Indian participation at ATM 2005 is the largest to date with149 delegations and 11 States participating.

Vimala Vasan

Abu Dhabi, May 4

THE States of Uttaranchal and Uttar Pradesh are targeting Arab and expatriate tourists from the Gulf and have plans to upgrade their airport and hospitality infrastructure in a bid to cater to a larger number of foreign tourists.

The two States are among the eleven Indian States that are promoting their varied tourist attractions at the Arabian Travel Market, ATM 2005,which got underway in Dubai on Tuesday.

The Uttaranchal Tourism Minister, Lt Gen G.P.S. Rawat, who is leading a delegation to Dubai, told Business Line that Uttaranchal, which is participating for the first time at the ATM, is very keen to tap the growing Arab and expatriate Indian and foreign tourist market in the Gulf States. "Our State is focusing a great deal on promoting adventure, camp and eco tourism as 70 per cent of the land is covered by forests and we are keen to maintain the ecological balance. We have some of the finest treks and also centres for yoga and meditation."

In 2004-2005, the State received 14 million visitors, of which 70,000 were foreigners. A target of 100,000 foreign tourists has been set for the current year, he said. To improve accessibility to the State, moves are onto extend the Dehra Dun airport to accommodate Airbus A 320 aircraft.

Four more airports in the State are also under consideration, he said, adding that efforts were also on to upgrade the Dehra Dun airport to international levels at a later date. A number of middle range hotels are also coming up to boost the State's hospitality sector, he added.

UP to promote Muslim shrines: Meanwhile, Uttar Pradesh is not only promoting its flagship Taj Mahal and other popular Mughal monuments at the ATM, but also famed religious centres in Lucknow for the Arab tourists.

The Uttar Pradesh Minister for Tourism, Mr M. Kawkab Hameed, told Business Line: "We have some famous Muslim shrines and monuments that will be of tremendous interest to Arabs and other Muslim expatriates."

With Indian Airlines operating a direct Sharjah-Lucknow flight, the potential for growth in visitors is high, he said. The State also has a number of important Buddhist centres, which are attracting tourists from all over the world, he said.

"Last year, we received eight lakh tourists from abroad and 17 million domestic tourists. Though figures of Arab tourists are relatively small now, we want them to adopt India as a regular tourist destination in the future," he said. The Minister also said that the State Government had submitted a proposal to the Centre to build an international airport at Agra.

"Negotiations are on and we are hopeful that in three to four years, the project will come through," he added.

Meanwhile, Mr Prakash Jajoria, Regional Director, India Tourism Office, Dubai, said that Indian participation at ATM 2005 was the largest to date with149 delegations and eleven Indian States participating. Several State Ministers for Tourism were also attending and a variety of Indian tourist attractions were being showcased, he said.

ATM 2005, a premier regional tourism expo, has this year attracted 1,800 exhibitors from 63 countries.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated May 5, 2005)
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