Tourism plays catch-up in India


Vinod Zutshi, secretary, ministry of tourism, government of India

INDIA’s travel industry is set to receive a major impetus and play a stronger role in the country’s economy, if a new draft policy aimed at boosting tourism gets the nod from the national government.

Vinod Zutshi, secretary, ministry of tourism, government of India, told TTG Asia: “Upon Cabinet approval of the policy, tourism will for the first time be seen as the major engine for economic growth and (considered) a major factor in contributing to the national GDP.”

The new tourism policy also aims to grow India’s share in international tourist arrivals from the current 0.7 per cent to one per cent by 2020.

“We are working to improve the infrastructure at many of our beach destinations, and also to build new amenities and facilities on the beaches for tourists,” said Zutshi.

“We have spent almost US$300 million on at least 20 projects in the last six months. We intend to spend a similar amount in the forthcoming financial year.”

The improved coastal infrastructure will lend a hand in enhancing India’s niche tourism experiences, which include spiritual, wellness, wildlife and adventure packages.

To allay concerns surrounding female tourist safety in India, which surfaced in recent years, Zutshi said the tourism ministry had two initiatives in place.

Launched last month, the new Toll Free Tourist Infoline seeks to assist foreign travellers who encounter problems in the country. It is available in 12 languages, including English, Hindi, Arabic, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

The tourism ministry will also establish a crisis management team in April.

Zutshi said: “We want to make sure that if there are any incidents, there has to be a strategy and standard operating procedure in place to prevent any misgivings or misinformation being reported.”

Meanwhile, international buyers at ITB Berlin also appear unfazed by safety concerns surrounding Indian tourism.

Bert Stoot, owner of Holland-based NOL Travels, said: “There is a lot of interest into South India. I have been there so I am not too worried about safety because I see that it is perfectly fine there.”

Oliver Drewes, owner of Holistika Spiritual Work & Travel in Germany, said: “We are keen to promote the bigger and more developed cities like Bangalore because it is a good starting point to introduce Germans to India.”

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