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Centre looks East to boost tourism

Centre looks East to boost tourism

After somewhat successful ‘Look East’ policy promoted by Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao to promote trade and economic relations, the Narendra Modi government has launched a similar policy to double tourist arrivals to two crore in the next 2-3 years.

As much as 14 crore Chinese go on foreign travel every year. Even if India manages to get 1% in next 2-3 year, it will be a great achievement. At present, 2.5 lakh Chinese tourists arrive in India. About 1% would meant 14 lakh Chinese tourists, director-general of tourism Satyajeet Rajan said.

China is going to be a major focus area to promote tourism in India. The government has drawn up a major initiative. Chinese are interested in everything good in life. They have a lot of income. More tourist arrivals from China, which is one of the largest trade partners with India, will boast tourism in the country” Rajan, a 1987 batch IAS officer from Kerala, told DNA Money.

“We have decided to set aside contentious issues while promoting tourism. Somehow, we have been diffident all the while. We have huge trade deficit with China. Tourism provided one opportunity to narrow it,” he said in an interview.

Of the one crore tourist arrivals in India, the top most arrivals are from Bangladesh (20 lakh) followed by United States, a distant second at 13 lakh. But three crore Indians go abroad as tourist every year. The plan is to double it first to two crore and keep on increasing incrementally by 20-25% every year. A small country like France attracts eight crore tourists annually.

Most of the arrivals are business tourists at the moment. Tamil Nadu tops the list of tourist arrivals followed by Maharashtra and Delhi. They are followed by Rajasthan and Kerala. Many Bangladeshis arrive in India as tourist in search of jobs.

Apart from China, Rajan said the government is working on a strategy to attract tourists from Russia, Gulf countries and South East Asia apart from United States and Europe. The growth of tourists from these countries happened on their own. Now, the government will focus on these countries as they have huge potential.

Even Sri Lanka has 15 road shows every year to attract tourists from India. The gulf country has 30 road shows every year. We conduct in all four road shows in a year despite the fact there are several tourist attractions with diverse culture, he said.

Asked to elaborate on how the government proposed to attract more tourists from China, Rajan said China is social media driven and a team is going to come to India to take it forward.

Stressing on importance of travel portals, he said See-trip, Alibaba’s travel arm Flieggy and Mafenggo are the top three social media travel platforms. These travel platforms are self regulated. For example Mafengoo has 6,000 tourist operators, who sell the platform’s tourism packages. If any major complaint is received from a tourist operator then the company is immediately blacklisted and go out of business.

There is a need to create such a platform in India, he said. In India, at the moment there is no self regulating mechanism among tourist operators, particularly when a tourist gets cheated.

Rajan said the tourism ministry has taken up with home ministry to allow credit cards using Chinese payment system ‘Unionpay’. The home ministry’s security clearance is required for Reserve Bank of India to give regulatory clearance. Unionpay is like Rupay payment system. Not many Chinese have Visa or Mastercard credit cards.

The government has also embarked upon a programme to sensitise the police so as to check the menace of touts, particularly in Delhi and North India. Besides, private initiatives are being roped in for proper training of guides, who should act more like a facilitator to foreign tourists, Rajan said, adding guides are also being trained in 8-9 foreign languages, including Chinese.

Rajan said high construction cost and high taxes came in the way of lowering hotel tariffs in India. Hotel tariffs are much higher than tariffs in most of the Asian countries. GST came in the way of promoting cruise tourism in the country.

Rajan also said there was a need to create world class recreational facilities around tourist spots like in China. Foreign Tourists spend a lot of money on travel and hence they would like to spend weeks or sometime months in a particular area. For example, if someone goes to Khajuraho, a major tourist spot, the entire place could be covered in 4-5 hours and thereafter they have nothing to do there. This acts as disincentive.

In China, a huge township, including recreation parks, hundr of cheap budget hotels, water sport and all, has been created around Great Wall of China spending millions of dollars so that tourists stay there for weeks when they visit Great Wall of China, which takes only 10% of their time spent there.

RED-CARPET WELCOME 14 crore – Number of Chinese going on go on travel every year   1% of the Chinese tourists would mean 14 lakh visitors to India   20 lakh – Bangladeshis visit India annually, the highest   13 lakh – visitors from US to India annually   3 crore – Indians go abroad every year   20-25% – Govt eyes annual increase in no. of inbound tourists   4 – Roadshows India conducts every year to attract overseas tourists