Chandigarh becoming hot spot for foreign tourists

By Alkesh Sharma, IANS,

Chandigarh : Wide and clean roads, a plush green cover with sprawling gardens and a calendar full of events. Little wonder Chandigarh has become a much sought after destination for foreign tourists, with over 39,000 of them visiting the city last year.

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Tourists from Britain, France, Canada, the UAE, Pakistan, the US, Germany, Malaysia, Australia, Switzerland, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and Iran among others are heading for this ‘city beautiful’.

Around 39,500 foreign tourists visited the city in 2010, whereas 37,967 and 32,074 foreigners had come calling to the union territory in 2009 and 2008 respectively, according to official figures from the Chandigarh tourism department.

“We have seen a remarkable growth in the arrival of foreign tourists. They are not using this city merely as a stopover point but are also visiting various tourist spots,” Chandigarh tourism deputy director Vinod Kalia told IANS.

“Places like the Rose Garden, Rock Garden, Sukhna Lake, Le Corbusier centre and the government museum are the favourites,” he said.

Sally Gayle, a tourist from Britain who is in the city on an educational trip now, said: “In the case study in my architecture diploma course, I have to study the buildings designed by Corbusier.

“This is my second visit to Chandigarh and I have become a big fan of its wide roads and cleanliness. Everything is very well planned,” Gayle added.

In November and December last year, 2,931 tourists from Britain visited, followed by 1,162 and 1,116 from Germany and the US respectively.

“Maximum number of tourists come to Chandigarh in October-February, when so much is happening in the city.”

The administration is also aggressively promoting tourism. Events like the Chandigarh carnival, rose festival, New Year extravaganza, theatre festival, crafts mela and world tourism week are organised regularly.

Tourism officials said over 900,000 domestic tourists visited the centrally-administered city last year.

Chandigarh, spread over 114 sq km, is internationally known for its architecture and urban planning. It is the joint capital of Punjab and Haryana.

Tourist inflow to the city – considered a gateway to Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Haryana and Punjab – has been increasing for the past five years.

In 2005, nearly 638,000 tourists visited the city, while the number was 730,000 in 2006, 954,726 in 2007 and 960,912 in 2008.

Chandigarh was designed by Swiss-born French architect Le Corbusier in the 1950s. It is the only planned city in independent India.

Foreign tourists too like this ‘city beautiful’ a lot.

“Chandigarh is a masterpiece of architecture by one of the great planners. This city has managed to save its greenery and has not grown much despite much urbanisation,” said Joseph Connell, a Melbourne-based tourist.

Chandigarh was designed for a population of 500,000, but now the city accommodates over 1.1 million people and a floating population of over 100,000 a day.

Its green cover is 38.8 percent of its geographical area — the maximum in the country. Chandigarh is followed by Delhi, which has nearly 20 percent tree cover.

(Alkesh Sharma can be contacted at [email protected])