With Char Dham Yatra opening up, Uttarakhand Tourism is highlighting Winter Char Dham Yatra and is vouching for sustainable development of all its destinations. Vivek Singh Chauhan, Additional Director, Uttarakhand Tourism Development Board (UDTB), brings to light the latest tourism updates and is quite optimistic about tourism bouncing back in the state.
Here’s some good news for pilgrims planning their post-pandemic break to Uttarakhand or ‘the Abode of Gods’. Based on the orders of the Uttarakhand High Court, Char Dham Yatra has resumed from September 18, this year opening up the four revered shrines for fully-vaccinated pilgrims. Keeping with Covid protocols, the High Court has limited the daily number of pilgrims visiting Kedarnath to 800, Badrinath to 1,000, Gangotri to 600 and 400 pilgrims to Yamunotri. In the meantime, Uttarakhand Tourism Development Board (UTDB) has come up in a major way to boost Winter Char Dham Yatra for pilgrims.
Pilgrims on a trip to Char Dham are prohibited to take a dip in any pools during their journey. Pilgrims must gear up with their double-dosed vaccine certificate or carry Covid- negative reports done at least 72 hours in advance. Pilgrims are required to get the Panchkaran done at the Devasthan Board. Apart from these, wearing masks, keeping with social distancing and regular sanitizing are some of the major norms for pilgrims.
The Winter Char Dham Yatra comprises Yamuna shrine at Kharsali hamlet in the district of Uttarkashi, Ganga shrine at Mukhba hamlet in Uttarkashi, Onkeshwar shrine at Ukhimath and Narsinghshrine at Pandukeshwar temple in Joshimath. According to Vivek Singh Chauhan, “All our destinations are open for travellers. Once banned by the High Court keeping in mind the Covid restrictions, Char Dham Yatra forms the lifeline for those mountain folks residing in the higher reaches of the Himalayas. As winter heralds, the hamlets in and around Char Dham remain cut off without any connectivity and the livelihood of the masses is badly hit. In an attempt to provide an alternate source of income for this populace hit by snowfall and prevent them from migrating to other places, we are rolling out Winter Char Dham Yatra that will provide job options for the mountain folks and help them to live a better life all around the year. Travellers interested to head to Uttarakhand need to visit Dehradun Smart City Portal to get themselves registered and gear up with double vaccination certificate after a fortnight of receiving the jab.” Chauhan was speaking at Travel and Tourism Fair held in Kolkata from September 10 to 12, this year.
The Tourism Board is also offering an impetus to rural tourism in a major way. Chauhan said, “We have come up with DeenDayal Upadhyay Homestay Scheme to offer a thrust on rural tourism and generate job avenues for locals. On offer is Rs 60,000 to set up a new room and Rs 25,000 for renovating a room on the lines of trekking traction homestay scheme. The scheme has been quite successful in exploring new destinations. With a view to increase the tourists’ footfall, we are working on the scheme-13 Districts 13 Destinations to develop 13 novel destinations in each district. In the vertical of adventure tourism, we are stressing on water sports in Tehri, mountain biking in Marchula apart from river rafting in Rishikesh and paragliding in Nainital.”
The upper reaches of the land are highly vulnerable to landslides and it is often found that travellers are stranded during such natural calamities. Chauhan further said, “We have identified the vulnerable areas in the state and arrangements are made for helicopter services to airlift travellers stranded in landslides.”
In an attempt to revive the travel industry that was hit by pandemic, the state tourism has doled out Rs 200 crore to registered transport companies. Chauhan added, “We have offered Rs 10,000 to tour operators and travel agents. Besides, we have provided support to the tourism stakeholders in renewing their licenses. Our focus is to revive the tourism industry at the earliest. We are looking up to popularise the destinations and adventure tourism in the state. Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam and Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam are running the accommodation options at reasonable rates. We are making an effort to support the livelihood of the migrant populace who have returned to their hometown during Covid-induced lockdown through our homestay schemes and Veer Chandra Garhwali.”
The tourism board is targeting travellers from Gujarat, Maharashtra, Punjab and West Bengal. “Our state received around 3 crore travellers including domestic and global, during pre-pandemic times. We had nearly 1 crore tourists last year and are looking forward to receive around 60 per cent of domestic travellers of the pre-pandemic figure. Our Char Dham Yatra had nearly 3,20,000 pilgrims in the last calendar year,” further added Chauhan.