New Delhi: Be
it the deserts of Rajasthan or snow clad peaks of Himalayas, Runn of Kucch or Ganges in Banaras, backwaters of Allepey or plateau of Madhya Pradesh, the diversity is mindblowing. No other country is blessed with such a kalideoscope of landscapes as India. What is just needed is an appreciative viewer and a travellers heart. Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder afterall. 'Atithi Devo Bhava' is what we practise and preach. Some doubts still linger when it comes to experiencing it.
Is India a safe tourist destination, is travelling cost too high, does the travel and tour infrastructure satisfy global standard, is travel easy, what about solo travellers particularly women! Call it our image in the world or the way we are, yet India is the most richly diverse country nested in the Indian subcontinent offering the best time, experience and value for money. India can be the ultimate desired tourist haven on the globe.
With an inflow of 10.18 million FTA's, 14.57 million ITA's and a foreign exchange of Rs 1,80,379 crores in 2017 as per the annual report of Ministry of Tourism 2017-18, India’s travel and tourism sector ranks 7th in the world in terms of its total contribution to the country’s GDP. According to the new report of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), 2017 had also shown a 12 places jump from 2015. According to a Ministry of Tourism release, the rank of India in International Tourist Arrivals in the latest UNWTO’s World Tourism Barometer (for March 2017) is 24 as against the previous ranks of 41 and 40 in the year 2014 and 2015 respectively.
With e budgetry allocation of Rs 1840.77 crore the Ministry of Tourism has set an agenda to bring India into the group of countries where tourism is a high point. Scroll down the Incredible India website and one sees a list of niche initiatives like Cruise tourism, Medical tourism, Wellness tourism, Golf Tourism, Rural Tourism, Polo Tourism, Eco Tourism, Film Tourism, MICE Tourism, options that don't seem to end. Year 2018 has been marked to be celebrated as the year for 'Adventure Tourism' to promote and create awareness about varied adventure options in states like J&K, Himachal, Goa, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andaman and Lakshdweep.
The annual report states that under the scheme of 'Swadesh Darshan' India has been divided into 15 thematic circuits namely North East India circuit, Buddhist circuit, Himalayan circuit, Coastal circuit, Krishna Circuit, Desert circuit, Tribal circuit, Eco Circuit, Wildlife Circuit, Rural Circuit, Spiritual Circuit, Ramayan Circuit, Heritage Circuit, Trithankar Circuit & Sufi Circuit for development of tourism infrastructure.
Curated by Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) for Ministry of Tourism under the theme of 'Indian Tourism, its development, opportunities and challenges', in an interaction with Foreign Press, Secretary, Ministry of Tourism, Rashmi Verma, informed, 'we are giving lot of importance to creation of infrastructure and amenities at our key tourist sites, maintaining them at world class standards, allocating lot of funds for infrastructure working with states, creating basic infrastructure with Ministry of Culture and ASI at heritage sites. Recently initiative of 'Adopt an Heritage' scheme involving industry, private and other organisation in helping us compliment efforts made from ministry's side.'
On concern about high cost tourism in India, Verma said, 'For bringing down cost government is looking at better tax rates structure for tourism. She emphasised, 'Tourism is primarily private driven industry, initiatives have to come from them but we are working with ministry of Finance to ensure we become more competitive with neighboring countries.'
On partnering with PATA, Secretary Tourism who is also Chairman PATA said, 'PATA and ministry has been working since long to improve tourism in india, spreading better awareness and improving image of India as a toursim destination. Facilitated by PATA interaction with Foreign Correspondents is aimed at that. It is important to get media's feedback on how to improve.'
Have a look at the interview: https://youtu.be/2xvUmcqOnE4
A presentation was made by Joint Secretary Tourism Suman Billa which reflected on the importance and criticality of tourism in India’s economic development.
Ministry of Tourism has rolled out niche initiatives for improving and facilitating thriving tourism industry. For safety and security of tourist, of which India's image has suffered badly abroad Secretary informed that the govt has launched a 24*7 Toll free Tourist Helpline in 12 international languages available on a Toll free no 1800111363 or on a short code 1363. Measures to sensitize drivers, guides and other stakeholders highlighting the theme of 'Atithi Devo Bhava' have been rolled out.
Visa regime has been liberalised by providing easy access to visitors in the form of e visas to 163 countries. 16.97 lakhs foreign tourists arrived on e visas in 2017. To ensure widespread publicity marketing of 'Incredible India 2.0 Campaign' was launched targeting both overseas and domestic travellers through Tourism Awards, Fairs, Digital and print advertising, Paryatan Parv, publicity on foreign Electronic media, organising FAM tours and much more.
The Secretary assured of removing roadblocks, hurdles and red tape in facilitating shooting of films by foreign and Indian filmmakers who face hundreds of permissions and sanctions to be taken by various agencies.
Optimistic about tourism landscape and future of India, SanJeet, Vice Chairman, PATA India Chapter said, 'This was PATA India Chapter’s first of its kind initiative with foreign media. The purpose was to create and open a channel among the international Media and the Ministry of Tourism. This will help disseminate the true vibrant colours of India. We are confident that all tourism news will be authenticated with Incredible India - if any challenges, PATA India Chapter will provide that conduit.'
He said, 'It is important to leverage the reach of foreign media in their home countries to spread the many facets of Incredible India. To grow tourism to India, more and more curiosity needs to be aroused amongst potential tourists. India’s diversity has something for everyone. Seasons, cultures, ancient history, natural habitat, soft adventure, spirituality and wellness, cuisine and many more options are in store for tourists and will leave them intrigued and curious for more.'
A video highlighting PATA India Chapter activities and contribution was shared.
The PATA India Chapter aims at enhancing interactivity within the business and trade eco-system through its events and activities that are planned and executed keeping in mind domestic and global business trends.
Inviting all stakeholders to avail of its resources, President, Foreign Correspondent Club Venkatnarayan said, 'as per a recent report India will earn half a trillion dollers in the coming times in tourism, that is double from now which is a very optimistic figure and a good scenario for Indian tourism industry.
The guests at the event included Director General Ministry of Tourism Satyajeet Ranjan, Joint Secretary Suman Billa, ADG Meenakshi Sharma and Director PATA Sanjeet, President FCC Venkatnarayan, Ravneet Kaur, CMD- ITDC. Secretary Ministry of Tourism was the Chief Guest. The interaction was attended by members of Foreign Correspondent Club and other independent journalists. ITDC was a partner.