City beautiful has witnessed a significant decline in the number of foreign tourists in the past three years while the inflow of domestic tourists to the city has increased over the years.
It was only in 2013 when the inflow of the foreign tourists had increased by around 6,000, compared to 2012 when 34,130 foreign tourists had visited. However, the footfall of the foreign tourists once again declined considerably from 40,124 tourists in 2013 to 28,365 tourists in 2014.
As per the tourist arrival statistics collected by the UT Tourism Department, the city has witnessed only 18,474 foreign tourists from January to July this year. However, the city has seen a spurt in the arrival of the domestic tourists: 9.24 lakh tourists in 2012, 9.36 lakh tourists in 2013, and 10.61 lakh tourists in 2014. This year till July, 6.01 lakh tourists have already visited the city.
Director (Tourism) Kavita Singh says, “From January till July, this year has been much better than 2014, and with
the promotional activities that we have undertaken, it will gradually improve. Last year, the overall sentiment towards travel to India was affected but this year, we shall do better.”
An official of the Tourism Department says that Chandigarh is more of a transit destination for tourists going to the hill stations. With restrictions being imposed by the National Green Tribunal in areas like Manali and Rohtang, the impact is being felt on tourist inflow in Chandigarh as well. He adds that when it comes to architectural tourism, the number of tourists is limited.
The declining inflow of the foreign tourists to the city has affected the hotel industry as well. Ankit Gupta, president of the Chandigarh Hospitality Association, says, “Our business and our revenue has almost become stagnant.
Although the number of hotels is increasing, the inflow of tourists is going down.”
He adds, “Recently we had a meeting with the director (tourism), in which we had put forth certain demands to start work from the grassroots level, to promote tourism in terms of hotel industry. First, the UT Administration needs to segregate the organised and the unorganised sector, because in the organised sector we have 1,500 rooms whereas the unorganised sector comprises 3,000 rooms. The basic thing we are lacking in is architecture and better infrastructure but then the stringent by-laws do not permit us to do anything. Thus, we have proposed to approve the control sheet which would relax certain norms.”
The statistics show that the months of November, December, January, February and March attract a large number of foreign tourists in the city while during the summer vacation in June and July, the footfall of domestic tourists increases.
Singh says that tourism is no more about Sukhna Lake, Rose Garden or Rock Garden but the trend is shifting towards architectural tourism, which is why the UT Administration is planning to develop public places in the city and to promote cultural activities at several places to increase the tourist traffic.
Pradeep Kumar Bhagat, principal of Chandigarh College of Architecture, says, “Whenever the foreign tourists visit the city, they do come to our college as well to see the architecture. We have recently received a group of students from Vancouver who are here for next two months to work on an architecture-related project. The majority of the foreign tourists are fascinated by the American model of working in an Indian institute; they are spell-bound by the greenery, urban planning and Shivalik hills which one could see from the city.”
A tourist from Kerala visiting Chandigarh for the first time with 12 family members, Gokul Praveen, says, “We all had decided to visit northern India this year. So we are on a trip and will be heading to Kullu-Manali today. We have been in the city for two days and have visited almost all the places, including Rock Garden, Rose Garden, Sector 17, Capitol Complex, but we found Sukhna Lake the best of all. The city is comparatively peaceful and calm than other cities we have visited.”