Tourism circuits on govt agenda

National Conference of State Tourism Ministers in Himachal’s Dharamshala sets the tone for India’s upcoming G20 Presidency. Discussions pave the way for a better tourism policy and ways to develop sector in the country.

Nisha Verma

In the run-up to India assuming G20 Presidency, Ministry of Tourism organised a three-day National Conference of State Tourism Ministers in Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh. The aim behind the conference, mentioned
G. Kishan Reddy, Union Minister of Tourism, Culture and DoNER, is to bring together the varied viewpoints and perspectives from all the States and Union Territories of India on tourism development and to create a direct dialogue with the states on schemes, policies and steps being taken at a national level for overall tourism improvement in India. “With this conference we want to bring forth the best practices, successful projects, and opportunities from various states. The National Conference also aims to build a common vision for tourism and its growth as we move towards India @2047,” he said.

Speaking at a press conference one day before the event, he highlighted the slogan of ‘Vikas Bhi Virasat Bhi’ given by the Prime Minister and said that after vast process of consultations and deliberations, the National Tourism Policy will be brought out before the Budget session. Also, he shared, “Various tourist circuits are being promoted across India and a new ‘Ambedkar Circuit’ shall soon be launched. The Himalayan Circuit will also be promoted under the action plan for development of tourist circuits.”

Reddy also underlined that the Dharamshala Conference will set the tone for India’s G20 Presidency. “G-20 will be used as a platform to showcase India’s tourism potential to the world. The tourism sector generated `16.91 lakh crore ($240 billion) or 9.2 per cent of India’s GDP in 2018 and has supported around 42.67 million jobs or 8.1 per cent of total employment,” he said.

Other dignitaries present at the conference included Ajay Bhatt, Minister of State for Tourism and Defence; Shripad Naik, Minister of State for Tourism and Ports, Shipping, and Waterways; Arvind Singh, Secretary, Ministry of Tourism; Rakesh Kumar Verma, Additional Secretary (Tourism) and G. Kamala Vardhana Rao, Director General (Tourism).
Jai Ram Thakur, Chief Minister, Himachal Pradesh, also attended the conference and on the second day inaugurated it with state tourism ministers and officials. He said that he was happy that Himachal Pradesh got the opportunity to host the conference. “Post pandemic, the tourism industry is getting back on its feet. Our government has also started the “Nai Raahein Nai Manzilein” scheme to highlight some of our lesser-known tourist destinations. The state has undertaken multiple new projects to attract the tourists not only for a weekend but for longer stays too,” he highlighted.

Reddy claimed that for any global tourist, India is not just a place to see and visit, but a destination to experience and be transformed for life. “If India needs to achieve its immediate goals of a 5 trillion economy and its long-term goals of a developed nation then tourism has an important role to play. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has emphasised on two aspects, First is Whole of Government Approach, where we breakdown silos and work together across Government Ministries. Second is we must work as Team India, where the Union Government and the State Governments work together hand in hand for the benefit of the citizens. I sincerely feel that with all the government representatives, this is the perfect platform to put forth all perspectives and put in place a vision for the sector,” he added.

Shripad Naik highlighted the ministry’s initiatives and said that India must be promoted as a 365-day destination to attract tourists. “Ministers and officials from both centre and states sat like a family and discuss issues, challenges, and ideas to improve tourism. It can help us to create a roadmap for future,” he said.
Ajay Bhatt advised that it is the need of the hour to bring out our hidden cultural and natural facets to attract more tourists. “We have tackled the difficult times of COVID-19 with the Dekho Apna Desh initiative. We are constantly moving forward under the able guidance of our Prime Minister. However, despite having one of the best natural beauties, India attracts less than 2 per cent of global tourists; and this only points to the potential that we can achieve,” he said.

Speaking at the event, Sambit Patra, Chairman, ITDC, said, “This conference should make best use to project India at G20. I believe that as far as tourism is concerned it’s more about targeting the mental space. The first mantra is to appeal to the mental space with the right advertisement about our Incredible India.”

Reddy concluded by saying, “Because of COVID, India and the entire world went through a setback. India saw a surge in domestic tourism beyond our expectation. Today, we don’t have rooms in hotels and it’s a challenge for us to make sure that this tourism growth is sustainable, attracts foreign tourists, increases the GDP contribution of tourism and boosts employment in the sector. India has a huge potential for tourism, which is beyond any other country in the world. India has immense cultural heritage and it’s a challenge for us to protect it, brand it and do its marketing. Thus, after many years this conference of state tourism ministers is taking place. I think such meetings continuously would help us to come out with a strong tourism policy, which will be released soon. We will analyse the best practices in all the states and see if they can be applicable to other states as well. This brainstorming session will help us to formulate a roadmap for tourism in India and we will share the report of this meeting with the PM and take approvals from the central government to boost tourism.”

At the valedictory session, he claimed that there is a need to encourage the private sector also in tourism. “For that also, we will try to get investment in the tourism sector. Hence, we are planning to organise a tourism investors’ conclave in India,” he said.

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