Karnataka has it all to draw any tourist, the never ending beaches, lush green forests teeming with exotic wildlife, magnificent ancient shrines and the finest of food. And yet the state is a poor fourth in terms of revenue and footfalls in the country. What ails Karnataka tourism? On World Tourism Day, Team DC takes a 360 view.
Announcing a slew of initiatives to tap the tourism potential of the state, tourism minister, Priyank Kharge on Monday said all home stays would have to register with the tourism department before November 15 to help the government create a homestay circuit and assess their quality of service.
“They will face disciplinary action if they fail to register,” he warned. Other initiatives include launch of an online tourism platform, "PRATHAMA- Pravasi Thana Mahiti," a heritage bicycle ride highlighting the unique culture of Bengaluru and a ‘Pitch to the Government’ Hackathon in association with the Karnataka Startup Cell, KBITS, and Department of IT and BT.
The PRATHAMA (Pravasi Thana Mahiti) online tourism platform is a holistic online MIS back-end system for collecting, collating and disseminating key information on the tourism sector such as resource inventory, data on tourists, status of projects, queries and reports. It can also be used for homestay registrations.
The minister announced that the department in association with KSTDC was organising a one day trip around Bengaluru for the students of selected BBMP schools on Tuesday to mark World Tourism Day. The children will ride in a KSTDC bus to all the tourist spots in the city.
Meanwhile, a digital photography competition was conducted in association with the Youth Photographic Society through www.karnatakatourism.org, www.karnatakaholidays.net, www.junglelodges.com, http://contest.ypsbengaluru.com to mark World Tourism Day under the categories, Karnataka heritage and Karnataka nature.
A panel of three judges chose the two best photographs in each category and they were awarded cash prizes of Rs 25,000 and Rs 15,000 respectively. Five contestants were awarded a certificate of merit in each category.
Karnataka: Tourism heaven with hellish facilities
If Kerala is “God’s Own Country,” Karnataka has tried to make the slogan ‘One State, Many Worlds,’ its selling point. While the catchy description may not be far off the mark, it has failed to strike a chord with tourists , who are simply not aware of the diversity it has to offer, from its beaches in Mangaluru, to the coffee plantations of Kodagu and magnificent temples and palaces of old in other parts .
While Kerala banks heavily on its tourism industry and has made sure it draws tourists in droves, the tagline that Karnataka has come up with does little to bring home revenue or foreign travellers, who are on the lookout for ‘real experiences’ rather than picture perfect snaps.
Although the government promised to improve the ‘total quality’ of experience for tourists by providing better access to information, greater choice of destinations and hassle-free travel, in reality, tourists have never ‘felt the experience,’ which could give them reason to come back to the state, say experts. Observing that Karnataka has the most variety to offer in terms of tourism when compared to other states, civic evangelist V. Ravichandar, however regrets the state has failed to exploit this advantage.
Pointing out that there are four important aspects to developing tourism - connectivity infrastructure, experience at the destination, supporting infrastructure and knowledge infrastructure, he believes Karnataka has still a lot of catching up to do in all these aspects.
“Different tourist spots are under different organizations such as the Archaeological Survey of India, horticulture department and so on. They need to work hand-in-hand with the tourism department. Also, facilities for boarding and lodging need to be improved. Finally, the tourism department should gather all travel data and provide it on one platform. We need better signages and more information counters too. Only then can we attract more tourists and generate more revenue,” he says. Aware of the tourism potential of the state, the government did set up a Karnataka Tourism Vision Group to come up with an institutional framework to help the local stakeholders in developing and maintaining a tourist destination.
The panel went on to recommend setting up of more theme parks, heritage zones and clusters and promotion of marine, eco and adventure tourism to attract more tourists. Next Integrated Tourism Management plans were drawn up for cities of heritage value like Mysuru, Bijapur and Bidar. Also, in an attempt to overhaul the ailing industry, the government reached out to the private sector, hoping to accelerate investment and entrepreneurship in tourism .
But none of these moves seem to have helped as they have barely gained any momentum, leaving the sector in a state of inertia as always. Suggesting that the government needs to focus on aggressive marketing and branding, former Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife), Vinay Luthra says its’s role must not overlap with that of the private players “The government should just be an enabler in the tourism sector. It doesn’t need to dip its hands in constructing hotels, restaurants and lodges as the private sector can do all that.. What the government must focus on is infrastructure development such as roads and basic amenities. A very important aspect is improving the quality of guides,” he underlines.
Special Programmmes for Mysuru Dasara
Kairali Aviation Private Limited has come forward to operate flights from the city to Mysuru twice a day for the Dasara festival. The service will use the HAL airport. The tourism department is meanwhile, hosting a “Craziest Leave Application Contest” whose winners will get to travel on the luxury train , the Golden Chariot, which will run to Mysuru during Dasara. Announcing this, minister Priyank Kharge said the Golden Chariot would run on odd days, October 1, 3, 5 and 7. To attract more tourists a Rs 30,000 two night, one day package tour of Mysuru is on offer as well.
Heritage Bicycle ride
A heritage bicycle ride ride is being organised in association with Namma Cycle on September 27 along two circuits to highlight the unique culture of Bengaluru. Each circuit will see cyclists covering 10 to 12 kms. While the ‘Basavangudi Heritage circuit’ will cover the Bull Temple, Gavi Gangadhareswara temple, Bugle Rock, Ramakrishna Mission, National High School and eateries around Gandhi Bazaar, the ‘Bengaluru History circuit’ will acquaint the bikers with the development of the city since the time of its founder, Kempegowda and will cover Mayo hall, Trinity Church, Someswara temple, Gurudwara, MEG - Ulsoor, Chinnaswamy stadium, Cubbon park, Victoria Statue, the public library, the Karnataka High court, Press Club, Vidhana Soudha, Bangalore Club, TenderSure roads and the MG Road Metro station.
CAG report slams poor infrastructure
Although Karnataka is blessed with natural resources, the state government has failed to cash in on them and build the required infrastructure at several tourist destinations, says a report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) for the period 2009-2014. Despite Karnataka using the tag line “One State, Many Worlds,” to draw tourists, it doesn’t get as many as it would like owing to its lack of infrastructure, the report adds.
It notes that although an attempt was made to boost tourism under a Public Private Partnership (PPP) basis, investment from the private sector suffered a setback after entrepreneurs backed out from 35 projects involving investment of Rs 21,673.67 crore or 76.5 per cent out of the total approved investments of Rs 27,550 crore in 512 projects, owing to poor infrastructure.
CAG also pointed out that the tourism department, which came out with a vision plan for five years, failed to execute it, leading to low footfalls. It found several significant deficiencies as well in implementation of various programmes/activities over the last few years, and in the quality of internal controls, which, it said, impacted the success of the programmes....