Buoyed by increasing tourist footfalls and development of various destinations in the state, Gujarat is expecting the tourist inflow to cross six crores in the current fiscal year, an official said on Saturday.
The western state which is "focusing on attracting foreign tourists" will come out with a heritage tourism policy soon, the official added.
"In 2016-17, tourists' inflow was 4.48 crore and the same went up to almost 5.8 crores in 2018-19. The annual growth of the rate was 14 percent. With the trend of increasing tourists footfalls, we are expecting that tourist inflow should cross six crores in the current fiscal," said Jenu Devan, Commissioner of the State Tourism Department.
He said the tourism sector contributes about three percent of the state's gross domestic product and its contribution is expected to "improve" in the years to come. Over Rs 12,500 crore was invested in the sector in the last four years to improve the infrastructure for the sector, he said:
"The state is preparing a heritage tourism policy and approval for this will come shortly. At present, there are 33 heritage properties. With the implementation of the policy, more such properties will come within tourism map," Devan said.
Elaborating on the tourism potential and emerging destinations, State Tourism Minister Jawahar Chavda said Gujarat is "a rich place" in terms of its economy, nature and culture. "The state offers mountains to desert and sea beach," he said.
"Apart from the neighbouring states such as Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal is an important for Gujarat tourism as over seven lakh visitors travel to the western state every year," Chavda said on the sidelines of a roadshow here on Saturday evening.
In Gujarat, two prominent tourist sites - Somnath and Dholavira - would be developed into iconic tourism destinations as a part of the Central government's Swadesh Darshan Scheme, Devan said, adding that "big packages" are going to come for these two sites to woo visitors. The minister said the state is focusing on attracting foreign tourists, which currently comprises roughly one percent of the annual inflow of travellers.
"NRI comprise about 2-3 per cent of the annual tourist inflow in the state. In addition, about six lakh foreign tourists visit the state last year. We should be able to attract one lakh more foreign tourists this year. We will do road shows in overseas in order to attract tourists from foreign countries," Devan said.
Among tourists coming to the state from overseas countries, the UK, the US and Italy are at the top of the list, he said. Around 20-25 lakh tourists visited the Statue of Unity, Devan said, adding that the average tourists' footfall is 7000-8000 in weekdays while the same for weekend rises up to 15,000.
The Statue of Unity, built at a cost of Rs 2,389 crore is a 182-meter high memorial to Sardar Patel in Kevadiya in Narmada district. It is the tallest structure of its kind in the world and was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 31 last year.