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Tuesday, Feb 03, 2004

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Chhattisgarh paves way for pvt. role in tourism

Ambar Singh Roy

Raipur , Feb. 2

THE Government of Chhattisgarh has paved the way for greater involvement of the private sector in the development of tourism in the State. Henceforth, all initiatives and investments veering round tourism in Chhattisgarh would have the active participation of the private sector, according to Dr A. Jayathilak, Managing Director of the Chhattisgarh Tourism Board.

Stating this during an interface with a group of visiting newspersons, Dr Jayathilak said the Chhattisgarh Tourism Board (CTB) was formed in January 2002 and was entrusted with the task of promoting Chhattisgarh as a "tourist destination of choice." CTB, which was playing the role of a facilitator and not of an operator, was working towards developing a world-class tourist destination based on partnerships between the State Government, public and private sectors and the local community. The Taj Hotels Group, International Park Plaza, Sterling Resorts and Club Mahindra are stated to have evinced interest in setting up operations in places of tourist interest in Chhattisgarh.

With a view to attracting private sector investment in the tourism sector in Chhattisgarh, the State Government has announced tax incentives and attractive power tariffs, among other sops.

Tourism has been accorded industry status and there is a 15 per cent investment subsidy up to a maximum of Rs 20 lakh. Investments in the tourism sector are exempt from luxury tax and entertainment tax for 10 years. The tax on aviation turbine fuel (ATF) has been reduced from 25 per cent to four per cent. The reduction of tax on ATF has already had its impact. Indian Airlines has increased the number of flights to and from Raipur even as private airlines have evinced interest in operating flights to the State capital.

According to Dr Jayathilak, the budgetary allocation for tourism in the State has been increased from Rs 1.70 crore in 2002-03 to Rs 10.51 crore in 2003-04. This amount is expected to be increased further to Rs 15 crore in 2004-05.

On the infrastructure front, a camp site has been set up next to the Chitrakote waterfalls, which is stated to be the second-largest waterfall after Niagara falls in the US. An open-air amphitheatre has been set up at Rajim even as CTB has proposed to set up a "jail resort" within the premises of an abandoned jail. A herbal resort has been proposed to be set up at Asna while folk artists and tribal arts and culture were being promoted. In addition to forging partnerships with private stakeholders for promoting the State, handicrafts and handlooms were also being used as vehicles to market the State as a tourist destination which was "full of surprises." A proposal has also been made to UNESCO for declaration of Chhattisgarh as a Heritage State.

CTB is also working towards the integration of tourist spots in Chhattisgarh with those in other states. Towards this end, it has been proposed to develop a new circuit to catch spillovers from Kanha to Kawardha, Raipur and Bastar. It has also been proposed to extend the circuit from Koraput in Orissa and Araku Valley in Andhra Pradesh to Bastar.

"Full of surprises is our slogan for promoting Chhattisgarh. Where in India would you find the country's biggest waterfall, the most-dense forests after the Amazon, the forest density of Brazil and the wildlife of Africa and the deepest living cave in the world with the oldest stalactite and stalagmite formations. Chhattisgarh houses India's oldest tribal community and Asia's only exclusive university of music. It is also home to the endangered Asiatic wild buffalo and the Bastar Hill Mynah," Dr Jayathilak said, adding that Chhattisgarh has 52 surprises on offer - one for each week of the year.

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Chhattisgarh paves way for pvt. role in tourism

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