Rajasthan has always been a top destination for tourism, thanks to its rich culture, history, and architecture. The state is a part of the ‘Golden Triangle Circuit’ and has captured everyone’s imagination with its food, culture, history, and the grand fairytale wedding destinations that it has become famous for.
According to official data, it has witnessed a steady year-on-year growth in tourist footfall, wherein the first half of the current year, 36.48 million domestic tourists visited Rajasthan, 63% higher than the pre-pandemic period of the year 2019, whereas, in the first half of 2019, the state hosted 8.46 lakh foreign tourists. The state offers a range of tourism experiences, including iconic landmarks, heritage sites, special heritage villages or craft villages and experiential tourism.
Rajasthan also caters to those seeking luxury and grandeur, with opulent palaces and heritage hotels that make it an ideal place for destination weddings and high-end tourism. Both domestic and international travellers find themselves captivated by Rajasthan’s vibrant culture, history, and festivities.
The state attracts history and culture enthusiasts who are captivated by its magnificent forts, palaces and ancient temples, immersing themselves in Rajasthan’s rich heritage through heritage walks and cultural events. Architecture and art enthusiasts are drawn to the intricate carvings, frescoes and impressive craftsmanship displayed in the havelis, stepwells and Jain temples.
Nature and wildlife lovers flock to Rajasthan’s diverse landscapes, from the Aravallis to the Thar Desert, and wildlife sanctuaries like Ranthambore and Sariska. Spiritual and pilgrim travellers find solace in sacred sites like Pushkar, Ajmer, and Nathdwara.
It is the diversity and richness of experiences that makes Rajasthan a preferred choice for tourists of all demographics, ensuring that every visitor finds something that resonates with their interests and preferences. LuxeBook caught up with Dr Rashmi Sharma, Director of Tourism, to discuss the state’s potential for tourism, the recent recognition of the sector as an industry and the state government’s initiative to promote tourism and hospitality in Rajasthan.
In what ways has the state been a thought leader in terms of promoting tourism?
Rajasthan has established itself as a thought leader in promoting tourism through its innovative strategies, policies, and initiatives. We have been focusing aggressively on enhancing tourism infrastructure, investing in popular destinations like Jaipur, Udaipur and Jodhpur, and developing lesser-known locations such as Mount Abu, Ajmer-Pushkar, Sariska, and Ranthambore as weekend tourism destinations. This diversification of offerings has not only spread economic benefits but also positioned Rajasthan as a pioneer in tourism promotion.
Rajasthan was the first state in the country to introduce a new Tourism Policy during the pandemic, aiming to make it the “Most Visible State” and achieve a prominent position among the top five states in terms of tourist arrivals. This forward-thinking approach has set Rajasthan apart as a leader in tourism promotion.
Furthermore, granting ‘Industry Status’ to the tourism and hospitality sector showcases Rajasthan’s strong commitment to promote tourism and creating an environment that is conducive to the industry’s growth and development.
By positioning cities like Jaipur, Udaipur and Jaisalmer as premier wedding destinations, Rajasthan has captured the imagination of the population with its opulence, traditional practices and romance. The certification of pre-1950 buildings as ‘Heritage Properties’ by the Department of Tourism preserves cultural heritage and promotes them as unique venues for royal weddings, film shoots, and luxurious accommodations for tourists.
The state has introduced activities like boating, ATV rides, and mountaineering through public-private partnership initiatives, enhancing the overall travel experience. The state’s focus on sustainability and eco-tourism is evident through its eco-tourism policy, emphasizing conservation, community-based tourism, and collaborations with UNESCO for cultural preservation.
What circuits are being developed by the government currently?
Rajasthan tourism has developed two more circuits for domestic and foreign travel. The first circuit has been developed keeping in mind religious tourism. This circuit has been named ‘Sarva Dharma Sambhava – Religious Pilgrimage Circuit’. Under this circuit, pilgrimage sites, dargahs, gurudwaras and Jain temples are being renovated and developed in different districts of the state. The ‘Sarva Dharma Sambhav’ circuit has been developed connecting the districts of Jaipur, Ajmer, Sikar, Chittorgarh, Sawai Madhapur, Karuli, Mount Abu, Bhilwara and Jhalawar. On the other hand, ‘Shekhawati Circuit’ has been developed connecting Sikar and Jhunjhunu districts, and under this havelis of these two districts are being renovated, preserved and promoted.
Would you say that the state has a natural inclination and hence developed logistics for tourism?
Rajasthan has demonstrated a natural inclination towards tourism and has made significant efforts to develop logistics and infrastructure to support the industry. The state’s cultural heritage, scenic landscapes and proactive tourism initiatives make it an attractive destination for tourists.
Over the years, the government of Rajasthan has recognized the potential of tourism as a major economic driver and has taken several initiatives to develop and promote the tourism sector. The state has established a well-organized tourism infrastructure, including hotels, resorts, guesthouses, and tourist information centres, to cater to the needs of visitors.
Rajasthan has also developed a robust transportation network to facilitate travel within the state. There are well-connected roadways, railways, and airports that ensure easy accessibility to various tourist destinations. The state government has invested in improving the condition of roads, expanding airport facilities, and enhancing railway connectivity to attract more tourists.
Additionally, Rajasthan has implemented policies and programs to preserve its cultural heritage. Historical monuments, such as forts, palaces, and havelis have been restored and maintained to provide tourists a glimpse into the rich history of the region. The state organizes cultural festivals, such as the ‘Pushkar Fair’ and ‘Jaipur Literature Festival’, which further enhances the tourism experience.
Furthermore, Rajasthan Tourism actively promotes the state through marketing campaigns, participation in travel fairs, and collaborations with travel agencies.
Tell us about the different attractions for luxury travellers and experiences in Rajasthan?
One of the most luxurious travel experiences in Rajasthan is the ‘Palace on Wheels’ train, the only luxury train of India. The Rajasthan is the land of Maharajas and so, there are so many points of attraction for luxury travellers to experience their lifestyle and cuisine. Rajasthan has a wide range of hotels with international facilities.
How is the tourism department attracting new visitors?
Rajasthan Tourism is now shifting its focus to showcase ‘Beyond the Obvious’ to its visitors. The department is putting its efforts to create a brand new image that aims to highlight lesser-known destinations and unique experiences. One of the main objectives of this rebranding exercise is to encourage tourists to stay longer and explore more of Rajasthan’s hidden gems.
Adventure Tourism, wellness tourism, wildlife safaris, desert camping, hot air ballooning, zip lining activities are now an integral part of Rajasthan’s new brand image. Development and promotion of various tourism circuits, such as the desert circuit, wildlife circuit, spiritual circuit and tribal circuit is being done to showcase the state’s diverse attractions, including wildlife sanctuaries, tribal villages and religious sites.
How has granting industry status for the tourism and hospitality industry by the Rajasthan Government helped the state?
Realizing the immense potential of the tourism industry in the state, the state government has granted ‘Industry Status’ to the Tourism & Hospitality sector in the budget 2022-23. This has since extended many fiscal incentives for the sector including tax exemptions, subsidies and financial assistance, which can lead to a reduction of up to 30% in electricity bills. Additionally, the urban development tax on industrial rates has been reduced, with a reduction of up to 80% in charges.
The state government has also introduced various policies to provide ‘Ease of Doing Business’ in Rajasthan and also to boost investment opportunities in the state.
Rajasthan Tourism Policy 2020, Rajasthan Film Tourism Promotion Policy 2022, Rajasthan Industrial Development Policy 2019, RIPS 2019, Guest House Scheme 2021, Rajasthan Eco Tourism Policy 2021 are all policies intended to make Rajasthan the most Investment friendly state by simplifying regulations, offering tax incentives, and streamlining the licensing process for tourism-related businesses.
What are the reasons for the best international and Indian hotel chains preferring Rajasthan as their destination to enter the Indian market?
Ans. Rajasthan has been the first state in India to give full industry status to the tourism and hospitality sector. Now, all work is being done under one roof through the single window system.
All the necessary elements for tourism are present in Rajasthan, so international hotel chains want to register their presence in Rajasthan. Small towns are also making a distinct identity in the destination wedding sector. Lots of efforts to establish collaborations with UNWTO, WTTC, PATA and other important international bodies have been made. The State government collaborated with the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India to leverage multilateral tourism forums functioning under SAARC, ASEAN, IBSA, BRICS and others to promote tourism.
What are the challenges faced by the government when it comes to tourism in the State?
As the tourism industry in the state continues to grow, new challenges inevitably emerge. These challenges include the presence of unauthorized guides who lack proper training and accreditation, resulting in the dissemination of inaccurate information to tourists. Similarly, the presence of unauthorized travel agents and companies that deceive tourists by offering substandard services or engaging in fraudulent activities poses another challenge. To address this issue, Department has strengthened regulations and licensing requirements for travel agents while conducting regular inspections to identify and take action against unscrupulous operators.
Instances of cheating, such as overcharging and providing low-quality products, can significantly harm Rajasthan’s reputation as a tourist-friendly destination. To combat this, Department has prioritized consumer protection measures, raising awareness among tourists about their rights and encouraging them to report any instances of cheating.
Moreover, the department actively promotes transparent pricing mechanisms and monitors hotel tariff rates to prevent unauthorized increases, particularly during peak tourism seasons, to ensure affordability for visitors.
Ensuring the safety and security of tourists is a crucial challenge that the Department addresses through various measures. These include increasing the presence of police and Tourist Assistance Force (TAF) at popular tourist spots, installing CCTV cameras in key areas, and conducting awareness campaigns on safe travel practices.
Through these regulatory measures, awareness campaigns, and enhanced security measures, Rajasthan Tourism strives to create a positive and memorable experience for tourists visiting the state. The department’s aim to maintain Rajasthan’s reputation as a leading tourist destination in India.