Twenty mega destinations identified for infrastructure development

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New Delhi, May 27 (UNI) Buoyed by a massive upsurge in foreign tourists arrival, the Tourism Ministry has identified 20 mega destinations or circuits of national importance for infrastructure development and gave a cutting edge to its 'Incredible India' campiagn.

''The objective is to ensure that the infrastructure of these mega destinations and circuits is developed to the extent that it can cater to the future tourist inflows so that visitors get a satisfying and memorable experience,'' a ministry official said today.

Among the destinations are Agra (revitalisation of the Taj Mahal), Varanasi (Sarnath), Bihar (Bodhgaya, Rajgir and Nalanda), Delhi (illumination of monuments in the capital city), Tamil Nadu (Mahabalipuram) and Orissa (Puri, Bhubaneswar, Korak and Chilka).

The ministry has also indentified Haridwar-Rishikesh (Uttarakhand), Hampi (Karnataka), Gangtok (Sikkim), Ajmer and Pushkar (Rajasthan), Kurukshetra (Haryana), Charminar area of Hyderabad (Andhra Pradesh), Jagdalpur-Tirathgarh-Chitrakoot-Barsoo (Chattisgarh), Dwarka (Gujarat), Tirupati (Andhra Pradesh), Churches of Goa, Ganga Heritage River Cruise Circuit (West Bengal), Vidarbha Circuit (Maharashtra), Aurangabad (Maharashtra) and Amritsar (Punjab).

Under this new initiative, the Tourism Ministry will provide financial assistance up to Rs.25 crore for development of a mega destination and Rs 50 crore for a mega circuit.

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

For identified destinations and circuits covered by the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNURM), convergence of the resources is being ensured so that the tourism-related infrastructure and urban civic infrastructure complement each other.

The Tourism 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.

The official said identification and development of mega destinations and circuits had been done in consultation with the state governments on the basis of data indicating footfalls and potential arrivals.

''We have taken a policy initiative to develop the tourist destinations and circuits of national importance in a holistic and integrated manner,'' he added.

India is witnessing encouraging trends in the tourism sector with foreign tourist inflows touching the five million mark in last year.

''The 'Incredible India' campaign has led to immense interest and awareness and is likely to result in significantly larger numbers of tourists travelling to and within the country. All this requires infrastructure, particularly at the key destinations,'' the official pointed out.

The official said infrastructure bottlenecks related to air, rail and road connectivity as well as hotel accommodation would also have to be addressed to ensure that identified circuitand destinations were developed to their fullest potential.

Accordingly, the Tourism Ministry has taken up these issues with the Civil Aviation, Railway and Road Transport and Highways ministries for upgradation and modernisation of airports, increasing of air seat capacities, improving railway stations and esnuring better rail connectivity to these places with national and state highways.

''The Tourism Ministry's objective is to ensure that with enhanced investments and an integrated approach, the mega destinations/circuits are developed to maximise their potential.

The resulting increase in tourist inflows, in turn, will lead to economic development and employment generation in and around these places,'' he added.

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