Punjab inks MoU with UN Tourism Organisation

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Chandigarh, Jan 11 (UNI) The Punjab government today inked a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) for the formulation of a Tourism Development Master Plan for the state.

Principal Secretary Tourism, Ms Geetika Kalha and Executive Director of UNWTO, Mr Harsh Verma signed on the behalf of the Punjab Government and World Tourism Organisation respectively. Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal was also present on the occasion.

Speaking on the occasion Mr Badal said that WTO would prepare a blue print of the tourism plan in the state. He pointed out that the state had a tremendous tourism potential which needed to be tapped optimally.

He said that the state government had identified tourism as one of the major economic sectors of the state and was committed to achieve a high degree of sustainable development with optimum utilisation of tourism resources. As a result, the State Government had entered into an agreement with World Tourism Organization (WTO), a specialized agency of the United Nations.

Explaining the details of the project, Mr Verma informed that this Tourism Development Plan would be prepared for the next 15 years. It would define tourism policy and strategy, identify tourism products and services and develop these in a persisting manner.

The MoU also envisages drawing up a five-years marketing action programme, two pilot demonstration projects and a training programme on destination development and management. The project would also include series of initiatives to bring together the private sector and the government.

Punjab's tourism resources cover an extensive range--religious, heritage/cultural, natural, medical and commercial, Mr Verma said.

When combined with a very warm and hospitable people and a wide variety of folklore, these resources provide Punjab with an outstanding opportunity to develop and sustain a major and diversified tourism sector with resultant economic and social benefits for the people, he added.

As the birthplace of Sikhism, visitor flows are dominated by Sikhs- from within the State, elsewhere in India and from the estimated 10 million strong Sikh diaspora around the world, the UN tourism officer pointed out. People are drawn by devotion to the Golden Temple at Amritsar, the many other Gurdwaras around the State and to other places like Sultanpur Lodhi, where Guru Nanak attained enlightenment, he added.

Mr Verma pointed out that the waterways of Punjab are the lifeblood of the state providing irrigation to vast tracts of farm land. The rivers--- Beas, Satluj and Ravi along with the extensive canal system serve to attract large colonies of migratory birds in the winter, he said while refering to the wetlands of Harike, Kanjli and Ropar.

The natural beauty of the areas created by the Ranjit Sagar Dam and Talwara Lake (Pong Dam) offer strong prima facie opportunity for the development of an upscale resort, a wide range of boating opportunities and ecotourism activities, Mr Verma said.

UNI HS MMS1704

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