Chief Minister, launched ‘Har Gaon Ki Kahani’ first volume of 12 stories from villages selecting from each of the 12 districts in the State, aimed at giving boost to the rural tourism in the State by inviting tourists to visit villages having historical significance in the rural areas with much fanfare at historic Peterhoff.

Speaking on the occasion, Chief Minister said that by next year historical facts of 102 more villages would be gathered and compiled to bring out second volume of interesting stories under ‘Har Gaon Ki Kahani’ and involve more villages in the process of rural tourism promotion. He said that Rs. 13 crore would be spent over creation of quality infrastructure of basic amenities in all of 102 villages to cater to the requirements of the tourists. He said that tourism happened to be the basic industry of the State which had gained popularity amongst the tourists from all over the world as almost double to its population tourists, domestic and foreigners had visited the State during preceding year. He said that the number of visitors was likely to increase further during current year as well. He said that the objective of giving boost to rural tourism had been to acquaint the visitors with the life style, customs, traditions and local cuisines of the State thereby generate employment and self employment avenues to the rural masses at their door steps. He said that the ‘Home Stay’ Scheme launched in 2008 had been a big hit with the people as 353 units had been registered till date in different parts of the State.

Prof. Dhumal said that various new initiatives had been taken by the Tourism and Civil Aviation Department to give momentum to tourism promotion activities and publicise the prominent and unexplored destinations to tourists. He said that earlier ‘Har Ghar Kuchh Kehta’ a Coffee Table Book had been brought out by the Department narrating stories relating to historical incidents related to various heritage buildings in the capital town of Shimla. He said that the book had succeeded in attracting foreigners, whose parents and grand parents inhabited Shimla during pre-independence era, to trace the history of their families and visit the houses they had lived in. He said that ‘Har Gaon Ki Kahani’ would add to the tourism promotion activities in the State, especially in the rural areas thereby involving the entire State in the tourism development process. He said that mother nature had bestowed the State with immense natural grandeur which had the potential of exploitation from tourism point of view. He said that Himachal Pradesh had vast tourism potential which had remained unexplored for so long and which was now being exposed to the optimum by creating quality infrastructural facilities for tourists in rural areas so that people could spend some time in close vicinity of the nature and return back to their work re-energised and freshened up.

Chief Minister said that Hotel Management Institute and Food Craft Institute had started functioning in Hamirpur and Dharamshala to produce hospitality professionals to man the industry in the State. He said that besides the National Institute of Fashion Technology had also started functioning from Chheb village of Kangra district where students from all over the country were learning the skills of the fashion technology. He underlined the need to associate all stakeholders in the process to develop hospitality industry into a employment and self-employment generating industry to the youth in the State besides exploring off beat destinations in different locations in the State. He congratulated the Department of Tourism and Civil Aviation for coming out with noble and innovative ideas to strengthen the tourism sector.

Manisha Nanda, Principal Secretary Tourism, welcomed the Chief Minister and said that the announcement to launch ‘Har Gaon Ki Kahani’ was made by the Chief Minister with a view to associate rural enterprising youth with the tourism promotion activities. She said that with the launch of ‘Har Gaon Ki Kahani’ another golden chapter had been added to the history of tourism in the State thereby emerging the First State in the country to launch such schemes. She said that with the launch of ‘Home Stay’ scheme visitors were enjoying the traditional local cuisines of different areas and now ‘Har Gaon Ki Kahani’ would give further boost to strengthen the rural tourism industry. She underlined the need for constitution of Self Help Groups to promote tourism in the villages.

Onkar Sharma, Deputy Commissioner, Shimla, proposed vote of thanks and said that the initiative would give new dimensions to rural tourism and expose Himachal Pradesh to the tourists from world over.

Dr. Arun Sharma, Director of Tourism and Civil Aviation, gave a detailed presentation on the status of tourism industry and informed that 1.32 crore tourists had visited the State during preceding year which included about five lakh foreign tourists. He said that the Tourism Industry in the State was poised to contribute 15 percent towards the State GDP. He said that Himachal Pradesh had emerged the First State in the country for dovetailing MNREGA with rural tourism promotion. He said that the HP Tourism Development Corporation would be offering attractive packages to the villages mentioned in the publication ‘Har Gaon Ki Kahani’. He provided a glimpse into the world scenario of tourism industry.

Dr. R. N. Batta, Director of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj, also gave a detailed presentation over the contribution of MNREGA scheme in strengthening tourism industry in the rural areas.

Cabinet Ministers, Deputy Speaker, HP Vidhan Sabha, Members of State Legislative Assembly, Chairmen and Vice Chairmen of various Boards and Corporations, Zila Parishad, Panchayat Samitis, Pradhans of Gram Panchayats, Chief Secretary, Additional Chief Secretaries, Principal Secretaries, Secretaries, Heads of the Departments, Deputy Commissioners, representatives from travel and tourism industry and other prominent people were present on the occasion.