Ministry of Tourism (MoT) has drawn out a set of new initiatives under the guidance of new energetic Tourism Ministry to boost and revamp tourism. Primarily these areas include.
Visa Facilitation: Visa remained a great concern and deterrent on persistent for tourists to choose India. The government of India launched the Tourist Visa on Arrival (TVoA) enabled with ETA Scheme on 27th November, 2014. This scheme in the first phase was extended to nationals of 43 countries.
The positive trend due to such visa relaxation process is also visible in international tourist arrivals. The foreign tourist arrivals got barely 7.46 million tourists with growth of 7.1% as compared to the FTA of 69.98 lakh in 2013. Foreign Exchange earnings from tourism in terms of US$ during 2014 were US$ 19.657 billion with a growth of 6.6% as compared to US$ 18.445 billion with a growth of 4.0% during January – December 2013 over the corresponding period of 2012.
Till February end it is expected to reach double digit growth.
The government is determined to reach 10 million International arrival figure by 2017 at least 1% of global tourist arrivals (which is now 0.6%)
For boosting international tourist arrivals, on recommendation of IATO, PATA, FAITH Ministry of Tourism has requested MHA to include France, UK, Spain, Italy and China in TVoA enabled by ETA which is now in urgently active consideration by MHA. Hon’ble Finance Minister’s announcement that Visa-on-Arrival (VoA) would be offered to upto 150 countries up from 44 countries.
Tourist Safety and Security Measures launched: Safety concerns have been raised by international and domestic tourists and Tour operators overseas in view of series of rapes, molestations, road rage etc which got headlines in overseas media reports.
In this respect, MoT has launched Incredible India Helpline – 1363. The MoT, on a pilot basis, has set up the Incredible India Help Line to address and guide the tourists during any emergencies which may include medical, crime natural calamities or on being stranded. This service will be available as toll free on telephone 1800111363 or on a short code 1363 and is accessible 24×7 and 365 to provide an authentic information to tourists and also guide them during emergencies once they are in India.
‘Public order’ and ‘police are state subjects as per the seventh schedule of the constitution of India. As such, the prevention of crime, including crimes against tourists, is the primary responsibility of State Governments/ Union Territories. In order to ensure safety and security of tourists, including foreign tourists, Ministry of Tourism has advised all the State Governments/Union Territory Administrations to deploy Tourist Police in the States /Union Territories.
Skill Development/ Human Resource development programme- Revamped
The Sector Skill Council (SSC) to regulate and promote hospitality and tourism related education and skill development in the country has been registered
Consulting Agreement with Lausanne Hospitality Consultancy : NCHMCT (an autonomous body under the ministry of tourism) has entered into a CONSULTING AGREEMENT with Lausanne hospitality consultancy (LHC). As per this agreement, LHC will help the council review and revise the curriculum and train the faculty members for improved delivery of contents.
Foundation stone laid for setting up Indian Culinary Institute:The MoT is setting up an Indian Culinary Institute at Tirupati, AP with objective (i) to ensure the preservation of heritage Indian cuisine, (ii) to establish research, documentation, museum and resource center of Culinary Arts (iii) to impart specialized training in culinary skils. The Indian Culinary Institute will serve as a resource center in its subject domain, conforming to international benchmarks. The foundation stone of the said Institute was laid on 2nd September, 2014 at Tirupati. Foundation stone of campus buildings of National Indian Culinary Institute North India Chapter was in Noida on 31 January, 2015.
New Initiatives for Sustainable development of (i) theme based circuits (Swadesh Darshan) and (ii) National Mission on Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual Augmentation Drive (PRASAD) under implementation in compliance with the Budget announcements in 2014/15.
India’s rich cultural, historical, religious and natural heritage provides a huge potential for development of tourism and job creation. In due recognition of this potential, the Union Govt., in the Budget Speech 2014-15, decided to create tourist circuits around specific themes with a provision of Rs. 500 crore for the current year. The Scheme aims to provide complete tourism experience by enhancing tourist attractiveness in a sustainable manner by developing world class infrastructure in varied thematic circuits and make full use of the national potentials and advantages development of theme based circuits.
The circuits identified are Coastal circuit, Krishna circuit, Buddha circuit, North East circuit, and Himalayan circuit and details are being worked out with all stake holders.
National Mission on Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual Augmentation (PRASAD). The Pilgrim Destinations to be developed under PRASAD Scheme are: Varanasi, Amritsar, Ajmer, Gaya, Mathura, Kanchipiuram, Vellankani, Kedarnath, Kamakya, Dwaraka, Puri, Amaravati.
50 new circuits identified for development : MoT has identified 50 circuits/destinations for development of tourism. These circuits/destinations cover major and relevant tourist places and attractions and have a judicious mix of culture, heritage, spiritualism and ecotourism to give tourists a holistic perspective of the country.
Upgradation of Railway Stations of touristic importance undertaken on cost sharing basis (50:50) with Ministry of Tourism Railways at a total cost of Rs. 240 crores.
Tourism becomes an integral part of “Swachh Bharat” campaign Swachh Paryatan, SwachhSmarak, SwachhPakwan etc.
Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has identified 25 monuments in the first phase to be included under Model Monuments from among the 3680 monuments & sites of national importance under is protection. These monuments would be provided necessary tourist facilities including wi-fi, security, signages, encroachment free area, interpretation centers showing short films about the importance of monuments and signboards of Swachh Bharat Abhiyanmentioning the slogan ‘SwachhSmarak’ Swachh Bharat’.
Swachh Bharat SwachhPakwan (HunarZaika): The street food vendors constitute a significant percentage of the hospitality service providers, are part of the Indian milieu through the ages and have a pan India presence. This program is aimed at upgrading the skills and hygiene standards of Street Food Vendors, so that they become a distinctive aspect of the Indian tourism.
New Budget: 2015/16 - Hon’ble Finance Minister in the Budget 2015 has demonstrated the government’s strong resolve for cleaner, Safer and rejuvenated India with the medical facilities and better transparency. All these are essential to build a positive image of our country. Also Hon’ble Minister promised restoration of 25 cultural Heritage sites. Here also air connectivity, cleanliness, stay arrangements transportation system, security etc needed to be sorted out first before giving wide publicity so that tourists can get a real “Incredible India” experience. At least, select 10 Heritage monuments first which have air connectivity from main gateway cities. That is very positive announcement.
But we need Indian Airports be developed first to ensure these are ready to cope with clearing visa on arrival facilities. Delays have been reported by overseas tour operators when they tried to get feedback from the groups returned after India holidays. This may impact negatively in the growth of tourists.
Ministry of Civil Aviation, Government of India announce plans to develop 200 low cost airports in Tier 2 and 3 cities. Airport Authority of India drawn up a low cost model to create these. But building airport is not enough. Already cities like Jaipur and Bhopal have good airports but airlines are not interested in operating flights to some of these towns. Specially passengers end up paying a ridiculous fare to these places. Air connectivity to some of these tours in 2 tier/3 tier cities is pretty woeful experience. So this must also get priority attention. According to UNWTO India ranks 41 in international tourism arrivals and 16th in world tourism receipts. Though tourism is one of the biggest contributors to country’s GDP. A 2014 report by the World Travel and Trade council (WTTC) that every $ 1 million internal and tourism spending in India generates $ 1.3 million in GDP. This high contribution of tourism
Ministry of Tourism allocation for 2015/16 has also been increased from Rs 1182.99 crore in the last fiscal to Rs 1573.07 crore and that also shows how tourism got priority in central Budget this year. Tourism promotions are a bit disturbed that the government has increased the Service Tax rate from 12.36% to 14% which will make tourism packages costlier and may dampen the spirits of holidayers.
Infact, Indian Tourism operators were pleading since last decade with the government that tourism service export be treated on par with physical exports and tourism be extended all benefits that are being given to the physical exporters, including exemption of Service Tax based on their foreign exchange earnings.
This Budget is drawing a road map for the next four years with the objective of providing basic infrastructure enhancing investment and giving benefits to all. As GST rollout in 2016, tax regime will be regulated. All these benefit tourism also indirectly.
By Gour Kanjilal, Executive Director, IATO and Former, Dy. Director General, Ministry of Tourism, Govt. of India and Freelance Journalist.