India, known for unity in diversity, offers an awesome, creative burst of culture - a potpourri of religions, traditions and races- all represented by the spectacular Indian states, which have been attracting tourists from across the regions. The Ministry of Tourism has made efforts to identify the ‘niche’ tourism segments in India and is working on promoting them as tourist attractions, both in domestic and international circuits. TravelScapes speaks to the top decision-makers of Indian states to know about the unique offerings to the tourists and their take on ‘Niche’ tourism.
Backwaters of Kerala Reconnect yourself
Aptly referred as the “God’s own Country”; Kerala with a vast coastline fringed with coconut palm and extensive stretches of Western Ghats is one of the most popular tourist destinations in India as well as Asia.
While hill resorts and beaches can be found in other parts of India, the Backwaters are unique to Kerala. Meandering through the coastal areas of Kerala is a 900 kilometers long intricate network of lagoons, lakes, canals, estuaries and deltas of several rivers that flow into the Arabian Sea. The most beautiful and accessible part of the Backwaters is the Ashtamudi Lake located in district in Kollam. This is the second biggest lake in Kerala and is the most visited tourist area in South India. The Astamudi is also home of several endangered marine species with rich bio-diversity. Sandwiched between towns of Kollam, Ashtamudi is world-renowned for its natural beauty and large expanse of water and has always enthralled visitors from all over world. Next is Vembanad backwater stretch located in districts of Ernakulam, Alapuzha and Kottayam area. The Cochin coast is dotted with numerous islands interconnected by ferries and bridges, adorning the Queen of the Arabian Sea. The islands break the waves from the sea, thus ensuring that the Backwaters are calm and navigable.
Backwaters, the USP of Kerala
Every year, the status of this beautiful destination is being upheld in the world market as the most popular destination. As a proof, we have got accolades and acclamations for it. Recently, the National Geographic selected 17 best destinations in the world and Backwaters bagged the 10th position which is of course a matter of pride for us. Even the celebrities and famous personalities prefer to spend time here due to its amazing serene and pleasant surroundings. It is for sure Kerala’s major USP and no other product can be compared to it.
Kerala offers a varied range of Niche products; Medical tourism is the forte
Be it wildlife or nature, MICE or cultural, good culinary experiences or Ayurveda, our state has it all.
Medical tourism is one of major fortes. It’s a very different and unique kind of experience we offer where the tourists come for their rejuvenation, peace of mind and stress relief. Kerala is the ideal place for Ayurveda which is evident in our campaign named “Home of Ayurveda”.
Innovative marketing and strengthening is the way forward
We focus on our key segments like medical tourism; we strengthen the product in order to ensure its sustainability and apply the innovative marketing techniques; that way we succeed in standing out in the Niche segments’ market in India.
Future of Niche Tourism in India
It has got a great potential if it is nurtured correctly. If we concentrate on the specific needs of the travelers and offer them the niche products according to their needs, I think Niche tourism will be the most encouraging thing in our country then.
Mughal Road Jammu & Kashmir Revitalising the royal past
Jammu and Kashmir has always been well-known for the captivating beauty of its lofty Himalayan ranges and the breathtaking scenery of its lush green valleys. Amidst the beauty of the J & K valley, lies the culturally rich and historic Mughal road. As the word Mughal Road indicates that this path was a route used by the great Mughal emperors.
The road was historically used by Mughal emperors to travel and conquer Kashmir during the sixteenth century. Old Mughal Road was the route used by Akbar to conquer Kashmir in 1586, and his son Emperor Jahangir died while returning from Kashmir on this road near Rajouri. This traditional route - which had been traversed by several Kashmiri kings, traders and travelers since ancient times - soon became abuzz with the armies and caravans of the Mughal rulers who used it extensively to travel to the Kashmir valley.
Whole stretch of Mughal Road from Jammu to Srinagar is very beautiful. Snow capped hills all around with white water streams flowing through them and the chilly wind floating around, promises to keep you rejuvenated always. These virgin hill stations and nature blessed spots shall be a visual treat for the tourists and the unique cultural heritage of the nomadic tribes of Pir Panjal region, their traditions, melodious folklore, sarais and ruins of Mughal period aims to boost the heritage tourism in the region.
Visit the lesser-visited
Gulmarg and Pahalgam are the well-known tourist spots that we could easily highlight but the idea is to stress upon those places which have not got adequate attention. This year, we are looking forward to promote the Mughal Road which has a historic significance attached to it. The Mughals used to come to Kashmir via the Mughal Trail. The Mughals have also built some wonderful gardens. The Old Sarais and scenic beauty are just spectacular here. Other than this, places like the Silk Route can also catch a traveller’s eye. The very beautiful and the colossal statues of Buddha add to the importance of Kashmir as an ancient and religious land.
Aplenty of Niche Products
Jammu and Kashmir revolves around each and every product. Be it heritage, be it adventure, golf or MICE, we have it all. The Downtown, the heritage walks through the lanes of Downtown and Srinagar, the crafts, the Pashmina shawls, the woodwork and the copper work- the list of the products we have is endless. Once you take a walk through the lanes of Downtown you not only get to see the heritage monuments but you get a peep into how these products are made. We are trying to develop these kinds of heritage tours, handicrafts tours and heritage walks around the city so that more tourists come in and experience the true essence of our state.
We will be focusing on wildlife. We have unique wildlife in Kashmir and one can easily spot a Markhor, Hangul or a Chinar in the region.
Adventure tourism is another focus area for J & K. If you have to take a ride to the highest Gondola, you can visit Gulmarg, if you want to take a bike tour on the highest road in the world, visit Khardung La. Pangong Tso Lake is one of the largest brackish lakes in Asia and is a paradise for nature admirers.
We have recently introduced Tosamaidan which is a very colorful place. Tosamaidan provides unlimited opportunities of paragliding, trekking, snowboarding, skiing, hiking and mountaineering.
Positive Publicity, the only requirement
To project our unique offerings, we need to eradicate the negative perception which is the single factor that is stopping us to match the level of other states like Kerala and Rajasthan. If you see the records, there has not been a single incident where a tourist has been killed or harmed. Only thing we need is the positive publicity. With every setback, we have come back strongly and with that endeavour, the whole country is with us, and with their support and positive publicity, I’m sure we’ll be able convince and cajole more tourists to our state.
Some places in the world are known for lush greenery, others for steep cliffs and snowy glaciers and others still for refreshing water lapping against hot beaches. But of all the landscapes in the world, harsh deserts are perhaps the one that fewest people have experienced. Precisely because there are very few people, visiting deserts like the Little Rann of Kutch which gives a traveler the chance to ponder a world before there were so many of us around.
The Wild Ass Sanctuary of the Little Rann of Kutch, spreading across nearly 5000 square kilometers of the Little Rann, is the only place on earth where the endangered Indian Wild Ass (Equus hemionus khur), known locally as the Ghudkhar, still lives. The only other two subspecies of wild asses live in the high arid plateaus of Tibet, making this the most accessible place to visit wild asses in their natural environs. Activities like bird watching adds to a great point of interest for the wildlife lovers. One can spot birds like Grey Francolin, Jungle Bush Quail, Indian Peafowl and many more at LRK. The Indian Army also maintains a firing range of over 200 square km inside the sanctuary borders to keep the wildlife protected.
The Little Rann of Kutch is home to tribal communities of salt makers. It also receives visits from nomadic pastoral communities such as the Rabaris and Bharvads. Families of Jats own land here. It is possible to visit some settlements for a glimpse of nomadic life and their colourful clothing and jewellery.
Manager (Marketing, IT, and Personnel), Gujarat Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC)
LRK, the lesser known marvel
People have already heard of Rann of Kutch which is very famous with the Indians and foreign tourists but Little Runn of Kutch is a hidden marvel on the land of Gujarat. The place is two to three hours from Bhad. It is famous for bird watching, bird-life, salt pans and the wild ass which is an endangered species. In fact, LRK is the only place in the world where the endangered Indian Wild Ass is found. In lieu to attract more tourists here, our major focus for 2017 will be on promoting the Little Runn of Kutch.
Festivals are the USP of Gujarat
Gujarat is famous for its festivals and that is what our USP is. Starting from Navratri, Rann Utsav to the Kite festival, we have three mega events which almost everyone knows about. Navratri, the nine daylong festival perfectly fits in the plan of a long-haul travel. It is the time when you can enjoy the cultural activities at its best. More people are seen coming to Gujarat for the festivals. As of now, foreign tourists are less because we need to identify the sectors per se and the promotion is required.
Initiatives to promote Niche products
We are right now focusing on promoting Navratri as an international event. In lieu of promoting it more aggressively, we have now asked the tour operators to come up with Navratri tour packages. The state government also floats certain packages.
Golf Tourism is another sector that we are looking forward to promote. Very few people know that there are seven golf courses in Gujarat. In next two to three years, we are hopeful that there would be around10-12 golf courses in Gujarat which will be a boosting factor for promoting Golf Tourism.
We’ll be focusing on promoting the handicrafts. As Gujarat is already well-known for its handicrafts, this segment also becomes a niche for us as it is catering to a special interest of people in handicrafts. We have asked the State Handloom Corporation to jointly come with us in the events so that their visibility increases. We also are focusing on introducing textile packages specific to the state where the handicraft admirers would just come to see the different kind of crafts in are in each location.
Niagara falls of India in Chattisgarh
Entitled as the “Niagara Falls of India”, Chitrakoot Waterfalls, bear the proud distinction of being the broadest waterfall in India. The majestic beauty is located 38 km from Jagdalpur in Bastar on the river Indrāvati. The water of the river flows through the dense vegetation and cascades from a height of about 95 feet. The Chitrakoot Waterfalls appear to be in the shape of a horse-shoe. Positioned at a height of about 100 feet, Chitrakoot Falls are also known to be the largest waterfalls in India.
The girth of the waterfall varies, as the water level in the river goes down drastically during the summer. However during monsoon the river touches the banks and is filled with sediments of mud. On the contrary, during summer the water carries no silt and looks different. The area around the Chitrakoot Falls is highly dense and forested. The waterfalls along with the surrounding areas have a stunning beauty and are of great interest to adventure buffs.
One can often spot eye-catching birds sitting at the corner of these waterfalls adding to the beauty of the place. The gushing noise created by the Chitrakoot Falls is so loud that it is hardly possible to hear anything behind their noise. The Chitrakoot Falls are exceptionally gorgeous to look at during the rainy season when the water acquires the brown colour due to erosion of soil.
Indravati River which starts its journey from the Vindhya ranges, converts into a picturesque delight at the point where the Chitrakoot Falls are located. One is sure to get enthralled by the serene beauty and magnificence of the Chitrakoot Falls and the surrounding environment.
Dr Sanjay Singh
General Manager, Chattisgarh Tourism Board
Preferred tourist spot
I would highly recommend our very well-known Chitrakoot Waterfalls which is one of the most beautiful and biggest waterfalls in the country. We compare it with the Niagra Waterfalls and it is aptly termed as the smaller version of Niagra. What enhances the beauty of these falls is that they are located amidst the dense jungle, which paints a very beautiful sight for the tourists.
Views on the potential of Niche tourism
Seeing the experiential urge of the youths to travel, I believe the Niche tourism has got a wonderful chance in our country. India was never that experiential but we are amazed to see the shift in trend taking place especially seeing the people of age group 14-35 travelling. The best part is that they are living in present, they have an urge to travel and that is where the future of our country lies.
Keeping that in mind, we are thoroughly focusing on the youths and the segments that interests them.
Niche is the new way forward for Chattisgarh
We have got a lot of investments of around 200 crores in water sports and adventure sports, trekking and wildlife in a bid to promote adventure tourism. Apart from this, our main forte is eco- ethno tourism and the agenda is to push it more. As 50 per cent of area is under forest and we have got some beautiful dam sites, Waterfalls, caves, jungles, tribes, our key focus areas also include the promotion of rural and tribal tourism. In a bid to attract tourists, some areas will showcase the traditional tribal culture and ethnicity. This will help establish Chhattisgarh as India’s biggest ‘Eco-Tourism hub’.
We are also actively promoting Homestays in our state. We cannot fulfill the criteria of resorts as they cannot be built overnight so as to provide the best of services with convenience; we have made efforts in the Homestays segment. To make the accommodation facilities better, we have switched to Chinese logs. We are building the logs, imported from China and Canada, getting it seasoned, cut and assembled here. Secondly, we are promoting responsible tourism in the form of solar energy. These investments will add facilities to manufacture for several innovative products in the renewable energy and building materials sectors.
With some recent tie-ups and initiatives, we are sure that our strenuous efforts to improve the quality of infrastructure and provide basic amenities will be fruitful.
Golden Temple Entrance Plaza
Punjab represents a culture that is as progressive as it is deep rooted in tradition and a society that is as modern as it is representative of its rich history. It is in this spirit that Punjab Tourism has undertaken its newest ventures in and around Amritsar. As the holy city now turns a new leaf, the Tourism board’s latest initiatives are like jewels in a crown.
Worth a mention is “The Golden Temple Entrance Plaza” built to face lift to the holiest shrine of the Sikh community and a world renowned architectural wonder. The moody by-lanes of the Golden Temple have now been converted into a beautiful heritage corridor, not unlike the famous La Grand Place - Brussels’ famous square. Packed with history and clean, paved streets flanked by famous eating places, shops, spectacular statues and some of the most famous sites like the Jallianwala Bagh, Town Hall and the entrance to the Golden temple. The sprawling 8,250 sq m open space is replete with artistic statues, seating around trees and fountains. The markets around have been given a period-façade. Massive screens light up in the evenings –playing live hymns from the holy shrines and aesthetically lit monuments create a mood that is hard to replicate or forget. The Grand Entrance Plaza while providing a beautiful and passageway to the resplendent Golden Temple, is a destination within itself.
According to the Deputy Chief Minister, Sukhbir Singh Badal, the Golden Temple remained the single biggest magnet for tourism in not only Amritsar but the entire globe and therefore it was of prime importance to manage these huge footfalls by undertaking such projects. The Golden Temple entrance plaza is developed at a cost of Rs 250 crore by the Punjab government. The services of the best architects and consultants from all over the country were hired for undertaking this project of great importance. It is also said that Durgiana Mandir would also be beautified and renovated on the similar pattern.
Navjotpal Singh Randhawa
Director Tourism and Cultural Affairs Punjab
New offerings by Punjab Tourism
Punjab Tourism has developed various products in order to increase the number of tourist footfalls and to boost tourism in Punjab in 2017. Recently, new products were launched in Amritsar, like Amritsar Heritage village, Golden Temple entrance plaza, War museum, partition museum, Hop on Hop off buses, Gobind Garh Fort and one of the major product launched was the Amphibious Bus, launched by the Punjab Government. The amphibious bus project at Harike Wetlands, the largest wetland in North India aims to be the major attractions for the foreign tourists. Also, Punjab is the first state to start amphibious bus in India which is one of its kinds.
Nourishing the Niche products to increase tourist footfalls
Travel and tourism is the largest service industry in India and the Niche Tourism has been trending in almost every state now. Eco tourism and rural tourism in Punjab has been most effective as of now. Punjab is focusing more on Rural Tourism by promoting the farm stays. We are also eyeing on Adventure tourism by recently launching HOP on HOP off city buses in Amritsar and Amphibious bus at Harike Pattan wetlands. With these new initiatives for boosting our Niche products, I am sure we’ll be able to attract more tourists to Punjab in the coming years
Marketing initiatives to promote Punjab globally
Punjab Tourism`s marketing wing is taking the initiatives to promote the tourist destinations of Punjab domestically and internationally. Punjab tourism`s has been participating in the premium and leading travel and trade shows taking place in India and internationally, especially WTM London and ITB Berlin. The marketing wing is also doing efforts by organising FAM trips for the premium and the leading travel magazines, bloggers, writers etc. and also arranging the workshops for the tour operators, travel agents to spread the awareness of our newly launched products.