Amritsar, July 13 (ANI): Known for its rich Punjabi culture, religious environment, and sumptuous food, Amritsar has been a draw for visitors from across the country and abroad for a long time.
Though tourists visit this holy city in big numbers, but to attract more visitors plans are underway to promote it as a major tourist destination.
Founded in Circa 1577 by Guru Ram Das, the 4th guru of the Sikhs, Amritsar literally means a pool of nectar. It derives its name from the sacred pool, Amrit Sarovar, that surrounds the holy Sri Harmandir Sahib popularly known as Golden Temple.
A pilgrimage for the Sikhs, Sri Harmandir Sahib draws thousands of pilgrims and tourists everyday from different parts of the country and world. It also helps Amritsar generate a fair amount of revenue. But the challenge for the administration is to provide them facilities like accommodation and transportation.
To improve services and infrastructure for the tourists is on top of the agenda.
"People of all religions from across the world visit Sri Harmandir Sahib, Durgiana Temple and Jallianwala Bagh.
And, City's municipal corporation is dedicated to facilitating their visit. Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) has started a bus service from Amritsar Railway Station to Sri Harmandir Sahib and other pilgrimage sites such as Khadur Sahib and Goindwal Sahib.
Air-conditioned buses also ply for foreign tourists. SGPC is committed to attracting religious tourists to Sri Harmandir Sahib and Amritsar city," said Ajaybir Pal Singh Randhwa, Sr. Deputy Mayor of Amritsar.
In a bid to offer security and better services to tourists in Amritsar, the Punjab Government recently organised the Tourism Police.
The Centre has agreed in principle to grant five million dollars for developing Amritsar as a major tourist destination. Of that one million dollars have already been sanctioned under the Normal Destination Development Scheme for the city.
It includes conservation of historic and religious places and improvement of facilities for tourists. "Every facility is available for tourists. But the government should concentrate more on improving air links and railway service. Special attention should also be given to cleanliness because it is only then that tourists from America and Europe who like to visit clean places will speak well about us when they return to their country," said a tourist.
"The facilities at the Golden Temple are excellent. We have come from Gujarat state and people in Punjab are very hospitable and respectful," a tourist from Gujarat.
The city boasts of a Maharaja Ranjit Singh Panorama, located inside the historic Ram Bagh. It's a major tourist attraction that recreates the life and battles of the legendary Maharaja, through rare pictures and mannequins.
The city, however, lacks proper accommodation for domestic and foreign visitors. And, the hotels would like to start Bread and Breakfast Schemes to meet this shortfall. "The Centre runs Bed and Breakfast Scheme in Delhi to give foreign tourists experience the warmth of Indian hospitality. But here the local administration says that tourists can only stay at those guesthouses that have been given licenses.
Can't we open guesthouses and restaurants in the heritage buildings? We want that these heritage buildings should be given a license and training and we are ready to bear all the expenses to make the scheme work," said Surinder Singh, President of the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Amritsar.
The Beating Retreat ceremony at Wagah-Attari border check-post is another major tourist attraction. To draw more tourists, the government has already sanctioned 970,000 dollars for the project Integrated Development of Wagah/Attari Border.
It includes development of tourist facilities and upgradation of surroundings of the international border. (ANI)