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Tourism sidelines liquor issues Saturday, December 15, 2001

News Source : Times News Network
GANDHINAGAR: The draft tourism policy framed under former chief minister Keshubhai Patel which has remained in a limbo for one-and-a-half years will be revamped. The emphasis on incentives as a means to attract investment would now be balanced out in favour of developing tourism infrastructure.

Significantly, though prohibition minister Fakirbhai Vaghela took part in the meeting, there was no discussion on the crucial issue of serving liquor in hotels to tourists. While tourism minister Suresh Mehta favours the relaxation, Vaghela opposes it 'as it might spoil the Gujarati milieu'.

Tourism commissioner P K Laheri has been put on the job to make a new draft after studying the infrastructural needs of tourists at specific spots like Somnath, Dwarka, Palitana, Girnar and Ahmedpur-Mandvi. He would be readying the draft in time for the budget session in March 2002.

Suresh Mehta wanted taking tourism out of the religious rigours and giving it a wider perspective of leisure and entertainment. The discussion, however, failed to focus on how to attract hotel industry, develop resorts and sea beaches in a state where the dry law is still in vogue. Gujarat has a coastline of 1,600 km, the longest in India.

"Incentives in any sector only help developers to grab land and take other concessions for profiteering but do not help much in the developmental process", explained a senior bureaucrat who attended the meeting. "In any case, the view that incentives can help investment is becoming an old thinking that needs to be set aside."

"The thrust, therefore, should be on developing communication facilities, building hotels and resorts, giving a new look to the environs that surround the places of attraction, set up eating joints and restaurants, and provide services like maps, places of attraction and stay at the spots where tourists land up when they reach Gujarat", the bureaucrat said.

Participants said pilgrims (religious tourists) who visit Dwarka and Somnath, for instance, have nothing else to attract them. Often, they just stay put in Jamnagar or Rajkot, visit the two sacred spots and return to the city. The sea beaches around them are not developed, there are no resorts to stay overnight.

The talk of having a seven-day cruise from Mumbai to Somnath, Dwarka, and Ahmedpur-Mandvi was revived during the meeting, suggesting, a large number of elite tourists go to Europe for enjoying this way. However, the issue whether the tourists could be allowed to taste liquor or not remained untouched.

Major chain hotels have refused to invest here due to the dry law. "Keshubhai Patel was told point-blank by Ratan Tata that he would invest in the state only if prohibition was relaxed. The income from liquor in hotels is thrice compared to what one earns from eatables", said a Confederation of Indian Industries representative who had come to see officials on Friday.

News Source : The Times of India [India's best Newspaper]

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