Domestic tourism may well be blessed by mangal and brihaspati this year

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At a pre-budget meeting that Prime Minister Modi held with economists in end December, job creation occupied mind space. Some experts suggested that there is a need to invest in the tourism sector which has high employment potential.

A review of festival dates for 2017 show that a large number of holidays fall between Thursday and Tuesday. It is a great opportunity for Indians to take short holidays, rejuvenate themselves and recharge batteries.

Here is how.  This table gives month, name of festival/date and day of the week on which it falls. Next column indicates holiday duration and dates with the last column giving date on which you need to take leave.

Table 1: Holidays 2017

Month Festival/ Date / Day of week Holiday Leave
January Republic Day / 27 / Thursday 4 days, 26-29 27
February Mahashivratri / 24 / Friday 3 days, 24-26 NIL
March Holi / 13 / Monday 3 days, 11-13 NIL
March Gudi Padwa / 28 / Tuesday 4 days, 25-28, 27
April Ram Navami / 4 / Tuesday 4 days, 1-4 3
April Ambedkar Jayanti / Good Friday 14 3 days, 14-16 NIL
May May Day / 1 / Monday 3 days, 29-1 NIL
June Ramzan Eid / 26 / Monday 3 days, 24-26 NIL
August Janmashthami / 14 / Monday & 15
August Parsi New Year / 17 / Thursday 6 days, 12-17 16
August Ganesh Chaturthi / 25 / Friday 3 days, 25-27 NIL
October Gandhi Jayanti / 2 / Monday 3 days,30-2 NIL
October Dhanteras / 17 / Tuesday / Diwali / 19 6 days, 17-22 17, 18
December Eid / 1 / Friday 3, 1-3 NIL
December Christmas / 25 / Monday 3 days, 23-25 NIL

Note: There would be regional variations to festival names and dates.

From the above table you can take nine holidays of three days duration, two holidays of six days and three holidays of four days. For forty nine days of holidaying you need to take only six days leave.

Amar Mahal Jammu

The question is - how can one use these weekends to motivate Indians to travel?

In a Man ki Baat program, Prime Minister Modi must speak about these weekend holidays, the beauty and diversity of India and how travel helps you know your country. This message needs to be reinforced every quarter.

It can be argued that the holiday calendar applies to those employed in the formal sector. The larger point remains - when you travel you understand and relate to fellow Indians better. When a tourist sees India's monuments, hill stations, beaches and handicrafts etc it enhances national pride.

Next the Government must start an advertising campaign across regional and English media. It should promote tourist destinations within and outside the State. Airlines could have fare special fares during these weekends. Travel companies could come out with package tours customised to every pocket. Railways could run special train tours. State governments and travel associations could work on the ground level to improve infrastructure, increase number of home-stays, have helpline counters and ensure safety of tourists. Employers should also encourage employees to travel within this period.

In short, it must be a integrated effort by the Central/State governments and travel industry to give a fillip to tourism.

Promoting domestic tourism needs to become a national movement.
Maratha Palace Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu

The government must refrain from giving tax doles and subsidies. Quality of tourist infrastructure will improve and come up when number of tourists increase. Let market forces operate.

Tourism is employment intensive and has the ability to enhance incomes of every strata of society. Since the author has travelled to every State, except Jharkhand, one can vouch for India's potential and economic spinoffs of tourism. Hotels, transport, restaurants, handicrafts, textiles are some of the beneficiaries.

Loktak Lake Moirang, Manipur

If the author were based in Mumbai, here is where he would go during each weekend.

1. January 26-29: Jodhpur (forts), Nagaur Fort (paintings), Karni Mata Mandir (where rats are worshipped) and Bikaner (Junagarh Palace).
2. February 24-26: Jyotirlings of Ujjain and Omkareshwar and Ahilyabai Fort at Maheshwar (get lovely saris and salwar).
3. March 11-13: Lathmar Holi at village Barsana and Nandgaon near Mathura.
4. March 25-28: Hampi in Karnataka.
5. April 1-4: Fly to Gauhati, see Kamakhya Temple and rhinos of Kaziranga.
6. April 14-16: Dwarka, Somnath and Palitana temples in Saurashtra, Gujarat. 
7. April 29-1: cool climes of Mahableshwar and Panchgani.
8. June 24-26: Trek to Shivaji's forts.
9. August 12-17: Binsar, Almora and Raniket in Uttarakhand, fly to Imphal or take two more days holiday and a direct flight to Leh to be bowled over by Incredible Ladakh.  
10. August 25-27: Enjoy Ganesh Chaturthi in Mumbai or visit Udaipur and around.
11. September 30-2: Ajant and Ellora caves near Aurangabad.
12. October 17-22: Temples of Madurai and around for three days or backwaters of Kerala.
13. December 1-3: Bhubhaneswar, Puri and heritage village Raghurajpur known for its Pattachitra paintings.
14. December 23-25: Beaches of Goa and Gokarna in Karnataka.

Besides certain festivals that are worth visiting are - Jaisalmer Desert and Khajuraho Dance  in February, Bohang Bihu Assam in April, Thrissurpooram Kerala in May, Hemis in July, Ladakh, Onam Kerala, Janmasthami in Vrindavan, Durga Pooja Kolkatta in September, Pushkar Fair and Dev Deepavali Benaras in November, Sangai Manipur in November, Hornbill in Nagaland and Kaal chakra Bodhgaya in December.

If planned in advance the cost of air travel could be equivalent to if not slightly higher than rail fare. Most places offer rooms that cater to every price point. It is not only that the rich can afford to travel.

As more and more Indians travel within the country the multiplier effect of their spending would increase employment, prosperity and economic growth.

Every Indian has a stake in India's prosperity. After travelling to tourist destinations Indians will market them to fellow Indians and foreigners across the world thus contributing to the well being of other parts of India.

Travel could make every Indian a marketer and promote national integration to an extent that no regulatory authority can order.  

First published here.