On the evening of Monday 1st April 2013 Shri Narendra Modi addressed the inaugural ceremony of Gujarat Travel Mart, which will serve as a showcase for stimulating travel, tourism, hospitality, leisure and other related industries through B2B exchange. Shri Modi listed out the steps taken by the Gujarat Government in the last few years to promote tourism and stated that it is his dream to develop tourism to its maximum potential and ensure that it contributes maximum employment and GDP to the services sector.
Talking about the phenomenal growth in Gujarat’s tourism sector, Shri Modi recalled that despite being a land known for its hospitality, Gujarat was nowhere on India’s tourism map. “It was in 2006 that we decided to give top priority to this sector. We declared 2006 as ‘Year of Tourism’ and all Government departments coordinated to make Gujarat a tourist friendly state,” he shared. Shri Modi further recalled that in 2005-2006 the budget for tourism was Rs. 30 crore whereas today it stands at Rs. 500 crore. “This is the evidence that tourism is a priority sector for us and we want to contribute in tourism growth,” said Shri Modi.
Giving further examples to illustrate Gujarat’s impressive strides in tourism, Shri Modi declared that in the last year Gujarat got over 22 million tourists and witnessed a tourism growth rate of over 16%, which is double of the national tourism growth rate. “We won three National Awards in Tourism. Lonely Planet Magazine rated us among the world’s 10 unsung places. We have reached a stage where the world’s eyes are on us. Those who know the tourism sector know what potential there is Gujarat,” affirmed the Chief Minister.
Talking about the strong potential of tourism in Gujarat, Shri Modi gave the example of Rann Utsav. “At one time Kutch had negative growth. People left Kutch and went as far as Assam. But now, the Rann that was earlier seen as a cause of trouble is not a land of progress. Like we have Torans in Indian tradition, I can say that Rann Utsav is India’s Toran to the world,” opined Shri Modi. He said that Rann Utsav has brought a big difference in the lives of local craftsmen, singers, musicians etc.
Likewise, Shri Modi spoke at length about the massive potential for spiritual tourism in Gujarat. He said, “From the Chakradhari Mohan (Lord Krishna) to the Charkhadhari Mohan (Mahatma Gandhi), we have a rich history and culture. From Dholavira to Dholera, it is a long journey of progress.” Shri Modi gave the example of Udawada, the place that is revered by the Parsi community. Shri Modi also declared, “No one knows that Gujarat is rich in Buddhist history. People think Buddhist tourism was restricted to eastern part of India only.” He shared that Gujarat is rich in Buddhist sites and relics and further shared that his own birth town of Vadnagar was home to a Buddhist monastery. “Gujarat will be known in the Buddhist circuit in the days to come,” he expressed confidence. Shri Modi brought out Gujarat’s strong links with Sikhism as well, “One on the Panj Pyaras hailed from Gujarat and Guru Nanak ji himself stayed in Gujarat,” and added, “For Jains, Palitana is a revered sport. For all faiths there is something or the other in Gujarat and we want to further promote it in the days to come.”
The Chief Minister listed the immense scope of eco-tourism in Saputara Aravalli hills. He opined that efforts to promote tourism there have helped the tribal communities and helped in preserving the natural beauty of these places. Going beyond, Shri Modi talked about the scope in bird tourism, saying, “There are lot of bird watchers in Gujarat and you will find many species here. Last year we had bird watcher’s conference. Infact I have seen that bird watchers make the best tourists. They come with their bags and do not leave till they have spotted what they came for.” Shri Modi also spoke about the increase in film shootings in Gujarat, both Bollywood and regional cinema. He said that the Government is thinking about a policy to attract more shootings and popularize the tourist locations of Gujarat.
Shri Modi stated that he sees many opportunities in other spheres like agriculture tourism and kid’s tourism, conference tourism, adventure tourism as well. “We are lucky to have a 1600 km coastline. We have dolphins and a marine national park too. Our coastline can be a great potential for tourism.”
Speaking on the occasion, Cabinet Minister for Tourism Shri Saurabh Patel spoke of how tourism has been given a special place in Gujarat’s development under the leadership of Shri Modi. Also present on the occasion were Shri Kamlesh Patel, who heads Tourism Corporation of Gujarat Limited and Principal Secretary (Tourism) Shri Vipul Mitra.