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Govt. may accord infrastructure status to smaller tourism projects- Secretary Tourism, GoI

The Government of Uttarakhand is working towards unveiling a new policy to give a fillip to the tourism sector in the state. The home to paanch dhams – Kedarnath, Badrinath, Yamunotri, Gangotri along with Sri Hemkund Sahib – Uttarakhand is promoting spiritual tourism by developing circuits such as Devi Circuit and Shiv Circuit. This year the number of tourist arrivals in the state has already crossed the 17 lakh mark and this reflects the immense potential it has as a tourist destination, said Satpal Maharaj, Minister of Tourism, Irrigation, Minor Irrigation, Cultural, Watershed Management, Pilgrimage and Religious Fairs, Flood Control, Rain Water Harvesting, India-Nepal-Uttarakhand River Projects, Government of Uttarakhand, at the third edition of FICCI ‘Tourism Investors Meet’.

In his inaugural address, Satpal Maharaj said that adventure tourism, medical and wellness tourism, and culinary tourism, were being developed. Besides, to make Uttarakhand a world-class winter destination, the government was planning to set up skiing resorts and was undertaking other such initiatives. He added that homestays were also being promoted to allow tourists to spend time in the lap of nature.

Satpal Maharaj said that funds have been sanctioned by the Central government for construction of all-weather roads and laying down of railway tracks. He urged the industry to invest in the state as it offered immense opportunities and develop the varied tourism destinations.

On the occasion, a FICCI-Yes Bank knowledge report, ‘Investment in Tourism Infrastructure: Igniting India’s Growth Engine’ was unveiled by the dignitaries.

Smt. Rashmi Varma, Secretary, Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, said that the tourism sector suffers from a gap in terms of world-class infrastructure development in the country’s tourism destinations. There was a shortage of one lakh classified hotel rooms in the country and this gap can be bridged only by the states alone as they adopt investor-friendly policies. The government was looking into giving infrastructure status to smaller units and was making the ministry’s website more dynamic and robust to make all relevant information available online.

Smt. Varma said that there was a need to develop experiential tourism for foreign tourists such as cruise tourism and textile tourism. The overseas offices were also being revamped to reach out to tourists across the globe. She added that for promotion and marketing of tourism products, social media was being leveraged to reach global tourists.

Dr. Jyotsna Suri, Past President FICCI & Chairperson, FICCI Tourism Committee and Chairperson & MD, Lalit Suri Hospitality Group, said that the challenge lies in creating world class infrastructure to significantly increase tourist arrivals and create a strong, unequivocal ‘Brand India’. The Government and industry need to join hands to jointly create a policy landscape that can spur the growth momentum. She urged the stakeholders to utilize the varied FICCI platforms which were promoting tourism to realize the true potential of this sector.

In his theme state address, Mr. Hari Ranjan Rao, Managing Director, Madhya Pradesh State Tourism Development Corporation Ltd., said that tourism is private sector driven and action lies in the state for the development of tourism infrastructure as 80 per cent of the items related to it were in the State List. Speaking about the initiatives undertaken by the Madhya Pradesh government, he said that the new tourism policy which came into effect in 2016 in the state has made it easier for investors to acquire land by creating land banks for developing hotels. The process of lease, tenders and bids have been made transparent by making all the information available online. The Madhya Pradesh government was facilitating the investors in various segments such as water sports and cruise tourism with its policies in diverse sectors related to tourism.

Mr. Rana Kapoor, CEO & MD, YES BANK and Chairman, YES Global Institute, said, “India’s Travel & Tourism industry is the seventh largest in the world and is also a major generator of employment and livelihood in India, accounting for 9.3 per cent of total employment in 2016 and expected to generate nearly 50 million jobs by 2027. The FICCI- YES BANK Knowledge Report ‘Investment in Tourism Infrastructure: Igniting India’s Growth Engine’ makes key recommendations towards unleashing the true potential of this vital sector through sustainable infrastructure development. I am confident that this publication will encourage productive dialogue amongst all stakeholders in the Travel & Tourism value-chain and contribute towards making tourism a key driver of India’s growth story.”

In his presentation on the report, Mr. Nikhil Sahni, Senior President and Country Head of Government Relationship Management & Strategic Government Advisory at Yes Bank, said that the way forward to develop tourism sector in India was by granting infrastructure status to smaller projects; improving ease of doing business; enhancing private sector participation; promoting medical and wellness tourism; developing MICE infrastructure; developing coastal area; promoting heritage destinations; converging government schemes with organizations such as NABARD, SIDBI; and having niche-based PPP interventions.

In his vote of thanks, Mr. Rahul Chakravarty, Consultant – Tourism, FICCI, said that structured pre-fixed B2G meetings were going to be held during the two-day Meet, and FICCI was facilitating face to face business meetings with the prominent investors to encourage investments in tourism infrastructure.

Mr. R. Meenakshi Sundaram, Secretary Tourism, Government of Uttarakhand & CEO, Uttarakhand Tourism Development Board, was also on the dais.