Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Punjab to follow Rajasthan's footsteps in Tourism

In an attempt not just to boost tourism but retain the rich cultural heritage of Punjab, the old palaces and forts in the state are on their way to resurrection. The Punjab Heritage and Tourism Promotion Board has identified palaces and havelis ' across the state that would be restored and run on a public-private partnership mode.

The Tourism Department, Punjab, has requested the respective departments in possession of the heritage monuments to vacate the premises so that they can be restored, maintained and thrown open to the NRIs' and the younger generations to get a feel or the erstwhile rich legacy. While the Punjab government has already signed an agreement with the Neemrana Hotels Private Ltd for the Rajendra Kothi, Patiala, that is likely to be thrown open to the public by mid-2008, others too are following suit.

"Among the palaces and old heritage monuments, some over 400 years old the ones at Malerkotla, Ludhiana, Jalandhar , Kapurthala, Faridkot, Bathinda and Sangrur have already been identified to be converted into heritage hotels ," said Jagjit Puri, secretary, Information and Public Relations, and director , Tourism, Punjab.

About 200 kms from Chandigarh, the Punjab Tourism department plans to pioneer the move with the capital of the erstwhile Jind State, Sangrur. Founded in the 17th century Sangrur remained the capital of the former independent state of Jind for over a century . Built by Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala, the Hermitage (Heritage monument) at the moment is with the Health Department, Punjab, running a TB Sanatorium.

"The response from the health department is awaited and the 44 acres at Hermitage will be developed under the PPP mode," said Puri. The Punjab government has in a communication written to the Health Department, Punjab, its intention to restore the Hermitage to be used to promote tourism in Punjab the reply for which is yet awaited.

Most of the heritage buildings in Punjab some in dilapidated conditions are being used by various departments to house their offices. The over 100-year-old Ladda Kothi, Sangrur, renovated by Punjab government is presently being used by the police department for training.

The Tourism Department, Punjab, will also request owners of private havelis' to partner the Heritage Board in promoting tourism. "We plan to join hands with owners of heritage buildings and havelis' to restore their properties. These can be converted to two star hotel accommodation for the budget tourist visiting Punjab," said Puri.

As an incentive to the owners the Punjab government has plans to work out the same on 80-20 profit sharing. While the 80 per cent of the revenue will go to the private owners the balance 20 will be go to the Punjab Heritage Board towards running costs.

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