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ObserveNow Goes Behind the Scenes of UP Tourism Transformation: In Conversation with Mukesh Kumar Meshram, Prl Secy, UP Tourism Dept

Mukesh Kumar Meshram

According to Uttar Pradesh Tourism’s 2022 data, the state welcomed 31.85 crore tourists, a number that surged even higher in the first nine months of 2023, with over 32 crore visitors, including a substantial influx of international travelers. Key attractions like Kashi, Prayagraj, and Ayodhya drew millions of tourists. 2023 proved to be a pivotal year for Uttar Pradesh, witnessing significant progress across various sectors. Notably, the state excelled in both central and state welfare initiatives while making substantial strides in tourism. From January to September 2023, Uttar Pradesh recorded 31,91,95,206 domestic tourists and hosted 9,54,866 foreign visitors, further solidifying its appeal on the global stage.

Promoting tourism plays a pivotal role in showcasing the diverse cultural tapestry of a region while bolstering its economic growth. Uttar Pradesh, a state steeped in history and renowned for its vibrant cultural heritage, stands as a prime example of this synergy. From the iconic Taj Mahal to the spiritual aura of Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh offers a plethora of attractions that captivate both domestic and international tourists alike. However, to fully harness this potential and ensure a seamless experience for visitors, robust infrastructure development and meticulous maintenance of tourist destinations are imperative. In this regard, Shivani Babbar, ObserveNow interacted with Mukesh Kumar Meshram, IAS Principal Secretary, Tourism & Culture Department, Govt of Uttar Pradesh.

Below are a few edited excerpts from the interview:

What strategies is the Uttar Pradesh government implementing to promote tourism and culture within the state?

The government of Uttar Pradesh is actively engaged in implementing strategies to enhance tourism and cultural activities within the state. These endeavors include several key initiatives: the development of tourist circuits such as the Buddhist, Ramayana, Krishna, and Braj Circuits to encourage religious and cultural tourism; enhancements in infrastructure including roads, accommodations, and facilities at tourist spots to elevate the overall visitor experience; conservation efforts aimed at preserving and maintaining historical sites and monuments to protect the state’s rich cultural heritage; the promotion of festivals and cultural events to highlight the diverse traditions of Uttar Pradesh; and the provision of training programs to improve professionalism and service standards in the tourism industry.

Moreover, the Department has initiated rural tourism, aiming to offer authentic rural experiences while boosting local economies. Plans to develop homestays to enhance visitor experiences in 229 villages across 18 divisions focus on specialties like agriculture, nature, heritage, religion, and culture. Tourists can engage in activities such as trekking, pottery-making, and folk dances. Goals include long-term industry growth, community participation, cultural showcase, and economic prosperity, reflecting the state’s commitment to leveraging its cultural richness for tourism and development.

How does the government plan to leverage Uttar Pradesh’s rich cultural heritage to attract both domestic and international tourists?

The Uttar Pradesh government plans to leverage its rich cultural heritage to attract domestic and international tourists through strategic initiatives. These include developing tourist circuits like the Buddhist, Ramayana, Krishna, and Braj Circuits to showcase religious and cultural significance. Preservation of historical sites, active promotion of festivals, and participation in marketing campaigns aim to highlight the state’s vibrant culture. Additionally, the promotion of rural tourism offers tourists immersive experiences in village life. Encouraging private investment in tourism infrastructure further enhances the overall visitor experience. Through these measures, the government aims to position Uttar Pradesh as a premier destination for cultural and heritage tourism, appealing to a diverse range of tourists.

How does the government plan to address challenges such as infrastructure development and maintenance in tourist destinations?

The government employs several strategies. Firstly, it prioritizes investment in infrastructure projects focused on enhancing roads, accommodations, and amenities in tourist spots. Additionally, it engages in Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) to harness private sector resources and expertise for infrastructure development and upkeep. Allocating dedicated funds for tourism development ensures adequate financial backing for such projects. Regular maintenance schedules are implemented to uphold the quality of tourist facilities. Moreover, the integration of technology aids in efficient management and monitoring of infrastructure. Capacity building programs empower local communities and stakeholders to participate in the maintenance of tourist destinations. These strategies collectively aim to overcome infrastructure challenges, improve the tourism experience, and foster sustainable tourism growth.

How is technology being integrated into the tourism sector to improve visitor experiences and management?

The integration of technology in the tourism sector enhances both visitor experiences and management in several ways. Firstly, online booking platforms, accessible through websites and mobile applications, simplify the process of reserving accommodations, transportation, and activities. Secondly, mobile apps provide interactive maps, audio guides, and augmented reality (AR) features, offering real-time information and navigation assistance. Thirdly, digital displays at tourist sites deliver captivating information about attractions and events. Moreover, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies enable immersive exploration of destinations and landmarks. Lastly, technology aids in environmental monitoring, facilitating conservation efforts, and promoting sustainable practices to preserve destinations for future generations.

By integrating technology into the tourism sector, destinations can improve visitor experiences, streamline management processes, and promote sustainable tourism practices, ultimately enhancing the overall attractiveness and competitiveness of tourist destinations.

What efforts are being made to promote Uttar Pradesh as a hub for cultural events, festivals, and arts?

Efforts aimed at positioning Uttar Pradesh as a vibrant cultural destination encompass a multifaceted approach. This strategy involves the orchestration of significant cultural gatherings and festivals such as the Kumbh Mela, Bundelkhand Mahotsav, Deepotsav, and Ramnavami celebrations. Additionally, substantial investments are being made in bolstering infrastructure to support tourism and cultural endeavors, while promotional campaigns underscore the rich cultural heritage of the region. Local artists, artisans, and craftsmen receive backing to preserve and showcase their talents, and collaborative ventures with both domestic and international partners are pursued. Digital platforms serve as pivotal tools for amplifying visibility, while concerted efforts are directed towards conserving invaluable cultural heritage sites. Furthermore, cultural tourism packages are curated to highlight heritage landmarks and indigenous arts, enticing visitors to immerse themselves in Uttar Pradesh’s cultural tapestry.

In what ways is the government working to enhance connectivity to key tourist destinations across Uttar Pradesh?

The Uttar Pradesh government is actively engaged in enhancing connectivity to significant tourist spots through a variety of initiatives. These include upgrading and expanding road networks, such as widening roads, enhancing road quality, and constructing new highways to reduce travel time and improve accessibility. Moreover, efforts are underway to enhance air connectivity by expanding existing airports and building new ones in strategic locations, including regional airports and new flight routes. Additionally, the government is focused on providing efficient and dependable public transport services within tourist areas, such as buses, taxis, and other modes of transportation, to ensure seamless mobility for visitors. These combined efforts aim to boost accessibility and connectivity to key tourist destinations throughout Uttar Pradesh, fostering tourism growth and enriching the overall visitor experience.