India pushing domestic travel to revive tourism industry

Dekho Apna Desh contest challenges people to visit 15 destinations in two years.

The Indian government is offering travelers the chance to explore India and win a prize – if you can get to all 15 destinations by the end of 2022.

This is part of an innovative new campaign called Dekho Apna Desh (‘See Your Country’), as Prime Minister Narendra Modi looks to inspire and encourage more domestic tourism to help stimulate recovery from the pandemic.

Due to travel restrictions, the scheme is only open for Indian residents at present, but when international travel reopens the opportunity will be available for international visitors too.

The 15 destinations are:

  • Kaziranga National Park – Situated in Assam, it is a World Heritage Site as declared by UNESCO. The national park is famous for its one-horned rhinoceros.
  • Mahabodhi Temple –  he place where Gautam Buddha received enlightenment. It is situated within the complex of Bodh Gaya in Bihar.
  • Kumarakom– It is popular for its backwaters and bird sanctuary. It is situated near the city of Kottayam in Kerala.
  • Mahabalipuram – Famous for its rock-cut temples, Mahabalipuram was built by the Pallava kings of South. It is located near Chennai in Tamil Nadu.
  • Hampi – It is famous for the ruins of the Vijaynagara kingdom and is located near Bengaluru. Recently it has turned into one of the most popular hippie destinations of India.
  • Humayun’s Tomb – Located in Delhi, Humayun’s Tomb is the resting place of the second Mughal emperor, Humayun, Akbar’s father. This monument is also considered to be the inspiration for Taj Mahal.
  • Amer Fort – Amer Fort is located in the city of Jaipur on the Aravalli hills in Rajasthan. The majestic fort was built by Maharaja Man Singh I under the instruction of Akbar.
  • Colva – Colva is a coastal village in South Goa. It has many tourist destinations like the Colva beach, Church of Our Lady of Mercy, and Burnzam Ghor.
  • Somnath Temple – Located in Gujarat,  this temple is one of the 12 jyotirlinga shrines of Lord Shiva.
  • Taj Mahal and Fatehpur Sikri – Located in Agra, both monuments are popular among tourists. Taj Mahal is one of the Seven Wonders of the World while Fatehpur Sikri was Akbar’s capital.
  • Ajanta Ellora – Caves situated near Aurangabad in Maharashtra. It is World Heritage Site declared by UNESCO.
  • Red Fort and Qutub Minar – Both monuments are located in the capital city of Delhi. While one had been built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, the other was raised by the Slave dynasty.
  • Dholavira – Dholvira is situated near Kutch in Gujarat. It has been declared as an archaeological site.
  • Khajuraho – Khajuraho is located in the Chhatarpur district of Madhya Pradesh. It is famous for its group of temples dedicated to Hindu gods as well as Mahavir.
  • Konark Sun Temple – It is located near Bhubaneshwar in Orissa. It is also known as the ‘Black Pagoda’ and was built during the reign of King Narasimhadeva I.

Last year, PM Modi began the push to encourage domestic tourism as part of a wider plan to stimulate India’s economy. “I know people travel abroad for holidays, but can we think of visiting at least 15 tourist destinations across India before 2022,” he said in a speech.

At the start of this year, Prahlad Singh Patel, Minister of State for Culture and Tourism, promised to make Modi’s idea a reality, launching the wider pledge.

“We will start a mass movement encouraging every Indian to visit more domestic destinations, this will boost up local as well as national economy,” he said last month.

While local travel is a more practical offering during a pandemic, it’s also, importantly, a more sustainable and affordable approach to tourism.

The destinations have all been chosen to cover a wide geographical spread to show off India’s diversity and rich cultural, social and historical heritage. In addition, particular care has been taken to choose locations embedded within nature, allowing visitors to experience the outdoor sights safely, taking all the COVID precautions into account.

“The tourism ministry will fund the travel expenses of tourists who visit 15 destinations in the country in a year and submit the photos on our website,” Minister Prahlad Patel had said on 24 January at the concluding ceremony of the two-day National Tourism Conference in Odisha’s Konark. In order to be eligible for the program, the travelers need to first pledge and then upload photos on the website after visiting any 15 tourists locations in a year. However, one needs to travel outside of their home state to qualify for the program.

Is it working?

So far 142,368 citizens have joined the Dekho Apna Desh pledge, with almost three-quarters aged between 25-40.

It seems to have been a resounding success so far, with many of the destinations already fully booked for the foreseeable future.

Prahlad Singh Patel has said that the country’s tourism industry is reviving faster than expected thanks to the Dekho Apna Desh initiative.

The contest is only open for Indian residents at present, but when international travel reopens, visitors from abroad can also take part also.

Image courtesy of (Photos courtesy Jetsetter and Pinterest)

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