quality of experience of the visitors. “We are trying to spread the tourism sector’s scope in backward areas like Banswara, Dungarpur, Sirohi and Pratapgarh by promoting tribal tourism.”
The ‘UDAN’ regional air connectivity scheme has improved intra air connectivity of Jaipur with Jodhpur, Jaisalmer and Bikaner. Flights from Tier-II and Tier-III cities like Varanasi, Lucknow, Guwahati, Chandigarh, Surat, and Indore are now operational, thanks to the UDAN scheme that promotes air travel beyond the metros and leading cities in the country.
“UDAN has been very beneficial for Rajasthan. And it can do wonders for us. I say this because it’s still in its early days. Udan addresses the regional connectivity issues especially for non-metro cities,” Bhim Singh said. Aircraft movement has grown 35 per cent in Jaipur, 25 per cent in Jodhpur and 20 per cent in Udaipur, and similarly, the volume of air passenger traffic has expanded by 31 per cent in Jaipur and 54 per cent in Udaipur airports.
Today, Jaipur International Airport operates 70 flights daily compared to 38 in 2015. This shows the soaring demand for air travel, which is a key indicator for growth in tourism. Recently, international carriers like AirAsia and AirAsia X have started direct flights between Jaipur and South East Asian countries. Sharjah, Dubai, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore are now connected to Jaipur by air. This is paying off hugely in providing a tailwind to tourism in Rajasthan.
“Key schedules like Jaipur to Goa, Jaipur to Kochi, Jaipur to Ajmer and Jodhpur to Udaipur are yet to become functional. Currently, GCC and SEA airlines are flying into Jaipur. If a Western European carrier like British Airways or Lufthansa can fly into Jaipur, it will not only offer a fillip to Rajasthan Tourism but also decongest Delhi International Airport.”
The buoyancy in both the key sectors is well reflected in the number of tourist arrivals in the State, which has increased by 17.5 per cent in 2016 and 10.5 per cent in 2017. A project to develop the Amer Fort and Nahargarh Fort on PPP (public-private partnership) model is in the pipeline.
“The government is yet to take a final call on this. However, there are already a few joint PPP initiatives with not-for-profit Saat Saath Arts like the Jaipur Wax Museum, Sculpture Park and an F&B outlet are running successfully. These are undertaken in association with the Department of Archaeology and Museums, the real custodian of the forts,” said the Tourism Minister.
Foreign Tourist Arrivals (FTAs) to the State are showing signs of increase in the past three years. Of the 475.27 lakh tourists who came to the state in 2017, 16.10 lakh were foreign tourists, while the remaining 459.17 lakh were Indian tourists. This figure has also seen a jump in 2017 as in 2016. The number of foreign tourists coming to the State is pegged at 15.14 lakh compared to 14.75 lakh in 2015.
“We are ranked sixth in FTAs (as on 2016). The top rankers are Delhi, Maharashtra, UP, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. They are either the metro cities (first port of call) or have a monument of international repute like the Taj Mahal or rely on religious tourism. Rajasthan is a real winner as we do not have any such advantages. It is on the sheer brilliance of our tourism experiences and campaigns that we are able to attract FTAs. Also, the gap between the fifth and sixth positions is merely 15000 tourists,” said the Tourism Director.
“We have aggressive global marketing campaigns round-the-year to attract FTAs. Our campaigns are focussed on key source markets like Europe, Middle East, South East Asia and North America.” Last year, Rajasthan participated at IFTM (International French Travel Mart) Top Reza, ITB Asia, WTM, FiTUR and ITB Berlin. In 2018, the State is all geared up to take part in JATA Tourism Expo, Japan, and Pure Life Experiences, Marrakech.
Adventure Tourism Offerings
- Paragliding: For those of you who are looking for some thrilling parasailing in Jaisalmer, then the deserts are the place to start
- Hot Air Balloon Rides: When it comes to exploring the beautiful landscape of the State, a hot air balloon ride is one of the best options
- Dune Bashing:Tighten your seatbelts as you head out for an unforgettable ride in the Thar Desert. Dune bashing at the Sam sand dunes is a must-do activity
- Motorcycle Ride: Embark on this adventurous bike ride with your gang to the mesmerising Sambhar Salt Lake, indulge in various activities and enjoy a DJ party at night
- Trekking: Besides shimmering Lake Pichola, Udaipur has a romantic setting unmatched in the country for trekking
- Helicopter Ride: 45-minute-long joyride above Udaipur in helicopter offers you a pleasant experience in the sky
- Cycling: Cycling is the most fun and cost-effective way to soak up the rich landscape of the State. Bicycles can be hired almost anywhere!
- Water Sports: One does not think of Rajasthan when it comes to water sports, but this desert paradise has something to offer on that front, too
- ATV Adventure Ride:Let loose the adventure junkie in you with this amazing ATV ride in Malpura!
- Zip Line: Discover new perspectives as you glide over the diverse landscape of the Pink City, Jaipur, suspended on nothing but a zip line
- Village Jeep Safari: Planning your trip to Jaipur? Then a village tour into the rustic hinterlands will definitely make your vacation worthwhile
- Camping: Camping under the sparkling skies allows you to feast your eyes on the unique view of celestial wonders at night. Camping is some sort of an art form here, with established campsites being set in several locations that would befit royalty
In a major boost to Rajasthan Tourism, Amber (Amer) Fort has been selected as one of the ‘Iconic Sites’ in India by the Government of India (GoI) for holistic development. The fort will be developed in order to provide a better experience to tourists. The GoI delegation visited the site in April 2018 and evaluated the nature and extend of development required based on a gap analysis. This is a big project for Rajasthan as the ‘Iconic Sites’ scheme will be the largest project in terms of fund allocation by the GoI.
The hotel room inventory in Rajasthan has increased over 50 per cent in the last decade. The State Government has been proactively supporting the setting up of the new hotels. The well-known chains like Taj,Oberoi, ITC, Royal Orchid, Radisson Blu, Hilton, Le Meridian, Marriott, Holiday Inn, among others, already have a strong presence in Rajasthan. The recent additions include JW Marriott Resort and Spa Jaipur, which opened in March 2018. The new hotel chains setting up shop in the state are Crowne Plaza and Accorhotels. The total number of hotels in the State is around 2200 with an inventory of 50,000 rooms.
After a decline in occupancy for five consecutive years, ‘Palace on Wheels’ seems to be coming of age. This year, the royal luxury train is set to overtake its previous peak occupancy of 79 per cent witnessed in 2011-12. For 2018-19, there is already confirmed bookings of 63 per cent. The only profitably running luxury train in India is expected to reach an occupancy of 80 per cent in 2018-19.
- The State recently won the prestigious Lonely Planet Travel Award and ET Brand Equity Award. In fact, Rajasthan Tourism has bagged 48 awards in the past four years
- Jaipur Exhibition and Convention Centre (JECC), the biggest MICE facility in Rajasthan, was launched four years ago
- 85 per cent of India’s Heritage hotels are in Rajasthan
The development of the Ecotourism Circuit in the State will enable tourists to come with ease and experience the wilderness. Many of these destinations like Sariska and Kailadevi are already very popular with the tourists. Jhalana Safari Park is one of the prime projects and further development under the Ecotourism Circuit will strengthen the tourism offering
- Mukundara Tiger Reserve
- Nahargarh Biological Park
- Ramgarh Vishdhari Sanctuary
- Sariska Tiger Reserve
- Shergarh Sanctuary
- Udaipur Biological Park
- Sorsan Wildlife Sanctuary
- Tal Chhapar Sanctuary
- Van Vihar Sanctuary
- Jorbeed Bird Sanctuary
- Mount Abu Wildlife Sanctuary
- Jhalana Safari Park, Jaipur
- Sajjangarh Biological Park, Udaipur