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Wednesday, 13 June, 2018, 10 : 00 AM [IST]

JICA wants tourism stakeholders to combine efforts to drive traffic to Ajanta and Ellora

Terming the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) assisted comprehensive infrastructure development project in Ajanta and Ellora a “memorable project”, Kenko Sone, Minister of Economic Affairs, Embassy of Japan in India, said that efforts should be made to make full use of the upgradation of the infrastructure to drive more tourist traffic to the place. Admitting there are requests from states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and North Eastern states for such supported projects, Minister said that the success of the Ajanta and Ellora project is vital for future Japanese government assisted projects in India. He said that despite vast potential for bilateral tourism between the two countries the visitor numbers are relatively small and proactive steps are required to double the tourist visitations both ways.  

Takema Sakamoto, Outgoing Chief Representative of JICA India office in his speech underscored the huge potential tourism holds for India. He said that Ajjanta and Ellora are the best World Heritage sites he ever visited. Talking about the JICA project in Ajanta-Ellora, Sakamoto said that they have completed the comprehensive infrastructure development of these two world heritage sites in two phases which included advanced landing facilities in Aurangabad Airport, upgradation of road infrastructure from Aurangabad city to the two sites, power and water supply to the two sites, restoration of caves and construction of visitor centres at both the sites. “We want to stimulate full usage of the assets created at these two sites,” he said. Later, speaking at the Workshop, Sakamoto said that JICA is open to further investments in India’s North East if complex travel permission procedures are removed. He said that JICA is ready to discuss such issues with government and the concerned Ministries of Home Affairs, Tourism, etc. 

The Ajanta-Ellora Conservation and Tourism Development Project (AECTDP) was initiated in March 1992 to preserve the cultural condition of these World Heritage sites and to enhance tourists experience. Part I of the Project which begun in 1993 focused on monument conservation and infrastructure development at INR 2,300 cr ODA loan from JICA. Phase II of the Project which began in 2003 commissioned with INR 4,500 cr ODA loan from JICA. Completed in 2014, the second phase sought to ensure a balance between infrastructure development and tourism promotion, featured by the construction of the iconic Visitor Centres at Ajanta and Ellora caves.

Making a presentation on behalf of Vijaykumar Gautam, Principal Secretary – Tourism, Government of Maharashtra, at the event, Chadrashekhar Jaiswal, General Manager, MTDC said that the government is keen for further collaboration with JICA, Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, etc., to further improvement of infrastructure including international quality rest rooms, youth accommodation, sustainable transportation facilities, etc.  He said that the government is also pushing for restoration of iconic flights by Air India as well as introduction of helitourism facilities, water resource management facilities, quality sound and light shows, etc. 

Participating in the deliberations, travel trade representatives also pointed fingers at lack of proper air connectivity between Aurangabad and other tourist destinations. They said that the facilities available including the visitor centres are not utilised properly at these sites.  

Despite accomplishing such infrastructure upgradation projects with huge investments, the visitor numbers, especially foreign tourist footfalls, to these world heritage sites continue to be quite small.  As per Maharashtra Tourism numbers out of the 450,000 people visited Ajanta last year, hardly 30,000 are foreign visitors. Similarly, in Ellora, out of over 13 lakh total visitations, hardly 50,000 are foreign visitors to the heritage site.
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