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Tourism among top priorities: Krishna

By Our Special Correspondent


BANGALORE, JAN. 29. The Bangalore International Airport, work on which has just begun, and the import control relaxations announced by the Union Government dominated the discussions at Connect, the Private-Public Partnership event of Karnataka Tourism on Thursday.

The Chief Minister, S.M. Krishna, who came from Devanahalli, the location of the airport, said tourism was among the top priorities of the Government, apart from primary education and healthcare. "I saw how hotels in Goa were full during a brief visit (on the way to the Coastal Investors' Meet), and Hampi and other places of tourist interest are not too far from Goa,'' he added.

Air connectivity to tourist centres was important, and talks were held recently with Air Deccan to facilitate the use of airstrips, including those privately owned, in Hubli-Dharwad, Belgaum, Jindal-Vijayanagar, Toranagallu, Harihar, and Mysore, Mr. Krishna said. Since Infosys was setting up a large training facility in Mysore, it needed flights. "The Government has appointed a senior officer as Heritage Commissioner to plan facilities at places of historical interest such as Mysore, Srirangapatna, Badami, Bijapur, and Patadakal. We aim to have Karnataka at the frontline of global tourism and make it a model even for Rajasthan and Kerala,'' he said.

The Union Secretary for Tourism, Rathi Vinay Jha, said she had a "wish list" for Karnataka which included restoration of all 1,360 recently listed monuments with private partnership, a cultural centre in Bangalore to provide entertainment to tourists after their days of sight-seeing, and an international convention centre.

"China is now permitting its people to visit India as tourists, and we are promoting Buddhist monuments and pilgrimage centres. Even one per cent of 370 million Buddhists in the world coming to India can make a big difference. Right now, 22 delegates from Buddhist countries are being taken around to monuments of their faith,'' Ms. Jha said. While the tourism industry felt the number of foreign tourists visiting India had remained stagnant at 2.5 million over the past five years, the number of domestic tourists had touched 300 million, and they too were a big business opportunity, she added.

The Chairman of the Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation, Abdul Sattar Sait, wanted ideas such as a film city and an amusement park on the Disneyland model for Bangalore, discussed by the tourism industry. Pre- and post-convention tour packages could be promoted.

Mr. Sait said the Palace-on-Wheels from Goa to Mysore would be on the rails in about six months. The reduction in luxury tax on hotels and permission to smaller hotels to import liquor were welcome developments.

A "tourism gazetteer" listing all places of interest with their history and a database of 20,000 artistes were among initiatives taken up with partial funding from Delhi, he said.

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