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Foreign tourists to be wooed with 'take two get one free' offer  Dec 14, 2008

New Delhi - Atithi Devo Bhavah or guests are God. The tourism ministry is now taking this mantra a step forward to boost forex earnings from tourism.

In a bid to woo foreign tourists back to India, the ministry is working out a scheme to incentivise repeat foreign tourist visits. Under the proposed scheme, a foreign national visiting India twice on a tourist visa till 2010 will be offered hospitality free for the third visit by the tourism ministry.

Forex earnings from tourism fell 12.5% to $1,005 million in November, the first significant decline in many years. Bad times obviously call for quick solutions. In view of the double blow of global financial meltdown and a series of terror attacks in the country, foreign tourist arrivals have fallen by 2.1% in November to 5.21 lakh.

Since the recent terror attack on Mumbai’s Taj Mahal Hotel, Oberoi Trident and Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, room rentals at most of the hotels have crashed in the range of 40% to 60%. “Room rentals in the country are driven mainly by Delhi and Mumbai ,” Ankur Bhatia, MD of travel technology company Amadeus India, said.

“The proposal to incentivise repeat foreign tourists is still under consideration. We have so far been offering hospitality only to foreign tour operators , industry representatives and trade journalists under the ministry of tourism’s hospitality scheme,” a senior tourism ministry official, who did not wish to be identified, told ET.

“Under the hospitality scheme we provide free accommodation, logistics support, food and air tickets . While sometimes everything is taken care of, at times it’s partial,” he added.

Meanwhile, to help the hotel industry tide over the current crisis, tourism minister Ambika Soni has written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeking income-tax sops. She has urged the PM to reinstate the benefit of Income-Tax Act 80HHD for hoteliers under which 50% of the profits attributable to the forex earnings of hospitality companies are exempt from tax and the other 50%, if reinvested in the hotel industry, is also exempt.

The tourism ministry is also convincing various foreign countries such as Australia, Canada, Germany and Singapore to downgrade or withdraw travel advisories issued to their citizens after the Mumbai terror attack regarding travelling to India.

Foreign tourists to be wooed with 'take two get one free' offer
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