Lagoons with luxurious water villas is not something India is known for. But there is now a plan to come up with a popular alternative to leading destinations such as Mauritius and Maldives, if the government’s plan for “holistic development of the islands” is any indication.
“We want to set up island water villas. If you see Lakshadweep, we have so much lagoon area. Other countries have built villas and attract tourists from across the globe. But we don’t have any such project,” Jitendra Kumar, Adviser, NITI Aayog, told The Hindu.
He added that the NITI Aayog, along with other stakeholders, including the Island Development Agency (IDA), which is chaired by Home Minister Rajnath Singh, is conducting a technical feasibility study for the project. “We are looking at both Lakshadweep and Andaman & Nicobar islands,” Mr. Kumar said, adding that it will be ensured that there is no damage to the marine ecosystem.
Additionally, efforts are on to identify an island where a film city can be built. “It is a new idea that we are working on. This will not only attract tourists but also relieve some of the pressure on Mumbai as a filming hub,” Mr. Kumar said.
As part of the plan, the government will issue tenders for four tourism-based hospitality projects – three in Andaman & Nicobar, and one in Lakshadweep. These will mainly be eco-cottages for which private players can bid to build. The projects will add about 700 rooms. “Ecological concerns and tribal-related issues will be fully addressed,” he stressed.
Few foreign tourists
Mr. Kumar said that while the arrival of domestic tourists in Andaman and Nicobar islands rose from over 2.02 lakh in 2011 to over 3.84 lakh in 2016, the inflow of foreign tourists was stagnant at around 15,000. “This is in spite of the fact that globally, there is a high demand for eco-tourism, adventure tourism (sea sports, game fishing) and cruise tourism,” he said.
The Diglipur Airport (in the Andamans) is expected to be operational for civilian aircraft by December, 2018. “Better connectivity to Diglipur, Port Blair, Car Nicobar and Campbell Bay through smaller aircraft, supplemented with more helicopter services using the 17 available helipads, will boost inter-island connectivity in Andaman and Nicobar,” he said. Efforts are on to start international flights from the Veer Savarkar International Airport, Port Blair.