Monthly Archives: August 2016

How Tourism can Revive the India Story

India is on its way to becoming one of the greatest nations in the world. Some, like Masayoshi Son, the founder-CEO of SoftBank, back this statement not with mere words but capital, while others believe in its very essence and are committed to acting on their conviction.
I’m among the believers, and this is why I think tourism will go a long way in kick-starting India, in making India! Speaking from the perspective of a travel startup, I will now seek to analyse how the sector can help create jobs, reduce inequality and empower various social sectors.

Tourism India

Empowering Local Businesses
Consider the individual who lives in his own house in a village, with a small plot of farm land. He eats fresh food, breathes fresh air and has a social circle. Forced to leave his home, he travels to the city, where he lives in dirty shanties looking for daily wage work and has no access to education or healthcare.

Tourism is perfectly placed to promote reverse migration. We are able to put to use resources that are locally available and create a sustainable business for local communities.

Take, for instance, Orchha, a small town in Madhya Pradesh with a population of just 9,000. Orchha’s rich heritage makes it a popular tourist destination. Locals started to work in Orchha’s famous hotels as the tourist inflow gathered pace. Many went on to become entrepreneurs, opening cafes or retail stores. Some are expert guides and conduct tours. The local activities and crafts of the area are thus thriving.

A smaller example is that of Sattal, a hamlet in the hills 15 km from Nainital. The boatmen of Sattal were extremely poor as they waited for busloads of people to come from Nainital for day picnics, which happened only in the peak season of April, May and June. While each boat ride cost Rs 200, the boatman would earn only Rs 50. They earned barely Rs 50,000 for the entire year.

The first hotel started operations in Sattal in 2011, and provided guests with complimentary boating. Soon, customers started trickling in even during the lean season. In that first year, 2,000 customers stayed at the resort. As occupancy rose, so did the boatmen’s income.

At Rs 200 per trip, the boatmen were totally able to earn Rs 4,00,000 from us alone! Given 10 boats, it still meant Rs 40,000 per boatman only from us, almost equivalent to what they earned from day tourists. And then something else happened. As Sattal became a well-known tourist destination, new resorts and hotels came up. The number of boats increased several fold. In just a few years, tourism enabled the entire village of Sattal to generate ample employment and prosper.

Linking Micro Supply Chains
The plight of marginal farmers is a constant source of contention, with economists propagating further price reduction in agricultural commodities. Meanwhile, customers still pay high prices owing to supply and logistics constraints. So how does tourism help?

Meet Bashir Khan, a marginal farmer in Ramgarh who has a 1,000-square yard plot. He grows lemon grass, a herb popular for its oil extract. From his sparse available land, Bashir produces roughly 500 ml of oil a day. While the unsuspecting customer usually bought the oil at Rs 200-500 per 50 ml bottle, Bashir was forced to sell his produce for a meagre Rs 150 per litre! Impressed with the quality of extract and the low prices, tourists heading to Ramgarh started to buy the oil directly from Bashir. Surprised at the price he offered, they educated him about the demand and prices of comparable products in Delhi. Bashir now supplies to retail shops in Delhi.

Tourism has this ability to create a market for local products and match demand at that very destination, all while keeping prices attractive for customers.

Reviving Arts And Crafts
Indian design has been applauded for ages, yet, absurdly, we see Indian towns, cities and even the more affluent villages emulate western design, with concrete structures and the modern architecture of the West. Ironically, the poorest villages retain forgotten Indian designs — mud structures, thatched roofs and tiles, and make for the most beautiful settings.

Close to Mhaismal, a small hill station near Aurangabad, are the last two remaining households that work on the beautiful — but vanishing — metal art form of Bidri. Today, it’s in desperate need of support in the region. As resorts opened in Mhaismal, customers were able to visit the craftsmen’s homes and appreciate their art. One discerning guest even ordered the metalworks for her website, and as orders poured in, the Bidri trend caught on.

Tourism can revive arts that were once lost. Tourists can visit craftsmen, see their works and create new channels of demand. Its power in reshaping and rejuvenating the Indian economy should not be underestimated.


Come Celebrate Hornbill Festival with the Nagas

Seated in the lush green eastern Himalayan hills, lies the land of brave warriors, where sixteen tribes resides in peace and uniquely represent their culture, tradition and dialect.

Welcome to Nagaland! Bordering Myanmar to east, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Manipur to the north, west and south respectively, the state is home to the erstwhile headhunters.

warriors ready for perform in Hornbill festival

The diversity among the tribes is vibrant and the culture of each and every tribe is fquite fascinating. During Hornbill festival Nagaland is the best place to visit. Hornbill is also known as ‘festival of festivals’.

The Hornbill festival is named after the state bird which is also respected globally and is an inseparable part of the Naga culture.

Most of the festivals celebrated by the tribal people are limited to their region or tribe, however it’s Hornbill which brings them all together.

Tribal group performing in Hornbill Festival Nagaland

Showcasing the rich heritage and culture, the festival is organised every year by the State Tourism and Art & Culture Departments.

Venue: The seven day fest is held at Heritage Village (also known as Khisama) which is located about 12 kilometres from Kohima on the road that was used by the allied forces during the Second World War.

The venue is significant not only because it is a tourist spot, but it is model village resembling the shape of Nagaland in maps.

Cultural dance in Hornbill Festival

What is interesting to know about it is that there are tribal houses (murongs) built to represent each tribe pointing the geographical existence of that particular tribe on the actual location in Nagaland.

The Festival

Hornbill festival gives the people of the state an opportunity to tell the world about their uniqueness. It also keeps their tribes bonded to their culture and history.

Starting from the first of December, the weeklong extravaganza not only showcases the Naga lifestyle but also serves as a platform for the locals to interact with the visitors and gives the tourist a chance to explore.

Traditional dress in Hornbill Festival

Naga tribals tour display their traditional art like paintings, wood carvings, hand woven shawls and artefacts for home decor.

The Hornbill festival starts with the opening address of the Tourism Secretary followed by the war cry.

Nagas as mentioned are warriors and hence each tribe have their way to announce the battle. The atmosphere turns electrifying. All the tribe people look stunning dressed in their traditional dress. They armour themselves with shield in their hands and carry a weapons (sphere or dao) with colourful headgear.

The festival is divided into activities like tribal dances, war tactics, local games, greased pole climbing, Naga chilli eating competition, pork fat eating competition etc.

Hornbill Festival 2016

People can also visit the permanent tribal houses (murongs) built around the venue and can interact with the tribal people, taste their cuisines and even dance with them!

As time flies by and dusk turns chilly, the Hornbill Rock Festival at the Indira Gandhi stadium back in Kohima heats up the winter evenings. It is also considered to be the biggest rock fest held in India where around 20 bands from around India and a few from abroad take part in the fest.

During the festival, the seven nights of Kohima‘s market comes alive with The Kohima Night Bazaar. Everything from traditional food to modern Naga music can be found here; from cultural handicrafts to home decor items.

Interesting Facts

If you are foodie and love to experiment with food then trying out the local food is a must. The variety served is wide and you can try bizarre food like silkworms, bamboo worms, boiled baby frogs, hornets, dried rats, eel fish and dog meat. There’s a popular joke in Nagaland that goes – “if you see a man walking along with a dog, he could be a vegetarian!”

Usually the last two days are dedicated for North East Cultural Ensemble where other states of North East India showcase their culture and familiarise with tradition and colourful dance forms in turn also promoting tourism.

Naga women dressed in their finest

As every event, Hornbill festival too has a wonderful and a must-not-miss closing ceremony. The day is filled with dance and music where you experience drumbeats and dance steps that race against your heartbeats and rare is the chance where one is not tapping his feet. Not just drums but tribal musical instruments too will cast the joyful magic on you.

As the sun starts to set, huge heap of firewood is gathered in the center and smaller ones in front of every tribe on the ground. With the magical tunes of Naga beats and the final war-cry; all the tribes encircle and dance along the fringe of the festival ground slowly lighting up the fire.

As the sky turns dark, stars appear and beautify the darkness, down here at Khisama the bonfires appear to glorify each tribe not only reminding us how brave they are but pointing out how every tribe is distinctive and yet they stay in harmony.

How to Reach:

Air (Dimapur): Since Kohima does not have an airport one has to land in Dimapur, but flights are less and are only available from Guwahati and Kolkata. Guwahati is the nearest domestic airport connected by all major cities in India and Kolkata is the nearest international airport.

Rail: Dimapur is Nagaland’s only city connected by Indian Railways, a shared or a private taxi or state transport bus will take you to Kohima. Dimapur to Kohima is a 3 to 4 hour drive depending upon the road conditions.

Road: It is recommended to keep your base in Guwahati (Assam) since it is very well connected by air, rail and road. A road journey to Kohima is of 350 kms via Dimapur on National Highway 37 and 36 it may take upto 8 to 10 hours depending upon traffic, meal breaks and road condition.


Mountaineering in Jammu & Kashmir Himalayas

West of Lahaul along the Chandrabhaga river, which becomes the Chenab, is Kishtwar. Now due to the political troubles there, it is not easy to reach there and a thorough knowledge of prevalent conditions is a prerequisite. To climbers, it offers treats like Brammah I (6416 m), Brammah II (6425 m), Sickle Moon (6574 m) and Hagshu (6300 m). It is one of the most challenging and difficult areas if ones entry and exit is safe.

Chandrabhaga River Kishtwar

Ladakh is sometimes called ‘Little Tibet’. It has a landscape and culture similar to that of Tibet. Caravans used to pass through Leh on the way to and from Central Asia. Almost all the valleys of Ladakh are now open to foreigners. The area of Panggong lake has Kakstet peak (6442 m) and the highest unnamed peak in the world (6725 m).
In south east Ladakh, in the Rupshu valley there are peaks as high as 6600 m around the beautiful lake of Tso Morari. The highest amongst them is Lungser Kangri (6666 m) neighbouring, Chhamser Kangri (6622 m).

Suru Valley, Ladakh

Entire barren valleys of Zanskar, south of Ladakh were once inaccessible. But now a road runs through its centre. Hundreds of trekkers cross over to Padam in Central Zanskar. This is rapidly becoming one of the world’s most popular trails.
For serious climbers there are high peaks like Nun (7135 m) and Kun (7087 m). For the others are peaks like Zanskar 1 (6181 m) and Zanskar 2 (6175 m). All these peaks arouse interest and excitement.

Zanskar Valley

The valley of Kashmir was known for centuries for its beauty. Caravans passed through it. In recent times, trekkers and campers flocked to it. Early climbers attempted the small peaks in the south. For instance, Kolahoi (5425 m) and Haramukh (5143 m). A large area around Sonamarg was visited by British climbers. The Climbers Guide to Sonamarg published by the Himalayan Club is an excellent reference book.
Eastern Karakoram
The valleys in the extreme north of India are those of the Eastern Karakoram. These form a special group in the Great Karakoram Range. It has some very high mountains, many of them still unclimbed some climbed only in recent years.
Records reveal that this area was visited in 1821. Dr. T.G. Longstaff went there in 1901. From 1914 to 1922 several Italian and European expeditions climbed here. Col J.O.M. Roberts undertook explorations in 1946. After this, the area was closed for many years. In the 1970s different Japanese teams crossed over from Bilafond la onto the Siachen glacier and climbed peaks like Teram Kangri I (7462 m) amongst others. The Japanese mountaineers were very active here, and climbed many difficult peaks. Then, once more, the area was closed to all for many years.

Baltoro glacier, Eastern Karakoram
In 1984 members of a Japenese expedition became the first foreign mountaineers to be allowed into this area from the Indian side. They climbed Mamostong Kangri I. The following year an Indo-British team climbed Rimo III and a few other peaks in the Terong Valley. Some peaks on the Siachen glacier were climbed by the Indian Army. There are still several enigmatic peaks in the Siachen Muztagh like Saltoro Kangri I and II.
The second group of mountains in the Eastern Karakoram is that of the Saser Kangri. This particular peak was approached by Col. Roberts and finally climbed from the eastern side by an Indian team. A Japanese team made the first ascent of Saser Kangri II West (7518 m). The eastern peak of Saser Kagri II remains one of the highest virgin mountains in the area.

Eastern Karakoram
The third group is that of Rimo Muztagh. The famous Central Asian trade-route over the Karakoram Pass, goes this way. Chong Kundan I (7071 m) was climbed in 1991 by an Indo-British team. Chong Kundan II (7004 m) is still unclimbed.
The valleys of Eastern Karakoram are open to joint ventures between Indian and foreign mountaineers. Permits for climbing are readily available for almost any peak here.


New Destinations to Discover in India

India will soon liberalise rules for foreign tourists visiting remote areas across the country.

In an effort to boost tourism and related employment generation in several remote parts of the country, India is set to ease the entry of foreign tourists to restricted areas. The idea is being discussed at various levels and among ministries and authorities tasked with the developing tourism as well as in charge of homeland security, defence, law and order.

A decision is likely to liberalise the entry of foreigners in restricted areas. As per the Foreigners (Protected Areas) Order, 1958 and the Foreigners (Restricted Areas) Order, 1963 permission is required for foreigners, and in some places for Indians too, to visit remote areas. However, the permissions limit the duration of the visit to the restricted place from one day to a week or maximum ten days. Significantly, the permits are given only to groups and not to individuals. Relaxation is likely to be made for issuing permits to individual tourists in coming weeks.

The Union home ministry which issues the permits is planning to facilitate and expedite the issue. The decision is likely to increase foreign tourist arrivals in these areas which remain off the itineraries for the moment.
List of Restricted Areas:

Assam– Manas Bird Sanctuary, Kaziranga National Park, Kamakhya Temple, Jatinga Bird Sanctuary, Guwahati & Sibsagar

Arunachal Pradesh– Itanagar, Ziro, Along, Pasighat, Miao, Namdapha and Sujesa (Puki) Bhalukpong

Manipur-Imphal, Loktak Lake, Keibul Deer Sanctuary, Waithe Lake and Moirang.

Mizoram– Vairangte, Thingdawl and Aizawl

Himachal Pradesh– Gompa-Kaza, Poo-Khab-Sumdho-Dhankar-Tabo, and Orang-Dabling

Nagaland-Dimapur, Kohima, Mokochong and Wokha districts

Sikkim– Rumtek, Gangtok, Zongri in West Sikkim, Phodang and Pamayangtse.

Uttarakhand– Uttarkashi Districts, Niti Ghati and Kalindi Khai in Chamoli and Nanda Devi Sanctuary and adjoining areas of Milam Glacier

Rajasthan– Western Side – Indo-Pak border and villages Jaisalmer: Amarsagar, Ludrawa, Kuldara, Bada Bagh(black bar), Akal, Sam & Unda.

Andaman Islands at the juncture of the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea restricts regulates entry to Port Blair; Havelock Island; Long Island; Neil Island; Diglipur; Mayabunder; Rangat, Jolly Bouy, Red skin, South Cinque, Mount Harriet, Madhuban.

Lakshadweep Islands Located in Arabian Sea-Wellington Island, Agatti, Kadmat and Bangaram.

Lastly in scenic Kashmir the restricted areas include various divisions of Leh and Ladakh

Foreign tourists’ arrivals were to the tune of 8 million in 2015. This was 4.4pc more compared to previous year when it stood at 7.6 million year.

According to India’s Tourism ministry the US topped the list of percentage share of foreign tourists’ arrivals among the top 15 source countries with 18.67 per cent, followed by Bangladesh (11.64), UK (11.60), Australia (5.25), Canada (4.23), Russian Federation (3.68) and Malaysia (3.13). Germany’s share was 2.61 per cent while that of China was 2.48 per cent, followed by Sri Lanka (2.39), Singapore (2.01), France (1.99), Japan (1.85), Thailand (1.68) and Pakistan (1.60).


‘Experience Kollam’ to Lure Tourists

Ever been to Ashtamudi backwaters, the southern gateway to the alluring backwaters of Kerala, or experienced a unique village backwater tour around the Munroe Island? What about a trekking or camping in Thenmala or inside the Shenduruney Wildlife Sanctuary, a valley of green splendour at the foothills of the Western Ghats? It’s a long list of tourist attractions in Kollam district, which are yet to get a deserving place in the itineraries being offered by tour operators in the state.

Shenduruney Wildlife Sanctuary

‘Experience Kollam’, a first of the district-level promotional campaign by state tourism department, aims to highlight these destinations. The department, with the support of the DTPC (district tourism promotion council), hoteliers and tour operators, has rolled out a bunch of city, coastal, midland and highland tour packages, on an experimental basis.
“It will be a month-long campaign in September, the month of Onam festival, and we have already developed a microsite in our official website with details of these attractive packages. These destinations in Kollam and various tour packages will be promoted through social media networks as well,” said the deputy director in charge of the district K Rajkumar.

Palaruvi waterfalls Kollam

The tourist spots in Kollam, according to him, is remaining neglected in majority of the itineraries offered by tour operators to both domestic and foreign travellers. “Ashtamudi Lake is our prime focus along with quality village life experience we can offer at Munroe Island. Thenmala eco-tourism destination, Palaruvi waterfalls, mangrove forest at Ayiramthengu, Azheekkal beach and Paravur backwaters are among other spots which will be promoted,” he said.

Kollam Tourist Attraction

To begin with, the department will be targeting local tourists this time, who will be travelling to various destinations within the state during Onam holidays. Various events, including Kannetti boat race, a colourful and vibrant water regatta on Chathayam (4th Onam) and Kallada boat race on the Kallada River at Munroe Island (also held usually in September) will be highlighted to attract travellers.

Thangaserry beach kollam

The packages include city tours, trekking and camping programmes at Thenmala and Palaruvi water falls, both day and overnight boat cruise in backwaters and house boat packages from Ashtamudi Lake to Munroe Island, Alumkadavu, Amiruthapuri, Kuttanad, Alappuzha, Kumarakom, Vemband Lake and Thanneermukkom.

“It’s been just a couple of days since we have developed the microsite, and the tour operators are already receiving inquiries. We can really bank on this online publicity as Kerala Tourism’s official site enjoys around 15,000 hits on an average daily,” Rajkumar added.


Arunachal bags ‘Best Adventure Tourism Destination Award’

Arunachal Pradesh Tourism bagged the Today’s Traveller Award 2016, organised by Gill India Group for Best Adventure Tourism Destination at the 10th Annual Today’s Traveller Awards 2016 held at Taj Palace, New Delhi on Tuesday.

Tawang - Arunachal Pradesh

Additional Resident Commissioner, Jigmi Choden along with Resident Tourism Officer, Adong Moyong, Arunachal Bhawan received the award on behalf of Arunachal Pradesh Tourism from Minister of State (IC) for Youth Affairs and Sports, Vijay Goel.

Gorichen Trek arunachal pradesh

A coffee table book- ‘Game Changers’ was also launched in the function.
Lauding the efforts of the Gill India Group in recognizing and acknowledging the leaders of the travel and tourism industry, Vijay Goel added, “We should appreciate the best in the industry, which helps to take Incredible India to the far corners of the world. We must strive to make India an all-season destination.”

Waterfall in Arunachal Pradesh
Apart from Arunachal Tourism, only Manipur Tourism from the north eastern states could make its presence felt. It bagged the award for Best State for Niche Tourism.

The award comes in the long line of various awards that the state has received in the recent past and is in recognition of the effort put in by the Department of Tourism, Government of Arunachal Pradesh to boost tourism sector, as a major revenue earner in the state.


Growing ‘Incredible India’ and National Tourism Awards

Ever since the days of old travelers, India has always been a tourist destination and a traveler’s delight. Its unique diversity and its rich history and culture have attracted growing number of visitors to the country. Over the years, the tourism industry of “Incredible India” has made impressive headway in opening up its destination galore across its expanse to visitors. And the Tourism Ministry has been making continuous efforts, including awards presentation, to promote the industry keeping in view all aspects of it. The presentation of National Tourism Awards began in 1990’s, and since then the ministry has been giving away national awards every year to various segments of the travel, tourism and hospitality industry to support, promote and boost the growth of the sector.

bicycle tours Goa

The awards are presented to state governments and union territories, classified hotels, heritage hotels, approved travel agents, tour operators and tourist transport operators, individuals and other private organizations in appreciation and recognition of their performance in their respective fields and to encourage healthy competition with an aim to promote tourism.

Every year, the awards categories are reviewed with new categories being added to recognize excellence in diverse fields, in tune with the requirements of the changing times. Some of the new awards are:

Gwalior Fort, Madhya Pradesh

Best Civic Management of a Tourist Destination in India: This category of award was introduced in 2010 to encourage eco-friendly practices by various civic bodies in cities, towns, villages for the maintenance and upkeep of tourist sites, parks, etc. The objective of the award was to proactively involve the municipal authorities and to get their commitment towards clean, hygienic and attractive surroundings in cities, towns, villages and to thereby enhance visitor’s experience.

Tour Operators Promoting Niche segments: This award was introduced in 2011, as a part of the effort to diversify India’s tourism products by developing and promoting new niche segments, to attract different categories of tourists with diverse interests and to promote India as a year-round destination.

Best Maintained and Disabled Friendly Monument: People with different abilities and older persons are now becoming a growing group of consumers of travel, sports and other leisure-oriented products and services. In an effort to tap the potential of this group for promotion of tourist destinations in the country, the Tourism Ministry has taken an initiative to make tourist destinations barrier-free.

Best Responsible Tourism Project: The ministry also has the specific agenda to promote tourism in the country in a responsible and sustainable manner. To encourage accessible and responsible tourism in the country, the government has instituted the award for best responsible tourism project.

Best Heritage City and Best Heritage Walk: India’s cities are repositories of its rich heritage and culture. The monuments and other cultural manifestations of the city contribute to the promotion of that city as a tourist destination. In recognition of it, the two awards were introduced in 2012.

Most Film Promotion Friendly State/UT: In recent years, the medium and dynamics of cinema have grown and emerged as a powerful tool for the development and promotion of places and destinations. Several destinations have gained by being the venue / location of popular cinema. Recognising the importance of this medium, the ministry has instituted a national tourism award for the film-friendly states and union territories.