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Friday, 25 September, 2015, 11 : 00 AM [IST]

Fighting Inconsistencies

It seems that our country has literally imbibed the famous quotation of great Greek philosopher Heraclitus that ‘the only thing that is constant is change’, into our political and bureaucratic system. We see heads rolling in the highest bureaucracy every now and then with scant regard to the logjam that creates in the process of governance. Priorities, agenda, everything gets stalled, revisited and reframed with changes at the highest level, once again complementing Heraclitus’ words that ‘these constant changes keep the world same ever’. The recent top level shakes up in the Ministry of Tourism, a natural process as per official reasoning, brought everything to a stand still for few weeks. There are many instances in the past of ambitious projects being shelved or put on the back-burner with the change of guard, both at the political and bureaucratic helm. A few such projects which didn’t see the light of the day include the setting up of integrated tourism parks, special air-conditioned train for Buddhist circuit, green curtains along rail corridors, hi-tech light shows around heritage structures, etc. Today, nobody knows what happened to the campaigns like ‘777 days of Incredible Indian Himalayas’ that was launched couple of years ago with much fanfare.

What Indian tourism urgently requires is consistency in terms of policy and approach. Instead, what we are seeing is mere tokenism, which ultimately suits the ideological moorings of the people or parties in power.

The much-trumpeted ‘PRASAD’ and ‘HRIDAY’ schemes are symbolic of this parochial approach, which is not going to bring drastic changes as far as tourism infrastructure or facilitation are concerned. Over emphasis on culture and heritage is not going to help India grow on the global tourism map in a big way. Instead, we must attempt and create multiple reasons for a global traveller to visit India.

Have we pondered why India was not able to attract wildlife enthusiasts in spite of having unparalleled treasuretrove in our national parks? Why we were not able to exploit our long coastline to become a destination for large number of leisure tourists who flock to beach destinations across the world? Have we tried to put together our brains to why India is not on the map of global adventure-seekers in spite of having varied landscape including the majestic Himalayas? The answer is big ‘No’.

The results are evident in the latest inbound figures published by the government. The foreign tourist arrival growth rate in the first 8 months of the year was mere 4.5%. This obviously raises questions about the success of Electronic-Tourist Visa (ETV). Those industry honchos who promised an outpour of foreign tourists to India with the introduction of ETV will have to do a lot of explaining on this poor show.

P Krishna Kumar
Bureau Chief, New Delhi
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