‘Deploy ex-servicemen as tourist police’


NEW DELHI: Continued incidents of violence against tourists have forced the Centre to advise states to recruit ex-servicemen for stepping up the security of tourists, particularly foreigners, and deploy them as ‘tourist police’ or as an alterative security force.

The advice came from Union tourism secretary S Banerjee who said guaranteeing the safety of travellers was crucial for India’s billing as an “incredible” destination and realise the revenue potential of the burgeoning sector.

Banerjee said India, which recorded 5 million foreign arrivals and an earning of $12 billion in 2007, was considered a “very safe” destination. But he also conceded the need to beef up security measures in the shadow of growing incidents of crimes against tourists, particularly women.

After having lagged others in harnessing the bounty of tourist attractions, India seems to be beginning to get serious about taking a slice of the multi-billion global tourist pie.

The incidents, however, threaten to take the sheen off the “Incredible India” pitch. Coming at a time when an appreciating rupee has undercut the claim of its being one of the cheapest locales, they can be a double whammy for a sector with a huge untapped potential.

At a meeting of tourism secretaries of all states, Banerjee said the Centre was committed to guarding the country’s ‘Incredible India’ image, and the states needed to cooperate to ensure that foreign tourists had a trouble-free stay.