Union Tourism Minister Shri Subodh Kant Sahai has said that SAARC countries should explore the ways and means for more exchange of tourists amongst them. Inaugurating the conclave of SAARC tour operators here today he said,” we must motivate each SAARC country in such a way that tourism becomes the focus of economic and political agenda.
Shri Sahai said that SAARC region has immense growth potential, which till date has not been fully utilized. He said “If it could be fully utilized in all possible ways, the SAARC region has the potential to steer the economy of the world. The cultural diversity of the SAARC region is unique, and the combination of scenic landscapes, natural beauty, and ethnic multiplicity – only add to its international appeal. All these facts unite to make the SAARC region a great tourist attraction. In fact, most SAARC nations have already realized this potential at individual level but with a concerted effort, the success culminated would be many folds”.
The Union Tourism Minister said that today in spite of its growing relevance and proven contribution to GDP, jobs and exports, the tourism sector still lacks due political and economic recognition. He said against this background, UNWTO and WTTC have decided to join hands for making Tourism a global agenda through “Global Leaders for Tourism Campaign”. Shri Sahai said “through this campaign we all hope to position tourism as a driver of economic growth and development.”
Referring to the rich ancient Buddhist Heritage of India Shri Subodh Kant announced that “with a view to showcasing and projecting Buddhist Heritage of India we are planning to organize an International Buddhist Conclave in Varanasi on 29th and 30th September 2012. The Tour Operators and scholars from SAARC region will be invited to participate in this Conclave”.
The Union Tourism Minister also announced that India will be hosting the 25th Joint meeting of UNWTO Commissions for Far East and the Pacific and South Asia in April 2013. This meeting is expected to be attended by approximately 100 delegates from 27 countries which include tourism heads, tourism officials and officials from UNWTO.
About 45 leading Tour Operators from India, Maldives, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan are participating in the conclave. The conclave is focusing on various strategies to promote tourist destinations and products in the SAARC region. The conclave offers a golden opportunity to draw up intra regional packages while promoting the business between various tourism stakeholders for economic growth and employment generation. The best practices in development, promotion and management of tourism will also be discussed in the conclave.
Exclusive back to back interactive sessions is being organized to enable tour operators to discuss and explore various business strategies. Individual country presentations will also be made by the participants for showcasing the importance and opportunities in tourism sector in the respective SAARC countries. After the conclave the International participants from the SAARC countries will be taken on a technical visit to Delhi Heritage trip and a post Conclave tour to Agra tomorrow.
SAARC is an important source market for India. 1,013,516 tourists from SAARC region visited India in 2011(Provisional) as compared to 998,179 in 2010. Importantly, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka ranked 3rd and 4th respectively in terms of foreign tourist arrivals to India in 2010. For SAARC member countries, India is one of the major source markets.
As per UNWTO report the international tourist arrivals to Asia and the Pacific are projected to increase from 204 million in 2010 to 535 million in 2030. The share of international tourism to emerging economies will be bigger compared to advanced ones. Most of the new arrivals will be to the destinations in Asia in particular.
During the year 2011, UNWTO estimates that Asia and Pacific saw a 7% increase in tourist arrivals led by South Asia and South East Asia. As per PATA report this region is poised to emerge as the fastest growing in the Asia and Pacific region. Hence, this conclave assumes a significant dimension.
The first SAARC Tour Operators Conclave is indeed a big step in the right direction and is expected to contribute to business and opportunities for economic development and employment generation in the region.