20 mega destinations identified for infrastructure devt

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New Delhi, May 27 (UNI) Agra-Revitalisation of Taj (Uttar Pradesh), Varanasi-Sarnath (Uttar Pradesh) and Bodhgaya-Rajgir-Nalanda (Bihar) are among the top 20 destinations or circuits of national importance in India identified by the Tourism ministry.

The other destinations of tourist significance are: illuminated monuments (Delhi); Mahabalipuram (Tamil Nadu); Puri-Bhubaneswar -Konark-Chilka (Orissa); Hardwar-Rishikesh (Uttarakhand); Hampi (Karnataka); Gangtok (Sikkim); Ajmer-Pushkar (Rajasthan); Kurukshetra (Haryana); Charminar area of Hyderabad (Andhra Pradesh); Jagdalpur-Tirathgarh-Chitrakoot-Barsoo (Chhattisgarh); Dwarka (Gujarat); Tirupati (Andhra Pradesh); Churches of Goa; Ganga heritage river cruise circuit (West Bengal); Vidarbha circuit (Maharashtra); Aurangabad (Maharashtra); and Amritsar (Punjab).

The sites have been identified by the Tourism ministry in consultation with the state governments on the basis of footfalls and potential arrivals. The ministry has taken a policy initiative to develop the tourist destinations in a holistic and integrated manner with an eye on future tourist inflows. Identification and development of mega destinations/circuits is a continuous process.

Under a new initiative, the ministry will give up to Rs 25 crore in financial assistance for development of a mega destination and Rs 50 crore for a mega circuit.

Apart from this, the ministry is also working with other central government ministries and state governments concerned to achieve convergence and synergy with other government programmes so that the impact of investment on these destinations is maximised.

In the case of the identified destinations/circuits covered by the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, the resources are being converged so that the tourism related infrastructure and urban civic infrastructure complement each other. The ministry has already sanctioned Rs 102 crore for mega projects at Agra, Varanasi-Sarnath, Bodhgaya-Rajgir-Nalanda, and illumination of monuments of Delhi, Mahabalipuram, Kurukshetra and Charminar area of Hyderabad.

Tourism officials are aware that infrastructure bottlenecks related to air, rail and road connectivity as well as hotel accommodation need to be addressed. Therefore, the Tourism ministry has taken up these issues with the Ministries of Civil Aviation, Railways and Road Transport and Highways for upgradation/modernisation of airports, increase of air seat capacities, improving and modernisation of railway stations, improved rail connectivity and improved linkage of these places with national or state highways.

The ministry is hopeful that with enhanced investments and an integrated approach, the potential of these mega destinations will be maximised as higher tourist inflows can hasten economic development and jobs in and around these places.

With foreign tourist inflows touching the 5 million mark in 2007, India has been witnessing encouraging trends on the domestic front too. The "Incredible India" campaign has spawned immense interest as seen by the significantly larger numbers of tourists travelling to and within the country. All this requires infrastructure, particularly at the key destinations/circuits.

UNI SD SY HS1822

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