Silicon City as the gateway to south India' is what Karnataka’s department of tourism would pitch for when Bengaluru hosts the 38th Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Travel Mart 2015 from September 6 to 8 at the Bangalore International Exhibition Centre. The premier travel trade show, which is aimed at promoting responsible tourism in the Asia Pacific region, will see more than 1,000 delegates from 80 countries and 25 Indian states.
The state tourism department is trying to live up to its tag: One State, Many Worlds. “Karnataka has 319 tourist destinations. I am sure this event will put Bengaluru on the global map,” said Tourism and Industries Minister R.V. Deshpande. “Karnataka has a good mix of heritage, wildlife, beaches, hill stations, temples and, of course, technology. Infrastructure is lacking in some places, but we have taken steps to plug the loopholes.”
In the past one year, Karnataka got a footfall of 11.88 crore, including 5.6 lakh foreign tourists. With PATA, Bengaluru, which is connected to 19 international airports, is aspiring to emerge as the preferred destination for both domestic and foreign travellers. The plan is to highlight prominent tourism circuits like Coorg, Chikkamagaluru, Mysuru, Badami, Belur, Halebidu, Shravanabelagola, UNESCO World Heritage sites Hampi and Pattadakal, and tiger reserves of Bandipur, Dandeli, BR Hills, Bhadra and Nagarhole.
Karnataka is not just about history. A tourist gets a slice of royalty and luxury, too. The Golden Chariot, which is counted among the seven best luxury trains in the world, takes the tourists through the erstwhile kingdoms. The focus is on promoting traditional art and crafts—lacquerware toys of Channapatna, sandalwood carvings, carpet work of Navalgund, Mysore silk saris and Bidri metalware—and cuisine, including signature dishes like akki rotis, jowar rotis, maddur vada, Mysore pak and Bijapur biryani. “We will also showcase our popular offerings—wine, coffee and spices,” said G. Satyavathi, tourism director. In addition, trained guides would be provided.
Recently, the state government announced a new tourism policy that offers concessions and subsidies to entities interested in starting tourism projects. “The new tourism policy was formulated after thorough consultations with the stakeholders by the Karnataka Tourism Vision Group [formed by the state government],” said Deshpande. “It offers everything a tourism investor is possibly looking for. For instance, subsidy was earlier restricted to hotels and resorts. But now, we have extended incentives to 18 categories of tourism products.”
Another government initiative involved corporates who were willing to adopt tourist destinations. “Roping in the corporates to adopt tourist destinations under their corporate social responsibility programme was a step towards upgrading infrastructure and enhancing last mile connectivity,” said Deshpande. The partnership has resulted in an inflow of funds. “Partnering with the corporates has helped us overcome funds crunch,” said Deshpande. “We are now developing state-of-the-art toilet designs and also offering subsidy for setting up kiosks at tourism plazas covering Mysore, Vijayapura and Karwar in the first phase.”