The Tourism Minister Kumari Selja has said that development of infrastructure holds the key to the growth of tourism and that is why the Government is investing heavily for integrated development of the Infrastructure Sector. Speaking at a travel award function here today she said, all possible steps are being taken to promote tourism related infrastructure such as the Hotel and Travel Industry, developing tourism circuits, working towards preservation of monuments, human resources development, and, upgradation of information technology. The Minister said, it is evident that Tourism is a major driver of economic growth globally. For a country like ours, Tourism Sector is not only a major contributor to the growth of the economy but a generator of employment opportunities as well. She said, the Government is committed to providing inclusive growth to all sections of the population. Tourism Sector, with 9.24% share of employment, accords a perfect opportunity to translate our vision of inclusive growth to reality.
Here is the full text of Minister’s speech:
“It gives me great pleasure to be present here today amongst all of you, the stalwarts of the Indian Travel and Tourism Industry, to celebrate the coming of a new era in the industry.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the last year has been quite hard on all of us in the industry. Today we are at a juncture where the Industry, all over the world, is recovering from the negative impact of the global economic slowdown. It is to our credit that we have successfully weathered the storm. The New Year holds a beacon of hope with figures of tourist arrivals in the country improving by 21% in December 2009 over the corresponding period of 2008. This is the highest positive growth rate witnessed in the whole of last year. This trend has continued in the first quarter of this year. The arrival figures have gone up by 12.8% over the same period of last year with the growth of Foreign Exchange Earnings in terms of the Dollar being 41.3%. It is in this context that I would like to congratulate the Industry and, the Award Winners in particular, for the resilience displayed by them. The efforts of the entire tourism fraternity, under adverse circumstances, have resulted in the emergence of the Sector on a stronger footing.
It is evidenced that Tourism is a major driver of economic growth globally. For a country like ours, Tourism Sector is not only a major contributor to the growth of the economy but a generator of employment opportunities as well. We are committed to providing inclusive growth to all sections of the population. Tourism Sector, with 9.24% share of employment, accords a perfect opportunity to translate our vision of inclusive growth to reality. Towards this end, we are working keenly in tandem with all stakeholders to transform this vision and transfer its benefits to every citizen of the country.
Tourism works in synergy. The Government primarily plays the role of a facilitator, acting as a catalyst for the development and promotion of tourism. The participation of Stakeholders, the driving force in the Industry, is of paramount importance. The facilities and services provided by the Industry contribute extensively to the visitor experience. It is, therefore, absolutely imperative that we not only maintain the quality of facilities and services offered, but also bring them at par with the best in the world. We must keep pace with changing trends and requirements of the visiting tourists. We can ill afford to take continuing success and growth of the Tourism Sector for granted. Improving our products, careful planning, refined marketing strategies and bolstered efforts are the need of the hour.
Realizing that development of infrastructure holds the key to the growth of tourism, The Government is investing heavily for integrated development of the Infrastructure Sector. All possible steps are being taken to promote tourism related infrastructure. We are encouraging the Hotel and Travel Industry, developing tourism circuits, working towards preservation of monuments, human resources development, and, upgradation of information technology. The key to success lies in synergous unison of efforts and resources. The numerous initiatives undertaken have resulted in development of unique products like Rural, Adventure, Eco, Wellness & Medical, Cruise, Heliport, and, Caravan Tourism.
Our interactions with other economic ministries for development of tourism infrastructure have borne fruits. A five year tax holiday has been provided for two, three and four-star hotels coming up in destinations having UNESCO declared World Heritage Sites. In addition, the tax holiday provided to 2, 3 and 4 star hotels coming up in NCR Region in view of the Commonwealth Games 2010 has also been extended up to 31st July 2010. Our unrelenting efforts have resulted in the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) de-linking credit for hotel projects from commercial real estate, thereby enabling hotel projects to avail credit at relaxed norms and reduced interest rates. Further, the External Commercial Borrowing (ECB) norms have been relaxed to solve the problem of liquidity being faced by the hotel industry due to economic slow down. The current budget has also proposed the ‘Investment Linked Deduction’ which would benefit the hospitality industry substantially.
Apart from financial incentives, we are also working on convergence of infrastructure development schemes and works of other key Ministries of Railways, Road Transport, Civil Aviation, External Affairs and Home Affairs to give a fillip to the tourism promotional activities.
Another step in the direction is the introduction of ‘Visa on Arrival’ Scheme for tourists on a pilot basis with effect from 1st January 2010. This scheme is applicable to tourists coming from those countries which while being potential source markets for India do not pose any security concerns. Presently, the scheme is applicable to citizens of Singapore, Finland, New Zealand, Japan and Luxembourg. Citizens of 18 countries have been identified for issuance of Long Term Visas to India. These measures are expected to boost the tourist arrivals in the country. We are, however, aware that some issues still remain unresolved in the field of issue of visas. With the intention of resolving these issues and enabling a hassle-free visa transaction for tourists, we are actively pursuing the same with the Ministries of External Affairs and Home Affairs. We hope that the experience of getting an Indian visa for all genuine tourists becomes a truly pleasant one in the near future.
I would like to mention here that, in our effort to develop and promote tourism, we have also to keep in mind the importance of sustainable tourism and the need of protecting our environment. India, a region with the world’s greatest bio–diversity and varied natural locales, is an ideal destination for eco-tourism. We recognize the importance of cleanliness, general hygiene and sanitation in making India a memorable tourist destination. We are laying the greatest significance on Solid Waste Management and maintenance of international standards in cleanliness and hygiene. In the longer run, this would ensure provision of a better quality of life to our own citizens.
Domestic tourism is a big contributor to the growth of this sector. The number of domestic tourists is increasing every year. In order to promote domestic tourism, we support the State Governments and Union Territories in developing tourism infrastructure at major destinations by providing Central Financial Assistance. A scheme for development of nationally and internationally important destinations and circuits has been launched recently. Twenty nine Mega Destinations and Circuits have so far been identified on the basis of footfalls and their future potential. Tourism projects for 21 of these destinations and circuits have already been sanctioned. The development plans of these destinations/circuits are being synergized with the infrastructure schemes and plans of other related Ministries.
I would once again like to congratulate all of you who have won the Express Travel World Awards which am told have been independently validated and is one of the benchmarks for the Industry. I would also like to congratulate all those who have been nominated for the award and would like to wish them all the best for the coming year so that they could also be in the list of recipients next year.