Thursday, January 06, 2011

Gir popularity soars, 33% rise in inflow of foreign tourists

Gir popularity soars, 33% rise in inflow of foreign tourists

TOI By Himanshu Kaushik

The financial health of Asiatic lion conservation plan is improving by the day. Not just domestic, the number of foreign tourists too has registered a jump of 33 per cent in 2010.

Forest officials said that from October to December 2010, Gir Wildlife Sanctuary had 2,432 foreign tourists as against 1,827 in 2009 during the same period. This is an increase of 33 per cent. In the first three months, ever since the sanctuary opened, around 70 per cent of the income has been collected by the department. It had a revenue of 2.1 crore last year. But, in the three months from October, the revenue of Gir and Devaliya went over Rs 1.45 crore, which is about 70 per cent of the last year's collection.

Not just foreign nationals, but total tourist figure has seen a jump of 96 per cent in Gir National Park. In 2009, from October 1 to December 31, there were just 25,801 tourists who visited the sanctuary. But, during the same period in 2010, despite rain for four days and the sanctuary beginning operations only on October 15, the total number of visitors to the Gir sanctuary was 50,714.

The upward trend is attributed not just to Amitabh Bachachan's advertisements.The lion conservation issue of Gir received worldwide publicity because of the population estimation which was taken up in April 2010. It revealed that the forest in Saurashtra now houses only 411 lions.

"This year, the attention of media as well as experts was on Gir forest as the first population estimation took place after the 2007 poaching incident. This got due coverage and an awareness was also created," said a senior officer. Officials said there have been reports of 90 per cent sightings of lions during the safari.

Officials added that the revenue of Gir sanctuary and Devaliya has gone up considerably. According to them, in the last three months from October, the Gir sanctuary and Devaliya have pocketed Rs 1.44 crore, compared to the Rs 1 crore in the same period last year. Devaliya only saw a increase of 21 per cent as compared to last year. Officials said the domestic tourist flow other than Gujaratis has also increased by 41 per cent, said officials.

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