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Now, Gujarat plans 'kids tourism'

The state tourism department, which recently received national awards for its initiatives, has come up with an innovative idea of promoting 'kids tourism'. The department likely to launch a new campaign promoting destinations that would be interesting or attractive to children.

With summer vacations round the corner, a time when children usually play a key role in deciding the choice of travel destination, the department thought it would be an apt time to launch the campaign.

"We want to promote what can be called 'kids tourism', featuring destinations that might be interesting or exciting to children. We want to educate the children about the attractions in our state," said Vipul Mittra, principal secretary, tourism, government of Gujarat.

Gujarat tourism has divided the major attractions in the state under eight hubs, which are Ahmedabad metro, Ahmedabad rural (north Gujarat), Surat (south Gujarat), Vadodara (central Gujarat), Rajkot, Junagadh and Jamnagar (Saurashtra) and Bhuj (Kutch). Of these, places like the sanctuaries, hill-stations and in-city attractions like heritage walks etc can be interesting to children, said a senior official in the tourism department.

The department is planning to launch a campaign that would include television commercials, newspaper advertisements etc, as a part of promoting kids' tourism.

"There are plans to develop various tourist amenities along the highway in Gujarat. Another project,'Rama trail', will give a taste of the journey that Lord Rama, Sita and Laxman undertook as part of their 14-year exile, and locations like Sita Van, Ram Sarovar, Unai and Shabari Dham in Gujarat would be developed," Mittra said adding that a third phase of the 'Khushboo Gujarat ki' campaign would be shot soon.

The department has taken up initiatives to develop private golf courses, and five memorandums of understanding (MOUs) have already been signed in this regard. A budget of Rs 654 crore has been earmarked for tourism infrastructure.

"We are also trying to promote adventure sports and Golf tourism. Existing as well as new and upcoming destinations have been identified, and after determining their potential, various development projects have been undertaken," he said. Dwarka, Somnath, Ambaji, Kabirvad, Saputara, Nalsarovar, Shamlaji, Pavagadh are some places where development works are being undertaken

Besides, development of coastal tourism is high on the agenda of Gujarat's tourism department. The state which has the longest coastline in the country, has been granted financial aid of around Rs 1200 crore from the Planning Commission, to develop infrastructure in coastal tourism. The government is planning to develop cruise terminals for dolphin sighting trips etc with an eye on boosting coastal tourism. The department has allocated Rs 156 crore developing coastal tourism across 16 beaches that have been identified for having tourism potential.

As Mittra puts it, "Gujarat tourism has done extremely well in the last two years. We have annual traffic growth of around 16 per cent, a marketing campaign that has caught everybody's attention and few national and international awards. Hence it was prudent that we have a higher budget allocation for 2013-14. This year, a budget of Rs 395 crore has been allocated for tourism as against Rs 340 crore last year."

Maharashtra accounts for the major bulk of tourists visiting Gujarat, followed by Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. "The trend has been constant for the past two years, with Maharashtra's contribution of around 34 per cent, Rajashthan at 16 per cent and Uttar Pradesh at 13 per cent (year 2011-12)," he informed.

While data for the 20-12-13 fiscal is yet to be collated, the state had attracted 22.3 million tourists during 2011-12.

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