New Delhi, Sep 29 (IANS) In an attempt to make Indian tourism pro-poor, pro-local and more ethnic the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Friday launched a heritage passport programme for four states.
'The programme mandates to protect cultural heritage and promote creative diversity through education and cultural industries,' UNESCO country representative Minja Yang said at a symposium on heritage tourism organised jointly by her organisation and the Confederation of India Industries (CII) here.
The programme, Yang said, will take off in four states -Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Rajasthan - on a pilot basis.
The programme aims at establishing a model where heritage based tourism becomes a motor for poverty reduction and sustainable development, engage public and private sector involved in tourism to contribute to adult literacy, small enterprise development among the local communities of heritage destinations.
It will try to ensure that enhanced revenues are channelled into the conservation of tangible and intangible heritage, environment protection as well as support to the local creative industries.
The tourism industry in India witnessed an increase in the foreign exchange earnings from $3,168 million in 2000 to $5,730.86 million in 2005. Also, foreign tourist arrivals in India have grown from 6.9 percent in 2000 to 13.2 percent in 2005.
In collaboration with the authorities with state governments, UNSECO will develop several themed itineraries like linking Buddhist holy places, legends of Shiva, yoga, ayurvedic healing and many such other things.
It will also develop passport booklets on heritage tourism facilities in the particular state.
Speaking on the occasion, tourism and culture joint secretary Amitabh Kant said the government would encourage states to package their indigenous products and traditions without aping the west.
'Tourism lies in rural areas and its promotion would help in the development of grassroots tourism,' Kant said.