In an interview with ETTravelWorld, Rakhee Gupta Bhandari, IAS-Principal Secretary Tourism & Cultural Affairs, expressed a bullish outlook for Punjab‘s tourism sector in 2024. Emphasising a slew of upcoming initiatives, she highlighted the state’s strategic direction that will help transform Punjab into a global tourism hotspot.
“In the year ahead, Punjab’s tourism strategies may be characterised by a blend of sustainability, technology integration, and a focus on local experiences, ensuring the industry’s continued growth and adaptability in a dynamic global landscape,” she said. This shift, she added, resonates with evolving traveller preferences for personalised and contactless experiences.
“Sustainability and Responsible Tourism have emerged as our guiding principles,” remarked Bhandari. Going ahead, this will remain a key focus, with Punjab aiming to invest more in eco-friendly initiatives, promoting responsible tourism, and showcasing its cultural and natural heritage.
“This commitment to environmental consciousness responds to the growing demand for green travel options and aligns with lessons learned from global challenges,” she added.
Additionally, with a potential shift towards local and regional tourism, Punjab Tourism has also collaborated with local businesses for a mutually beneficial impact. Simultaneously, the digital marketing and personalised customer experiences can also be prioritised, recognising the significance of staying connected with travellers in an increasingly online world, shared Bhandari.
Further, the niche and experiential tourism are key focus areas for Punjab in the years to come, she said, recalling the state government’s policy concentration last year. “Wellness, Water and Adventure Tourism are all recognised as significant industry shifts, with more investors and stakeholders sensitised about the potential for the same in Punjab,” she added.
A significant thrust into adventure tourism stands out of all, which is catalysed by the already launched Punjab Adventure Tourism Policy 2023. This move aims to leverage the state’s diverse topography including the foothills of the Shivalik Range, wetlands, forests, and rivers, for adrenaline enthusiasts.
This policy rollout, as briefed by Bhandari, promises a spectrum of activities, including rappelling, river crossing, ziplining, forest walks, camping, hot air ballooning, helicopter rides, bungee jumping, and water sports. These offerings are poised to establish Punjab as a premier destination for thrill-seekers, Bhandari added.
In tandem, the Punjab Water Tourism Policy 2023 has invited private sector proposals to develop tourist sites along the state’s major rivers and canal networks. Key locations like Chamrour, Phangota, Thana Dam, Chohal Dam, and Siswan Dam are earmarked for transformative activities such as boating, camping, trekking, ziplining, and jungle safaris, aiming to elevate them into highly coveted destinations.
The state’s tourism vision showcased at various forums, including the 15th Adventure Tourism Association of India (ATOAI) Convention, demonstrated a cohesive blend of adventure and tradition, all set to captivate tourists throughout the year, asserted Bhandari. She added that Punjab’s recent recognition as the “Friend of Adventure” state by ATOAI serves as a testament to its commitment and potential to become the foremost adventure destination.
As Punjab gears up to become the adventure and cultural hub of 2024, inspired by Punjab’s newfound focus on adventure tourism, focus would be shifted towards high-quality gear for activities such as trekking, camping, and water sports, along with guides to the state’s most thrilling destinations, she informed.
Moreover, Punjab is gearing up to host and celebrate 24 fairs and festivals throughout the coming year. The recent highlight is the upcoming Rangla Punjab festival in Amritsar, scheduled for January. “It will be a cultural extravaganza, featuring delicious Punjabi cuisine, vibrant cultural performances, and displays of local arts and crafts,” the Principal Secretary added.
Reminiscing the watershed moment for the state in 2023, Bhandari spoke about the inaugural Punjab Tourism Summit and Travel Mart, an event that not illuminated Punjab’s tourism potential and also outlined critical challenges post the Covid slowdown. Bhandari affirmed the Summit’s success in fostering dialogue and aligning stakeholders towards common goals, marking a pivotal juncture in Punjab’s tourism narrative.
The event witnessed a turnout of over 2000 delegates, including renowned investors from India and abroad, highlighting Punjab’s growing appeal as a global tourist destination, stated Bhandari.