India has long been a travel destination for the free and adventurous. Its rich culture & tradition, copious natural beauty, exotic wildlife, and fantastic beaches and temples have attracted visitors in their millions. Despite its popularity visitor numbers have been hit by the global downturn and last year the country's Ministry for Tourism launched its award winning 'Visit India Year'. The campaign aims to attract 10 million foreign tourists by 2011.
The Minister of State for Tourism, Sultan Ahmed, said that it was undertaking a series of promotional activities, including advertising, travel fairs, exhibitions and road shows through its Indian tourism offices overseas.
The move is a strategic attempt to protect a market that made over Rs364.6 billion (US$7.52 billion) in foreign exchange earnings in 2009. In addition to promoting its traditional market, India is also now keen to develop newer tourism sectors. Amongst the most successful are business and medical tourism. For some time now India has offered international convention centres of a global standard and its Ministry of Finance have recently identified New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Goa and Jaipur for the opening of new centres.
One area in particular is keen to promote not only its natural resources but its name as a destination for business and convention tourism. The central Indian state of Chhattisgarh was carved out from an area named Madhya Pradesh, on 1st November 2000. The movement for a separate state started from the early twenties and became a reality only at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Today, Chhattisgarh is a fast developing state. Divided into 18 districts, the Northern and Southern portions of this state are hilly, while the central area is a fertile belt of plains. Mahanadi is the geographically important river here and Raipur is the capital and largest city in the state. The other important cities include Bastar, Durg and Bilaspur. It says on the Chattisghar Tourism Board website that the area is 'a young state but an ancient land' and this seems to capture perfectly the transformation happening within the region. In a recent talk to the state assembly Culture and Tourism Minister, Brijmohan Agrawal, informed ministers that about 2,500 foreign tourists visited Chhattisgarh in the past two years, as many as 1,147 foreign nationals visited tourist sites in the year 2008-09, and 1,415 foreign people toured the state to date in 2009-10.
So what's motivating this continued growth in both tourists and revenue? Most likely the area's unique cultural diversity. Furthermore, an impressive forest cover, and a rich historical heritage have contributed to make Chhattisgarh a uniquely beautiful travel destination.
So what's motivating this continued growth in both tourists and revenue? Most likely the area's unique cultural diversity. Furthermore, an impressive forest cover, and a rich historical heritage have contributed to make Chhattisgarh a uniquely beautiful travel destination. Eco & ethno-tourism are also a special feature of Chhattisgarh. The state has a 12 percent share of India's total forests, three national parks and 11 wildlife sanctuaries, all fantastic news for wildlife enthusiasts. Besides these reserves, Ayurvedic medicines - prized as a luxury treatment in the west - are widely practised and very affordable. Travellers can also contribute to local economies and bag themselves exquisite local handicrafts produced by tribes people using techniques passed down through the centuries. The Indravati National Park of Chhattisgarh is perhaps the state's finest and the most exhilarating wildlife reserve, it remains the only tiger reserve in the state, providing an amazing incentive for delegates using the region to convene.
The Capital City, Raipur, is networked within India by rail, road and air transport. Situated on the Mumbai-Howrah route of Indian Railways the city is well connected with other important places such as Bhopal Junction, Indore, Jabalpur, Mumbai, Calcutta and Delhi. National Highway 6 passes through the city and National Highway 12A links the city with Jabalpur. It's also well connected by road to major centres throughout India and more recently a 4 lane expressway was built between Raipur, Bhilai and Durg, opening up travel and trade between these three important centres. Air links to the city of Raipur were revived after the city became the state capital and now Indian Airlines connect Mumbai, Chennai, Bhubaneswar, and Nagpur. Jet Airways has daily flights to Mumbai, Delhi, Bhopal, Indore, Ahmedabad, and Hyderabad. Kingfisher Airlines also have flights to Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Indore, Bangalore, and Hyderabad.
Within Raipur itself business conferencing and meeting is well catered for with some larger hotels competing on an international level. Hotel Piccadilly Raipur is a 4-star venue owned by the famous Piccadilly Group. Located just 3 km from the city centre, 5 km from the railway station and 20 km from the airport, the Hotel began business over 15 years ago and is now known for its high standards of services and unmatched hospitality. Hotel Piccadilly also offers a wide range of business facilities to its guests and is thought of as a favourite venue for business conferencing within the city. Delegates booking here can enjoy boardroom and mini-conferencing facilities, each able to accommodate between 10 - 15 guests. The 2,200 sq. ft banquet hall, adjoining the lawns, caters for gatherings of up to 150 persons. Unlike other many European destinations the Hotel Piccadilly can also arrange splendid outdoor banquets on the hotel lawns for up to 700 guests.
Another choice for business in Raipur is the Hotel Mayura, named recently as one of the finest 3-star hotels in the city. Situated just 2 km from the railway station and 15 km from the airport the hotel offers an impressive menu of business support services for those choosing to stay. The well-equipped, multipurpose Darbar Hall has a 2,000 sq. ft space accommodating 1,000 guests.
The region of Chhattisgarh and its capital Raipur are fast developing their tourism business into business tourism, giving international delegates a combination of world class facilities and a once in a life time travel opportunity. India itself is undoubtedly a unique and impressive conference destination as it continues to offer the exotic and mystical with a high tech and even low carbon finish.