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FICCI-EY report identifies 12 unexplored tourism destinations of India
Industry association FICCI and Ernst & Young (EY) has jointly released a Knowledge Paper on 'Unexplored Tourism Destinations of India' at the Great Indian Travel Bazaar 2015, which are selected based on industry interactions and trends. The Chief Minister of Rajasthan, Vasundhara Raje released this report in the presence of international buys and Indian sellers from the tourism industry in Jaipur.
The FICCI-EY report identifies 12 chosen unexplored tourism destinations in the country, focusing on their main attractions, their connectivity and availability of accommodation facilities in them. It highlights those tourism destinations that have been explored as part of FICCI's focus on the growth of India's tourism sector, and upcoming themes and projects across the country to attract tourists.

Diverse destinations have been covered, ranging from the Majuli Islands- the largest river islands in the Indian sub-continent – to Auroville – a spiritual center near Pondicherry and the Desert Camps of Rajasthan.

The 9 other identified destinations which are having great potential to be developed as great tourist destinations are Chitrakoot (MP), Diu (Daman & Diu), Dudhwa National Park (UP), Elephanta Caves (Maharashtra), Hampi (Karnataka), Lahaul & Spiti (HP), Rann of Kutch (Gujarat), Sundarbans Delta (WB) and Gurez/Gurais (J&K).

A study of these locations indicates that they have huge untapped potential, which can be harnessed to promote tourism in them.

In the report FICCI and EY have suggested the following key policy interventions to further boost tourism at the chosen destinations:

Organization of Marquee Events/Festivals: A theme-based event such as a global race, trek or excursion can be organized at these locations. For instance, a camel race on the lines of the Boat Race Festival can be held in the Rann of Kutch as well as in the Deserts of Rajasthan. These should be global events held over several days to attract tourists.

Development of Theme-Based Activities: While natural beauty and heritage buildings attract tourists, what make them stay for a longer period are options of diverse activities. Therefore, based on the nature of each location, sporting activities could be promoted. For instance, a good mix of water sports could turn Diu (as also Goa) into a destination that is sought after by younger tourists.

Provision of Basic Tourist Facilities: Some of these locations lack basic tourist facilities such as security, guided tours, clean and accessible toilets and easy access for differently abled persons. This needs to be addressed on a priority basis.

Preservation of Heritage and Nature: Some of these locations are also in urgent need of preservation. It is therefore important that tourism is promoted in an ecologically sensitive manner and revenues from it are used to preserve monuments or the ecology. For instance, preservation of the Elephanta Caves in Maharashtra and the ruins in Hampi should be an ongoing process to ensure that they remain as close to their original state as possible. Rapid erosion of Majuli Island in Assam is a problem that can have consequences as dire as the entire island being wiped out and thus needs immediate attention.

The Central Government has taken a step in this direction by launching the Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY). Various state governments are also taking different steps and implementing policy measures to promote tourism in their states. Some of the steps initiated by the state governments are as follows:

Tourism Policy: One of the basic initiatives is to have a dedicated state tourism policy which outlines how the states would like to project themselves. The policy also includes focus areas of the government, specific interventions proposed/planned, new/existing incentives to developers/private players and vision for development of tourism in the state, among others.

Brand Ambassadors: Some states such as Gujarat (Amitabh Bachchan) and Kolkata (Shah Rukh Khan) have involved leading Bollywood stars as brand ambassadors for the states, to promote the tourist destinations in the states. Another initiative undertaken by the Government of Diu was to project Diu as the 'Isle of Calm'.

Social Media: To promote any destination as a tourist destination, it is important to provide accurate information which is easily accessible through various media. Thus, having a good website which includes information regarding tourist attractions, connectivity, best time to travel, tourist facilities and accommodation becomes imperative for promoting any destination.

The Indian tourism and hospitality industry has emerged as the largest service sector in India. India sees the 11thlargest tourist inflow in the Asia-Pacific region and the 42ndworldwide, according to India Tourism Statistics 2013. Its tourism industry is flourishing due to an increase in foreign tourist arrivals and a larger number of Indians travelling to domestic destinations.

Tourist inflow into the country grew at 7% annually from 2010 to 2014. In 2013, India had 6.97 million registered foreign tourist arrivals - 0.64% of the total foreign tourist traffic in the world. In 2014, the tourism sector contributed INR7.64 trillion to the GDP and provided employment to 36.7 million people.

By the end of 2015, these numbers are expected to increase to INR8.22 trillion and 37.4 million respectively. This would mean that tourism will account for 7% of India's GDP in 2015. In 2014, travel and tourism investments in India accounted for INR2.11 trillion or 6.2% of the total investments – which is expected to rise by 9.3% in 2015.

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