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WTM 2016: India Overhauls Tourism Sector

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India, the world’s largest democracy dotted with plenty of heritage sites and wild life spots, is addressing Cleanliness, Connectivity and Security to boost tourism….writes Rafeek Ravuther

Dr. Mahesh Sharma, Minister of State for Tourism and Culture
Dr. Mahesh Sharma, Minister of State for Tourism and Culture

Building on India’s intrinsic strengths, India is addressing cleanliness, connectivity and security to boost tourism, said Dr. Mahesh Sharma, Minister of State for Tourism and Culture. He was speaking at the Plenary Session on ‘Why Invest in Incredible India?’ at the Incredible India Tourism Investors’ Summit in New Delhi. This is the first such Summit organized by the Ministry of Tourism in partnership with CII and Tourism Finance Corporation of India Ltd.

Dr. Sharma emphasized that India should be a destination of choice for tourism, given its cultural and geographic diversity and culture of warm hospitality. He added that the Ministry has introduced a multi-lingual helpline in 12 languages for tourists, the only one in the world. The new aviation policy too will give a huge fillip to connectivity. He emphasized that this is the right time to invest in the tourism sector in India.

Colonel Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting, said that tourism is about creating a fantastic, unforgettable experience. The need is to ‘package’ the country’s offerings, he suggested, adding that films and advertisements can play a key role in popularizing India. To make filming in India easy, the Ministry has set up the Film Facilitation Office as a single window for all clearances and approvals. This should be replicated in the States, he added.  The Ministry has also instituted the Most Film-friendly State Award to promote shooting in India.

Mr. Vinod Zutshi, Secretary, Ministry of Tourism, highlighted the Indian economy’s rapid growth and added that ease of doing business, the policy landscape, sector-specific parameters, and availability of finance would attract investors.  Moreover, gaps such as lack of moderately-priced hotel rooms offer tremendous opportunity. Investors can choose from a diversified product portfolio to invest in, he said.

Mr Amitabh Kant, CEO, Niti Ayog, pointed out various aspects that make India an attractive investment destination such as opening up of sectors for FDI and reforms. He highlighted digitization and urbanization as huge opportunities for tourism in India. He emphasized that future travellers would come from emerging economies such as India, China and Brazil, and India can cater to such tourists through the right facilities.

Mr Nakul Anand, Executive Director, ITC, stressed on the importance of having a friendly tax regime and cited examples of countries which have seen massive tourist inflows because of lower taxes. He added that India should work towards sustainable tourism.

Sharing the success story of Fabindia, set up to promote Indian products with a huge emphasis of better packaging and marketing, Mr William Bissell, CEO, Fabindia, said there should be greater emphasis on packaging and presentation of India as a tourist destination. The handicraft sector is a big employer, he added.

Mr Adeeb Ahamad, MD, Lulu Financials, said that India has huge advantages vis-à-vis tourism, notably the absence of any ‘off-season’.  He said streamlining and revising policies related to aspects such as the restrictions on coastal development etc would do much to boost tourism.

Dr Naushad Forbes, President CII and Co-Chairman, Forbes Marshall, said industry and Government need to work together to ensure greater tourist traffic to India. This, he said, can be achieved by changing perceptions through campaigns, word of mouth, and changing reality of tourist experience. He lauded the E-visa scheme and said that concentrated efforts in enhancing connectivity, entertainment and other tourism-related factors will help increase tourism in India.