Unveiling the first “heritage tourism policy” on Friday, Gujarat government allowed opening up of heritage hotels, museums, banquet halls and restaurants inside historic palaces, forts and buildings. This policy is applicable to historic structures that existed before January 1, 1950 and will allow international and domestic tourists to see and experience historic structures from close quarters.
Under this policy, a new heritage hotel or an existing one will get financial assistance of Rs 5-10 crore for renovation or expansion. The basic heritage structure should not be altered during this process. The government will give a 20 per cent subsidy (maximum of Rs 5 crore) if the investment is up to Rs 25 crore. If the investments are over Rs 25 crore, then the maximum subsidy would be Rs 10 crore.
Similarly, to begin a new heritage museum, banquet hall or resturant or to renovate or restore an existing one, financial assistance of Rs 45 lakh to Rs 1 crore will be provided. This financial aid will be given at 7 percent interest for five years and will not exceed Rs 30 lakh in a year.
The heritage property owners in Gujarat have been seeking a dedicated policy for more than five years. Though, officials in tourism department point out that there are more than 100 heritage properties in the state, only 20 of them have been opened up for tourism. The government feels that a dedicated policy will not only encourage owners to renovate the old structures, but will also help attract foreign tourists to some of the princely states and jagirs once ruled by Maratha Gaekwads, Kathi Durbars, Rajput clans and Muslim dynasties.
In these five years, the government will give 100 per cent relief in electricity duty, marketing support and rent assistance in national and international events. The state government in a statement claimed that the move will boost tourism and create jobs.
The move comes at a time when the entire tourism industry is passing through a difficult phase due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We have a lot of heritage properties in Saurashtra and South Gujarat. This can be very attractive for tourists. This policy has been declared after many rounds of discussions with the stakeholders,” Mamta Varma, secretary, tourism department, said.
According to officials, a separate policy governing heritage structures in Gujarat was a long pending demand from the owners. The government also stated that the present guidelines for home-stays have been relaxed and home owners having 1-6 rooms can apply for home-stays after registering with the tourism department.