The Union Budget 2022 announced yesterday presented the government’s plans to increase capital expenditure by 35% and fuel growth for an economy recovering from 3 waves of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Budget 2022 has earmarked an additional amount of INR 2400 crores for the Ministry of Tourism. This budget is 18.42% higher than 2021-22 and will be utilized by the Ministry for developing tourism infrastructure, marketing and promotion, and capacity building. Out of the INR 2400 crores, INR 1644 crores has been earmarked for the development of tourism infrastructure, including an outlay of INR 1181.30 crore for the Swadesh Darshan Scheme.

A flagship scheme of Ministry of Tourism, Swadesh Darshan Scheme is set to complete 76 projects in 13 sanctioned thematic circuits and provide developed infrastructure for better tourism experience to the tourists at smaller and lesser-known destinations. 55 new destinations are being planned for development under Swadesh Darshan scheme and the Ministry will continue to have its focus on Northeast, Himalayan region and Tribal region. An initial INR 1,500 crores has been made available, with further allocation of INR 227 crore for the North-Eastern States for the year 2022-23 and INR 98 crores is earmarked under the Tribal Sub Plan for creation of tourism infrastructure in the tribal areas.

The Union Budget has also planned for the development of 5 new river links (Daman Ganga Pinjal, Par Tapi Narmada, Godavari Krishna, Krishna Pennar, Peenar Kaveri) which will boost Cruise Tourism, an area that has witnessed success in the Ganga and Brahmaputra rivers.

The PM Gati Shakti master plan which will facilitate speedier implementation of development projects under the National Infrastructure Pipeline is also set to play a major role in boosting tourism in India. The Union Budget has also placed great focus on developing roads in border regions which will greatly enhance livelihood of people residing in border areas. Border villages with sparse population, limited connectivity and infrastructure often get left out from development gains. Such villages on the Northern Border will be covered under a new Vibrant Villages Program. Activities will include construction of village infrastructure, housing, tourist centres, road connectivity, provision of decentralized renewable energy, DTH access of DD and education channels, and also support for livelihood generation. Additional funding to be provided and existing schemes to be converged.

With INR 235 crores been allocated for the PRASHAD, a flagship scheme of the Ministry aiming for holistic development of selected pilgrimage destinations in the country, a huge potential is set to be tapped. Components taken up for development under the scheme include cloak room facilities, waiting rooms, signage, passenger terminals, Illumination of monuments/ pilgrimage, parking facilities, last mile connectivity, garbage bins, first aid centres, construction of craft haats. A total of 37 projects have been sanctioned under PRASHAD Scheme, of which 17 projects have been completed. The remaining allocation would be used to fund other Schemes such as Capacity Building for Service Providers, Champion Service Sector Scheme, Information Technology as well as to meet the establishment expenditure of the Ministry and its subordinate offices - the India Tourism Offices in the country and abroad.

India has noticed a major growth in domestic tourism and new developments in the railway sector are a major contributor. 400 new generation Vande Bharat Express trains are being developed and will be manufactured over next 3 years with improved efficiency and passenger experience. In order to improve connectivity in difficult terrains and promoting tourism, the national National Ropeways Development Programme will be taking up development of ropeways under the PPP model as a sustainable alternative to roadways.

By Mishika Nayyar, Arjun Bahadur and Radhika Kathpalia