Rajasthan has always fascinated people from all over the world with the grandeur of its forts, palaces and architecture of havelis. The rich folk music and dances have tempted millions of tourists every year to visit the fairs and festivals in various parts of the State. The rich handicrafts of Rajasthan are unique in many ways, making it a shoppers? paradise. In fact, Rajasthan has everything under the sun except the sea beaches and snow-clad mountains. On the one hand, there is the vast expanse of the Thar Desert in the west and on the other there are lakes, hills, greenery around Udaipur in the south. There are renowned National Tiger Parks at Ranthambhor and Sariska and a National Bird Park at Ghana, Bharatpur.
In view of the immense tourism potential of Rajasthan, the State government headed by Smt. Vasundhara Raje has recently undertaken a series of measures to accelerate the pace of tourism development and to make it a people'sindustry. Amer Fort is being beautified and restored as a model monument.
Rajasthan remained the most favourite destination of tourists in 2004. There has been an unprecedented increase in tourist arrivals in Rajasthan as compared to the previous years. Domestic tourist arrivals stood at 160.34 lakh (27.8 per cent rise from the previous year); Foreign tourist arrival was 9.54 lakh (51.64 per cent).
This trend continued in the first five months of 2005. If the trend continues then Rajasthan should receive around 200 lakh domestic tourists and 12 lakh foreign tourists by the end of the current year. In fact Rajasthan is on its way to becoming an “Year Round Destination”.
Similarly, the Palace On Wheels, the most premier tourism product of the country, has done record business in the current season and already bookings till year 2009 have been made.
A tiger at Ranthambore Park
In view of the immense tourism potential of Rajasthan, the State government headed by Smt. Vasundhara Raje has recently undertaken a series of measures to accelerate the pace of tourism development and to make it a people'sindustry.
The budget for tourism for 2005-06 has been increased as compared to last year. In fact, concept of tourism sub-plan has been mooted wherein all the important departments should spend part of their annual budget on tourism-related activities.
A Liberal Tourist-friendly Policy
A peacock at Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary
Tourism is a key sector identified for investment under the Investment Policy. Several concessions and subsidies are available. A 100-day and one-year action plan were implemented successfully for achieving time-bound results in identified activities. Amer Fort in Amer is being beautified and restored as a model monument. Adopt-a-monument scheme has been launched to involve private participation in the conservation efforts of the monuments in the State. Public Private Partnership (PPP) is being adopted to bring out new tourist units or for recreating the existing heritage properties. Development projects worth more than Rs 100 crore are under process, which will improve the tourist infrastructure in the State. Concept of ?Living Monuments? has been initiated in order to make best possible use of the heritage properties. Renewed thrust is being given to consolidation of sub-sectors like, rural, health, religious, royal weddings, film shootings and medical tourism. A comprehensive media plan has been prepared to promote Rajasthan tourism. It covers both print and electronic media (TV, radio and internet) within and outside the country. Process of setting up ropeways at important locations is on. Airport and airstrip network is being strengthened and upgraded.
An investment of Rs 1750 crore is being made on urban infrastructure development of main cities of tourism importance?namely Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udaipur, Bikaner, Kota, Ajmer and Pushkar under the Asian Development Bank Project.
Devotees taking out a religious procession during the festival Gangaur
Rajasthan was also one of the first States to announce a tourism policy way back in 2001. The main highlight of the policy is to change the government'srole from that of a provider to that of a catalyst and facilitator, to encourage public/private partnerships so that benefits of tourism percolate down to the lowest level.
An investment of Rs. 1750 crore is being made on urban infrastructure development of main cities of tourism importance?namely Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udaipur, Bikaner, Kota, Ajmer and Pushkar under the Asian Development Bank Project. A component of Rs 50 crore has been kept for heritage conservation. An amount of Rs 10 crore is being spent on conservation and restoration of monuments under the Eleventh Finance Commission Grant.
With the sustained efforts of the State government, Ministry of Tourism, Government of India has taken up the Jaipur-Jodhpur-Jaisalmer-Shekhawati circuit for being developed on a priority basis. Two new circuits Hadoti and NCR have been taken up for integrated development of tourism facilities in the circuit districts. Around Rs 16 crore shall be spent on these circuits.
Parmeshwari Maharaj Shri Eklingji Rajasmand
The Palace on Wheels is a world famous tourism product of Rajasthan. This seven-day journey not only provides a luxurious comfortable train journey but also takes personalised care of all requirements of tourists. The train is run by RTDC in collaboration with the Indian Railways. Besides it, RTDC also runs 40 tourist bungalows and motels to cater to the needs of middle and budget class tourists.
Encouraged by the success of Place on Wheels, the Railways, in collaboration with RTDC has once again started ?Fairy Queen?, the oldest ? steam engine? driven luxury train, operating form New Delhi to Alwar and back. This two-day package tour is the palace on wheels for the budget tourist.
RTDC is contemplating to begin another royal train in addition to present Palace on Wheels.
Rajasthan Tourism accords a high priority to domestic tourism. Rajasthan Tourism is now marketing the State more aggressively within the country. Participation as a partner State in IITM and organising road shows in Chennai on July 30, 2005 are part of this strategy.
Shiv Nivas Palace
Rajasthan has been regularly participating in various international travel marts and organising roadshows for in last the few years to make a strong presence on international marketing area.
With a view to linking rural artisans with tourism and promotion of handicrafts, Rural Craft Bazaars are being established at eleven district headquarters where rural artisans could be seen producing handicrafts and the tourists will get a chance to buy the products directly from them. This will ensure fair price to both the craftsmen and the tourists.
Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation (RTDC), a State government undertaking under the Tourism Department, is making attractive packages to suit pockets of different categories of tourists. Few of them also provide experience of heritage hotels. Rajasthan has over 100 heritage hotels of which about 50 are classified. It constitutes over 80 per cent of the total number of heritage hotels in the country.
RTDC is now changing its role from only running of hotels to that of developing new products with the help of private sector and marketing it to the world.