World Bank will fund ‘pro-poor tourism’ (PPT) development projects worth more than $57 million in top tourist hotspots of Agra and Braj-Mathura regions in Uttar Pradesh.
While the World Bank will incur 70% of the project cost, the remaining 30% will be borne by the UP government. According to UP tourism directorate, the World Bank and the union finance ministry have already signed loan and project agreements for the proposed PPT projects.
Pro-poor tourism is a holistic tourism concept aimed at poverty alleviation in the periphery of selected tourism hubs through interventions pertaining to the economic, social and cultural aspects of the area.
A few civil works have already been started in the two Western UP districts with the respective development authorities designated as the nodal and executing agencies for the proposed tourism projects.
UP is among the leading tourist destinations in India. According to statistics from the union tourism ministry, UP ranked second in the country after Tamil Nadu for attracting the highest number of domestic backpackers, more than 233 million and aggregating 14.2% share, in 2017.
In terms of foreign tourists, UP ranked third after Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu for the highest number of tourists at more than 35 million and cornering 13.2% share in 2017.
PPT projects are aimed at creating job-oriented economic activities related to tourism by ramping up basic infrastructure and value added services.
Earlier, similar PPT projects were also proposed for the Buddhist Circuit in UP apart from Agra and Braj-Mathura regions.
Even though the concept of PPT is not unique to India, it has successfully been implemented in other countries as well to improve the socio-economic lot of the local communities, including some African countries.
The Adityanath government has already pitched UP as the country’s spiritual and wellness tourism hub, while eyeing investments worth nearly Rs 5,000 crore in the state tourism space.
The state has also been developing the Ramayan Circuit, Buddh Circuit, Krishna Circuit, Sufi Circuit etc to boost the prospects of religious and spiritual tourism in the state.
For example, the Adityanath government had allocated Rs 4,200 crore for Kumbh Mela 2019 in Prayagraj (Allahabad), compared to the expenditure of about Rs 1,200 crore for Kumbh Mela 2013 during the previous Akhilesh Yadav regime in the state.
More than 230 million devotees and tourists had visited the Kumbh at Sangam in Prayagraj. The congregation was branded and publicised globally as a mega religious tourism event by the Adityanath government. In fact, the state also set three Guinness World Records for Kumbh Mela 2019, pertaining to general sanitation, mural painting and the longest lineup of shuttle buses.
Besides, the government is keen to hand over loss-making state tourism department properties to the private sector for their viable operation and maintenance.