There was a time when tourism in India meant Rajasthan. Every international tourist would come to Jaipur completing the Delhi-Jaipur-Agra circuit. Then came Kerala with God's own country campaign pulling the traction. Back water, Ayurveda and ecotourism – Kerala for some years during early 2000 stole the show. Kerala's success story in tourism just inspired other states also to jump into bandwagon and promote their tourism to boost economy. It worked for all.
Not only domestic but international tourists had lot many options to choose. Tourists started diverting from Rajasthan, going to Rann of Kuchh, hills of Uttrakhand and forests of Madhya Pradesh.
While Rajasthan was battling this competition, Corona happened making things worse for state tourism. Number of tourists dipped, jobs shrunk and people started migrating from tourism sector for livelihood.
Harbinger of hope
At the peak of Corona and decline in tourism, IAS Gayatri Rathore, a 1997 batch officer, was given the task of bringing back the glorious past of Rajasthan Tourism -Padharo Mhare Des days.
The challenge was stiff. But then livelihood of over 25 lakh people associated with tourism trade was at stake. Rathore took basic steps. She brought all the stakeholders at one platform and imbibed confidence in them that government is firmly behind them. She devised packages for hotels and tourism units to ease pressure on them. She designed campaign ‘Rajasthan Hai Tayyar' to instil confidence and trust among tourists. She ensured that a vaccinated and healthy Rajasthan welcomed tourists and provided them with the warmest and safest of the hospitality. It worked. Tourists gradually started trickling in and then streamed across the state.
Pushing up fresh and innovative ideas
After winning confidence and bringing tourists back to Tiger and desert safaris, Gayatri Rathore stepped up her efforts to multiply their visits. While marketing wildlife and rich heritage were not enough for the quantum jump, Rathore targeted young professionals and adventure seekers to market Rajasthan as weekend destinations. Special packages were devised. New creatives, promotions were carried on popular digital platforms and TV channels to reach out to prospective tourists and fledgling believers of Kal Ho Na Ho. The department promoted Rajasthan as wedding destination with picturesque sites for pre and post wedding shoots.
Highways connecting Rajasthan started getting chockablock with tourist vehicles every weekend.
Influencers and bloggers were roped in to promote off beat destinations like Banswara backwaters Roothi Rani ka Mahal near Jaisamand lake in Udaipur and other not so frequented places. Rajasthan tourism got its magical touch back.
The tourist influx which dipped to mere 2.2 crore in 2021 shot up to 13.4 crore till October 2023. This includes international tourists who flocked back to desert state from 35,000 in 2021 to 11 lakh in 2023. The miraculous growth of more than 500% in tourist influx tells the revival story of Rajasthan tourism.
The tourism department facilitated hospitality industry to promote rural tourism, which narrates the story of age-old traditions and rich culture and heritage of erstwhile Rajputana. Experiential tourism was introduced where tourists were promoted to stay with artists and get an hands on experience of creating traditional art works. The department certified rural home stays which boosted rural tourism and village home stays.
The tourism, which had shown wilting signs a couple of years back was again thriving.
Fresh investments started pouring in, jobs getting generated and new rooms getting added, just to add to the overall economy of the state.
During the investment Summit – Invest Rajasthan 2022, as many as 379 MoUs of tourism projects signed promising an investment of Rs 14,679 crore and job opportunities to 60,687 people. So far, investment of Rs 3,012 has already been fructified offering jobs to around 10,000 people in the state.
The master dose
The biggest achievement for tourism department was to get the industry status for the tourism sector. With this, all tourism units are levied taxes at industry rate rather than exorbitant commercial rate. This has resulted into reduction in power tariff by 30% and lowering of local body taxes by 80%.
This has not only reduced the operational cost of tourism units but also attracted fresh investment in the sector.
The tourism sector is now also eligible for customised packages under Rajasthan Industrial Promotion Scheme (RIPS).
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