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Tuesday, 06 August, 2019, 17 : 30 PM [IST]

Incredible India wants more foreign visitors

As per Economic Times (ET),the tourism ministry has submitted a plan to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to encourage more overseas visitors to come to India after the slide in numbers continued this year, following on from the slowdown in 2018, said officials familiar with the matter. The ministry plans to develop 17 sites to attract visitors as had been announced in the July 5 budget and consider ways of promoting tourism on “several fronts,” said one of the people cited above.

“There’s a big plan in the works — the development of 17 iconic sites will be part of this,” he said. “It will be a holistic plan that will look at boosting numbers on several fronts. The ministry has already worked on the master plans for the 17 iconic sites and has held stakeholder consultations and appointed consultants. It may have come in the budget now, but we have been working on it.”
The government is also evaluating representations made by the tourism industry. “Different demands of the industry are being considered, and a lot of things are in process,” said another official. “Some of the demands of the industry are also being considered by the ministry of home affairs.” Nirmala Sitharaman, Finance minister, Government of India had said in her budget speech that the 17 sites will be developed into world-class destinations to boost the tourism sector. These include the Taj Mahal and Fatehpur Sikri in Uttar Pradesh; Ajanta and Ellora in Maharashtra; Red Fort, Humayun's Tomb and Qutab Minar in Delhi; Hampi in Karnataka; Somnath and Dholavira in Gujarat; Amer Fort in Rajasthan and Colva beach in Goa, among others. 

Tourist Inflow up 1.9% in first four months in its report for the January 2018-March 2019 period, the ministry had said it proposes to carry out the development of these sites in collaboration with other central ministries, including those of road transport and highways, shipping, civil aviation and railways. Tourist arrival numbers grew 1.9% in the first four months of this year to 3.93 million over the same period last year. In 2018, tourist arrivals rose 5.2% to 10.5 million, compared with 14% growth in 2017. Ministry officials said the Kerala floods last year and the Pulwama attack this year put the brakes on growth.
“2017 was a blockbuster year but we can’t grow like that every year,” one of them said. “Kerala floods negatively impacted travel as about half the foreign tourists go to Kerala. Following the Pulwama attack, several countries issued and updated travel advisories which affected sentiment. Why would you take a risk if you are going on a holiday?” Growth is muted this year as the number of visitors from Bangladesh appears to have declined. “Short-haul destinations have a tremendous opportunity and we need to tap travellers from neighbouring countries who can come on a weekend if we get the travel costs right,” he said. “For short-haul destinations, reducing the visa cost from USD 80 to USD 25 could make a difference.” The government increased e-visa fees for most countries to USD 80 from USD 50 in June last year. 

Subhash Goyal, a member of the National Tourism Advisory Council, said issues such as the 28% goods and services tax on luxury hotels make India expensive. “We have to make India an affordable destination and make sure we don’t outprice ourselves when compared with Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia and Dubai, etc.,” Goyal said. “The overall tax on tourism shouldn't be more than 5%. The visa fee should not be more than $25. We should make an exception to the visa fee for a year for Buddhist countries. China is the world’s number one outbound market and we are celebrating 70 years of diplomatic relations with China next year... We could consider a waiver for the Chinese tourists too, that way we can attract a lot of Chinese travelers.” ET reported on July 18 that the ministry of home affairs had made a series of amendments in various chapters of the visa manual for India in a bid to simplify the entry of foreign nationals.

(Source: ET)

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