The Union Tourism and Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation Minister Kumari Selja has urged seven western Indian States/Union Territories (UTs) to take all necessary steps for protection of tourists against crime and provide them aid in distress. Inaugurating the Inter State Regional Conference of Tourism Ministers of Western States/Union Territories in Goa today she said, the inflow of domestic and foreign tourists could be ensured only when we are able to provide them a safe and secured environment. She said, in this modern era of communication news of any untoward incident travels quickly endangering the reputation of the country as a safe destination. The Minister said Successful marketing campaigns can effectively bring in initial burst of travelers to new destinations. Sustaining the reputation of these destinations would depend on constant development and up-gradation of the tourism infrastructure. Further, the safety and security of tourists coupled with the quality of hospitality and services offered plays a major role in attracting tourists.
During the conference, Open Session with State Governments/UT Administrations and Trade Representatives were held to discuss among other things Tourist Security and safety, Rationalization of Luxury Tax, Issues to facilitate seamless travel in inter-State circuits, Broad basing of hospitality education and training and Initiation for skill training for the hospitality sector.
Tourism ministers from GOA, Chhattisgarh ,GUjarat , Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra and representatives of Dadar & Nagar Haveli and Daman& Diu attended the conference.
Here is the text of the speech of Kumari Selja :
“ It is my pleasure to be amongst you today for the Inter State Regional Conference of Tourism Ministers of Western States and Union Territories being organized by the Ministry of Tourism.
The objective of organizing such a conference is to give a serious thought to the tourism related issues and problems that specifically pertain to the States in the Region. The aim is to ensure holistic and integrated development of tourism in close cooperation and coordination with the States. Towards this end, the Ministry of Tourism has been organizing such conferences; the first being in Delhi, the second being in Gangtok and the third being in Bangalore. This conference, being organized here in Goa, is the Fourth and last in the sequel. It has been our experience that the earlier three conferences were highly effective and brought out several interesting inputs and innovative ideas from the State Governments and Union Territories.
The Western and Central Region of India is renowned for its scenic beauty, rich architectural heritage, vibrant culture and diverse flora and fauna. This makes it one of the most sought after destinations by both the domestic and international tourists.
Successful marketing campaigns can effectively bring in initial burst of travelers to new destinations. Sustaining the reputation of these destinations would depend on constant development and up-gradation of the tourism infrastructure. Further, the safety and security of tourists coupled with the quality of hospitality and services offered plays a major role in attracting tourists.
I have been continuously voicing concern about the safety and security of tourists visiting the country. In this modern era of communication, news of any untoward incident travels quickly endangering the reputation of the country as a safe destination.
The inflow of the domestic and foreign tourists could be ensured only in a safe and secured environment. We have time and again taken up the issue of constitution of Tourist Police Organization in States and Union Territories. Guidelines have been formulated for raising Tourist Security Organization. It is proposed to rope in ex-servicemen to ensure the safety and security of tourists.
Several States have deployed Tourist Police at important tourist destinations in one form or the other. However, we feel that a specialized agency to handle tourist safety should be in place. I urge the distinguished participants present here to take all necessary steps to provide protection to the tourists against crime and provide them aid when in distress. We are working towards establishing a National Tourist Helpline .
Our foreign tourist arrival figures during the last three months have shown an encouraging trend. In fact, December 2009 has witnessed an unprecedented rise of 21% growth in comparison to the corresponding period during the previous year. The trend continued with 16% growth in January 2010 and about 10% in February 2010. Aggressive marketing and concerted efforts of all stakeholders has resulted in this growth. The news of normalcy returning to the global economies has given us all reason to cheer up and expect the buoyancy to return soon to the Industry.
With a resolve to effectively boost the growth rate further, we have taken a number of initiatives. Our efforts for introduction of the ‘Visa on Arrival’
Scheme for tourists have borne fruits. Government of India has, on a pilot basis, introduced the Scheme for a period of one year commencing from 1st January 2010. The scheme is presently applicable to tourists coming from Singapore, Finland, New Zealand, Luxembourg and Japan. We expect this move will give a tremendous boost to inbound tourism. We believe that it has already sent positive signals to the source markets.
Tourism plays an important role in most developing as well as developed countries. With meaningful linkages to other productive sectors, it acts as the main and sometimes the only means of economic and social development on a sustainable basis. Tourism Sector accounts for 11% of the GDP and 8% of employment globally. Leading Tourism Organizations, including World Tourism Organization and World Tourism and Travel Council, have declared Indian tourism as the fastest growing at a rate of about 8%.
The true potential of tourism lies in responsible practices on both the demand and supply sides of the tourism chain, enabling an effective response to climate change. This is closely interlinked with inclusive growth through sustainable community participation. This ‘Sustainable & Responsible Tourism’ model aims to bring a visible change in the livelihood of local communities and elevate their economic status.
The ‘sustainable’ tourism route adopted by us in the innovative Rural Tourism Project seeks to strengthen skilled rural artisan communities in association with United Nations Development Programme. Under this initiative, we have identified 158 Rural Sites, of which 21 rural tourism sites come from this region.
Eco–Tourism is a niche product with major revenue and employment generating capabilities. However, another aspect requiring attention relates to better management of our forests and environment. Realizing its significance in generation of socio–economic benefits, we need to take more aggressive steps for afforestation in areas prone to ecological damage. Our commitment to this effort is evidenced by the announcement of the Hon’ble Finance Minister in his Budget Speech. He has proposed to provide a sum of Rs.200 crore as a Special Golden Jubilee
package for Goa to preserve its natural resources by restoring its beaches that are prone to erosion and to increase its green cover through sustainable forestry.
Cruise Shipping is a dynamically fast growing component of the leisure industry worldwide. It is emerging as a new niche product with a global annual growth rate of 12%. The Cruise Shipping Policy was approved on June 26, 2008. It aims to sustainably develop India both as Source and Destination Market, and, to increase the number of cruise ship calls and passenger arrivals. This product is still in its infancy in India. Recently, we have seen some activity in the country in this sector. I would like to impress upon the State Governments of Goa and Maharashtra to position the Marmagoa and Mumbai as the main ports of call for the cruise vessels coming to the Indian shores.
Tourism is an important engine of economic growth. Towards realizing our goal of synchronised and integrated development of the tourism sector, we have taken a number of steps. Tax incentives for new hotels coming up in the World Heritage Sites have been announced. The External Commercial Borrowings (ECB) entitlement to fund import of equipments and fund the rupee requirements has been allowed. RBI has de-linked hotel projects from Commercial Real Estate Classification for credit purposes. This will enable hotels to obtain credit at liberal conditions and low interest rates. To boost investment in tourism sector, the Budget 2010–11 has proposed to extend the benefit of investment linked deduction under the Income Tax Act to new hotels of two–star category and above anywhere in India.
We have recently launched a liberalised Incredible India Bed & Breakfast/Homestay Scheme. The States and Union Territories have also been advised to formulate their own scheme to develop Bed & Breakfast Scheme and Home Stay units.
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved broad basing hospitality education. Vocational schools, polytechnics, universities and colleges would be involved to meet the growing demand of trained manpower in hospitality sector. Revised guidelines for the Scheme of Assistance to Institute of Hotel Management and Food Craft Institutes have also been issued. We intend to set up 19 State IHMs and 25 State FCIs in the 11th Plan Period.
The combined training capabilities currently available in the country are able to provide only 12000 trained personnel for absorption in the Hospitality industry. The existing demand is far higher at 2 lakh personnel annually. To bridge this demand–supply gap, we have launched the “Hunar Se Rozgar” programme. The programme envisages creation of employable skills in hospitality sector under the Capacity Building Scheme. It targets the youth of weaker sections of Society who are interested in joining the hospitality industry. The programme is being operated simultaneously in the Institutes of Hotel Management and Food Craft Institutes across the country. Linkages forged with the Industry have ensured that successful candidates are now finding appropriate placements in the Hotels and Restaurants.
One of the major challenges faced in destination development is the area of Solid Waste Management. This is a desirable feature for ensuring the success of tourism in the country. It also enhances the quality of life of inhabitants in terms of sanitation and public health. The development of a destination should not end just with the handing over of completed projects. Mechanisms should be in place to foster sustainable and environment–friendly growth. I am constrained to observe that the State of Goa also does not have solid waste management and sewerage treatment plant. We will now also be looking at this component of Solid Waste Management while approving project proposals from the State Governments.
This year, we have given a new award for ‘Best Civic Management of a Tourist Destination in India’
in the National Tourism Awards. The objective of this award is to proactively involve the municipal authorities and getting their commitment towards eco-friendly, sustainable, clean hygienic and attractive surroundings in our cities, towns and villages. This would help in enhancing visitors’ experience in India.
We are also trying to ensure convergence with the concerned Ministries such as Railways, Civil Aviation, Road Transport & Highways, Shipping and Urban Development at the Central level. The State and UT Governments have a major role in effecting convergence at the State and Local Level for development of infrastructure and services. I would request the States/Union Territories to send the proposals to my Ministry only after ensuring such convergence. This would ensure that the investment could be more productive for a site.
One of the biggest and successful Marketing campaigns has been our “Incredible India”
brand campaign. This 8 year old campaign continues to be our mantra for attracting foreign visitors. The creatives used have been unique and very popular; attracting acclaim and accolades globally. The State Governments have also been successful in building sub–brands. Much more can be attained by effectively leveraging the sub–brands along with the Mother Brand “Incredible India”. I urge upon the States to adopt this strategy for more effective and efficient overseas marketing.
I thank all of you present for taking active participation in the conference. My special thanks also goes to the Government of Goa for hosting the conference. I am sure that the deliberations may highlight more issues, provide solutions and would ultimately reap productive results.”