Success Stories


Issue no 30, 23-29 October 2021

Focus on Sustainable and Inclusive Growth of Tourism Sector

 

 

As part of the Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav series of interviews, we look at the Tourism sector in this edition from the viewpoint of Union Tourism Minister Shri G. Kishan Reddy.

 

Interview with....

 

The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the tourism sector the most. What measures are being taken by your Ministry to revive the sector?

The Government has taken a slew of measures to support the tourism sector in the wake of crisis due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Government extended several regulatory and fiscal relief measures for industry, including the tourism sector, for business continuity and job retention. The Government allowed the calibrated opening of the domestic tourism sector with the improvement in the Covid situation. As a short-term measure, the Ministry has been focusing on promoting domestic tourism. The country has seen a significant recovery in domestic tourism, with many tourism destinations receiving many tourists. We are now preparing for opening inbound tourism and measures to grow inbound tourism post-pandemic. India has already announced 5 lakh free e-Tourist Visa for foreign tourists. We are confident that by working closely with our industry stakeholders, we would recover our international tourist arrival to the prepandemic level soon. Revival of the sector is dependent on re-opening the sector with the necessary protocols and precautions at an appropriate time. Therefore, apart from these direct interventions that I have stated, the role of vaccine administration in building confidence cannot be overlooked. India has administered more than 95 crore vaccinations. This will play a significant role in an early revival of the tourism sector.

 

What is the plan to market Indian tourist destinations overseas?

With India achieving unprecedented speed and scale in the vaccination drive, the Government will consider a calibrated opening of inbound tourism. While this is dependent on the removal of constraints on international flight operations, we are taking a proactive approach and want to be fully prepared when demand begins to increase. The Ministry of Tourism is taking many steps to market Indian tourist destinations overseas. The Ministry is also engaging with Indian Missions abroad to promote Indian tourist destinations in overseas markets. We are in the process of appointing Marketing Representatives in important source markets for marketing and promotion of India in select overseas markets. Ministry is also strengthening its digital marketing strategies for the promotion of Incredible India in overseas markets.

 

Would you please elucidate the schemes and incentives given by the Ministry for the development of tourism?

The Ministry of Tourism has framed various schemes for the development of tourism in the country. Swadesh and PRASHAD schemes provide financial assistance to States/ UTs for tourism infrastructure development in various tourist destinations. Since its inception more than Rs.5,500 crores and Rs.1,200 crores have been sanctioned under SWADESH Darshan and PRASHAD Schemes, respectively. The ministry also provides for skill training of workforce in tourism sector under "Hunar Se Rozgar Tak" scheme and Capacity Building of Service Providers under CBSP scheme. The ministry also provides Market Development Assistance to the tourism industry for undertaking promotion and marketing efforts in domestic and international markets.

 

Tourism plays a vital role in inclusive growth. What is the roadmap ahead?

The Prime Minister has recast tourism from an elitist lens that it is often perceived with. It is now seen as a tool that can deliver welfare and prosperity to local communities that directly benefit from the jobs and development opportunities. One needs to look no further than the "Kevadia Model" that exemplifies both the scale of vision and the focus on execution. The Statue of Unity and the cluster of projects will directly benefit communities in a 100 square kilometre radius of Kevadia, providing inclusive, sustainable growth in the region. The tourism sector offers ample opportunities for community development and jobs to vulnerable sections of society. The Ministry of Tourism would like to intensify its efforts to promote sustainable, responsible, and inclusive growth of the tourism sector in partnership with the States and Industry Stakeholders. The focus would be to integrate tourism at any destination with the local supply chain and, in the process, create opportunities for local commu-nities. The ministry will also help build the capacity and skills of local communities and youth to benefit from tourism activities in their areas.

 

ITDC (Indian Tourism Development Corporation) has taken a backseat in recent years. Are there any plans to aggressively increase the work of ITDC?

With the development of the private sector in providing hospitality services, ITDC will no longer focus on hotels and related areas. However, there are many niche areas in which ITDC can play a significant role in supporting the Government's vision of developing sustainable and responsible tourism in the country. The ministry is developing a new tourism policy, and detailed strategies for developing various tourism sub-sectors and the future role of ITDC will also be spelled out.

 

India has a vast potential for rural and eco-tourism. What kind of initiatives are being taken in this direction?

There is no doubt that there is a huge potential for rural and eco-tourism in the country. Tourists are increasingly looking for unique and immersive experiences. India has a rich cultural and natural heritage to promote rural and eco-tourism. We also need to encourage these sensitively, given that rural communities could be lesser privileged. The Ministry of Tourism has prepared a detailed strategy for promoting rural tourism in the country, which is under consultation with relevant Ministries and industry stakeholders. The ministry will focus on strengthening tourism infrastructure in rural tourism clusters, capacity building, digitalization, and marketing rural tourism products and ecotourism products in the country. The Ministry of Tourism has made the Indian Institute of Tourism and Travel Management (IITTM) as the Central Nodal Agency to support the ministry in promoting rural tourism and ecotourism. A Centre of Excellence is also proposed to be set up for Rural tourism and Eco tourism, respectively.

 

Covid-19 has severely impacted the income of those associated with the tourism sector. How do you propose to enhance job creation in the sector?

Job creation is a key feature of the tourism sector, and as we accelerate the growth of the tourism sector post-pandemic, it will create new job opportunities in the country. Various studies have shown that for Rs 10 lakhs of investment, the tourism industry can generate close to 80 jobs which is higher than any other sector. Apart from foreign tourists, India has enormous potential for domestic tourism. The Ministry of Tourism is working with the State Governments and industry to provide impetus to the growth of the tourism industry in the country and which will lead to job creation across a wide range of vocations. There is a tremendous amount of innovation and a large entrepreneurial community that is willing to bet on the Tourism industry. Our aim is to provide this community with policy clarity and a skilled talent pool. The Ministry of Tourism, through its institutions and other ministries, is working towards providing requisite skills to our youth and reskilling those already employed to enhance their employability and bridge the skill gap in the tourism and hospitality industry. With a focus on developing tier-2 and tier-3 destinations, job opportunities at remote and far-off places will also be ensured. We are also in discussions to evaluate the feasibility of according Institute of National Importance tag to a few sector-specific educational institutions to enhance the brand image of the hospitality sector and ensure better retention of skills within the sector.

 

Are you also looking at medical and vaccine tourism to convert the Covid challenge into an opportunity?

India is an attractive destination for medical tourism, and the ministry has a focused strategy for the same. Post Covid19, India would like to position itself as a wellness destination providing holistic healing. Ministry is launching a brand, "Heal in India," to promote India as a wellness tourism destination. So far as the vaccine is concerned, the country has prioritized our domestic population for vaccination. There are no plans for vaccine tourism.

 

What are special efforts being made to promote pilgrimage tourism and spiritual circuits?

India is home to the River Ganga that is the largest pilgrimage destination in the world, with more than 20 million taking a dip every year. The convergences that are built from Namami Gange, and the cleaning of the river on mission mode will further increase this number. India has a large number of pilgrimage and spiritual places such as the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine, and the Venkateswara Swamy Temple in Tirupati, which attract a large number of pilgrims and spiritually inclined tourists. This is a unique strength of the country and a strategic opportunity. Despite 500 million global Buddhist population and 90% living in South-East Asia and East Asia, the Buddhist Circuit centred around Sarnath and Gaya attracts a paltry 0.005 % Buddhists who come to India. Ministry of Tourism has launched a special scheme PRASHAD for development of pilgrimage and spiritual places. With better infrastructure and services, the flow of a greater number of domestic and international tourists can be channelized to these places. Ministry of Tourism is also working with IRCTC to run special tourist trains covering pilgrimage and spiritual destinations.

 

Many countries have liberal overseas tourist policies. What is the stand of the ministry on the issue of Visa on arrival?

India has liberalized its Visa policy by introducing e-tourist Visas for more than 170 countries, and e-Visa has got good response from the countries, and the number of people availing e-Visa is increasing. Ministry of Tourism will further work with the Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of External Affairs for liberalizing the Visa regime and making it completely hassle-free

 

 Tell us about the new initiatives under the "Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav."

We are celebrating "Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav' in a big way. We have identified 75 historic places associated with the freedom struggle and would focus on promoting these places as part of "Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav." We will also focus on exploiting the full potential of tourism in North East and encouraging university students to visit North East to know about its culture and promote tourism. The ministry is also planning to launch Visit India Year w.e.f. 15th August 2022 to invite tourists from all over the world to come to India to see India's unique cultural and natural heritage and be part of India's 75th-anniversary celebrations of its Independence

 

Where is the Indian Tourism sector headed in the next 15-20 years?

Indian Tourism Sector has a great future, and our long-term vision is to make India one of the top sustainable and responsible destinations in the world. With rapid progress in connectivity, infrastructure, and all-around development, tourism in the country is bound to grow exponentially. With our focus on promoting sustainability in the tourism sector, digitalization of the tourism sector and adopting a strategic approach towards long-term destination management, India is poised to emerge as a world leader in tourism. India will use the potential of the tourism sector towards significant contribution in achieving sustainable development goals by 2030.

 

(The interviewer is a New Delhi based Freelance News Anchor with All India Radio).

Interviewer: S. Rangabashiam

Image Courtesy: Google