Gir of Gujarat : An evolving destination
Indian Tourism has been witnessing a constant upward growth in terms of its overall contribution at both domestic and international levels. With constant support from the government in the form of various policies constantly promoting destinations, one can easily conclude that each of these destinations in itself is only experiencing an upward growth.
The total contribution of travel and tourism towards India’s total GDP has noticed a consistent 15% growth (until 2019) and is expected to grow by 34% by 2029. ("India Inbound Tourism - Unlocking the Opportunity", 2019)
Amongst the various drivers for tourism growth, a major focus happens to be on Nature-based tourism. It has been identified as one of the fastest emerging segments of tourism in India. With over 104 national parks and various other wildlife sanctuaries, the Ministry of Tourism has notably allotted over INR 187.90 Cr. under the Swadesh Darshan Scheme towards the development of these destinations. (Sasan Gir, Kangra, and Jim Corbett mentioned amongst the many)
Gujarat is a dynamic state which has contributed to both domestic and Foreign Tourist Arrivals (FTA). While its contribution towards FTA’s has been at 2.14%, its main focus remained upon its domestic tourists wherein tourists within Gujarat have been at 71.56% whereas tourists from outside Gujarat have grown to 26.30% in 2018-19.
Gir National Park
Gir National Park in Sasan Gir, Gujarat is known to be the only place where one can spot “king of the jungle” roaming freely in the wild. Located approximately 65 km-southeast from the city of Junagadh, it is home to the famous Asiatic Lion. Moreover, it occupies an overall area of 1412 sq.km. of natural shelter in the form of the National Park which houses many interesting and unique flora and fauna. According to research, the Gir National Park has been home to lions since 1913 starting with just 20 lions increasing to almost 523, as per to the 2015 census report.
Since the inception of Gir as a major wildlife destination, the introduction of hotels, homestays and other accommodation-providers has drastically grown thus creating an extremely competitive market. However, this market presents the whole gamut of challenges from connectivity to transportation to unique compliances from the Forest department. The conditions make it difficult for each competitor to strive; however a business is able to attain stability the same market offers incredible profitability and sustainability of business.
Elements affecting the Hotel Business in Sasan, Gir
Close Proximity of Competition
Sasan, Gir is a prime destination for wildlife tourism which has continuously attracted various operators and brands to enter the market. While Sasan, Gir as an area includes the Gir National Park, approximately 14 hotels and numerous homestays are available located in a 5km radius thus creating fierce competition. In a market wherein the competition-set is so closely located to each other, one may naturally feel that the existing supply would exceed the demand however the hotel business has grown by 15% on a YOY basis.
Tourist Culture Diversity
Considering the trends within Gujarat as a state, Sasan Gir - like many other destination -has maximum tourists from within the state itself. The demand of guests from the region is of “a home away from home” instead of a contemporary hotel luxury phenomenon. The mix of guests is such that the hotels have modified their offerings to suit the needs of both demands. A guest coming with a “home away from home” mindset can now enjoy an authentic “kathiyawadi” meal; while the niche leisure travellers can simultaneously enjoy the typical traditional hotel experience- thus creating an amalgamation of experiences and redefining experiential luxury.
Since the region is located amidst a dense forest area, there has been minimal development to preserve the flora and fauna. The same has ideally resulted in limited service providers to enter the market making it extremely difficult to stay constantly connected with “The Network.” While it promotes a healthy lifestyle where one can surrender oneself to mother nature, on the other hand hotels have found it exceedingly difficult to cope up with non-connectivity due to the complexity of operations vis a vis the diverse guest requirement. BSNL in the area have remained the front runners who have succeeded in providing positive solutions to connectivity amongst the other major network providers.
Accessibility & Transport
One of the most challenging factors identified at Sasan, Gir is the lack of accessibility of the area along with modes of transportation. One can reach Sasan, Gir best by road however there is still scope for further improvement in it. The government is currently promoting the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Model with help of GUJSAIL and Ministry of Civil Aviation in order to overcome this existing challenge.
Gujarat has always been closely monitored when it comes to its tourism. While the intra state tourists have outnumbered the other segments of tourists by a large margin, the government of Gujarat along with the Forest and Environment department have collectively taken steps to encourage tourism in the state. For instance, the state government has announced special incentives for home stays. It is estimated that Gujarat will contribute to almost 5% towards India’s total GDP growth creating over 3 million jobs by 2025 and a majority of the same lies in development of tourism. Tourism safety and security at all tourism destinations, grievance-redressal mechanism, financial support for green projects have been a few focused areas which have increased current investment in tourist attractions in the state. Furthermore, to promote Sasan, Gir as a destination the government has created a special Eco-Tourism policy in areas such as Gir, Kutch, etc. to enhance the awareness of habitat and wildlife making Sasan, Gir an overall destination promoting wildlife as well as an overall business perspective.
While there are major challenges present in Sasan, Gir in terms of accessibility and constant involvement of the Forest and Environment department, ProMiller has identified Sasan, Gir to be one of the upcoming lucrative destinations promoting Tourism and Hotel business which is bound to grow in future. While the demand of customers here is extremely diverse and the complexity of the overall offerings continues to create a challenging environment, the government and other key stakeholders in the region are constantly committed towards increasing the ease of doing overall business while concurrently safeguarding the wildlife- creating a blend of wildlife and eco-tourism.
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