Now, heli-tourism

Print edition : July 16, 2010

K. Viswanatha Reddy.-

THE Government of Karnataka's new tourism policy aims to tap the State's rich tourism potential. In an interview to Frontline, K. Viswanatha Reddy, Director of the Department of Tourism, explains the thrust areas of the drive.

What is the main tourist attraction of Karnataka?

Karnataka possesses diverse tourist destinations forests with wildlife, waterfalls, eco-tourism centres, coastal towns, hill stations, luxurious spas. It also offers leisure tourism, adventure tourism, health and wellness tourism. We have several cultural activities in the State. Considering all these things, we have been promoting tourism in various events, both domestic and international, in a very big manner in the last couple of years. Fortunately, the State government has been very supportive and has allocated a huge budget for the development of tourist destinations and their promotion in various fora.

Karnataka is number four in India in terms of tourist inflow. The first spot is occupied by Andhra Pradesh, thanks to the popularity of Tirupati, which attracts lakhs of tourists. The second place is occupied by Uttar Pradesh, thanks to the popularity of the Taj Mahal.

We are trying to increase tourist inflow to the State. We formulated a tourism policy last year and that will be in force until 2014. The main aim is to make tourism the largest economic activity it will provide employment opportunities and generate revenue. We want to make Karnataka the first or the second most visited tourist destination by the end of the policy period, which is 2015. This is our goal.

How do you plan to achieve it?

We have started promoting infrastructure development at tourist destinations. We are planning to provide accommodation facilities and also last-mile connectivity. The State government has made a special budgetary provision for the development of last-mile connectivity. We have been encouraging construction of hotels and resorts by the private sector. The new policy offers incentives and concessions, and even cash subsidies, for construction of accommodation facilities at all the important tourist destinations.

What sort of incentives and concessions is the Department of Tourism offering to private investors?

These include exemptions from registration and conversion fees. We are providing cash subsidies ranging from 10 per cent to 35 per cent, depending on the location of the project. In the current year's budget, the government has announced two important incentives in the accommodation sector in various parts of the state. We have selected 100 spots in Karnataka where the investor will be permitted to buy up to 5 acres of agricultural land for the construction of a hotel. The second incentive is a loan from the Karnataka State Financial Corporation with an interest rate of 10 per cent to the investor. After the project is completed we will give exemption from value added tax for three years.

What are the new initiatives to encourage tourism?

We recently finalised the helicopter tourism project. Except Uttarakhand, Sikkim and the Union Territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, no other State has gone in for heli-tourism. Uttarakhand, Sikkim and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands need heli-tourism because of their geography, but in Karnataka, even though we have good rail and road connectivity, we have still gone in for heli-tourism. Initially we are going to introduce this in the heritage sector covering Hampi, Badami, Pattadakal, Aihole and Bijapur. We are also promoting wellness tourism and have come out with Ayush guidelines'. We are promoting medical tourism as medical care is not only cheaper in India but is also prompt and humane.

How was the response to the tourism sector at the recently concluded Global Investors Meet in Bangalore?

We signed MoUs worth Rs.2,728 crore in the tourism sector alone at the Global Investors Meet. Many of the major projects that we signed were in the hospitality sector. There was a fantastic response.

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