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With fast growing tourist arrivals; MoT’s focus is to make travel ‘affordable’ to all

Dr Shri Mahesh Sharma, Minister of State for Tourism (Independent Charge), Culture (Independent Charge) and Civil Aviation, completely delighted with the performance (increase) of foreign tourists coming to India believes that coordination between tourism and airlines industries is crucial for promoting tourism in the country. Speaking at the various renowned conferences and functions, Dr Shri Mahesh Sharma and Dr Shri Lalit K Panwar, Secretary – Tourism, Government of India, share their thoughts passionately about their area of work.
Recently speaking at an ‘Interaction between Tourism and Airlines’ organised by the Ministry of Tourism and Ministry of Civil Aviation in association with Federation of Association in Indian Tourism and Hospitality (FAITH), the Minister informed that the Government has set up an agenda of 25 actionable points for the year 2015 to promote tourism.

Dr Sharma said that the Visa on Arrival enabled by ETA, for 43 countries, is showing excellent results and the Government is hopeful that this facility will be extended to all remaining countries in the near future. He informed that as on January 21, 2015, (less than 2 months from the launch of this facility) 41,114 TVoAs had been issued. Expressing happiness over positive growth of both international and domestic tourism, he said that Foreign Tourist Arrivals (FTAs) during 2014 were 74.62 lakh with a growth of 7.1 per cent as compared to the FTAs of 69.68 lakh in 2013.

The Minister underlined that the true potential of the country is much more. A target of increasing the tourist arrivals to 10 million in near future has been setup. Dr. Sharma said that the airlines sector is an important part of the supply chain for ‘Make in India’ in Tourism sector. He said over 90 per cent international tourists arrived in India by air. The Minister added that the
growth of aviation depends on good commercial decisions, and on the quality and capacity of India’s airports, and the other highly visible infrastructure associated with aviation.

The tourism ministry has been consistently pitching for higher allocations with the finance ministry to protect, preserve, promote and restore its rich heritage of over 5,000 years of Indian history and indications are suitably impressive and therefore, the aspirations and expectations of the tourism ministry have already enlivened so that with the higher allocations, the tourism ministry is able to implement the Prime Minister’s vision for developing its tourism and heritage.

The Ministry of Tourism, according to its Secretary Shri Panwar has already issued 65,000 e-visas in the last less than three months to promote foreign travels and proposals for visa on arrivals is under active consideration so that each pocket and spot relating to tourism and heritage that exist in India is exposed to visiting tourist for which India needed to remap its such preserves.
The ministry has been working with unusual gusto and activeness to make India’s tourist spot credibly incredible so that the foreign exchange annual earnings from visiting tourist arrival exceeds much beyond the US$20 billion per annum which is the current estimates.

Currently, India’s share in global tourist market is estimated at 0.64 per cent, which would be enhanced to a level of 1.00 per cent in next few years with proactive tourism policy that the government would evolve in times to come.

At the Parliamentary Consultative Committee of the Ministry of Tourism and Ministry of Culture held in Kachchh, Gujarat, recently, Dr Shri Mahesh Sharma said that his focus is to make tourism ‘affordable’ for all.

Addressing the participants, Dr Mahesh Sharma said that tourism should not just be the sole prerogative of the rich. It should be made affordable for the domestic tourist also who desires to take his or her old parents for a pilgrimage. The agenda of the meeting was ‘General overview of Tourism sector’ for Ministry of Tourism and ‘General overview on Culture’ for Ministry of Culture.
The Minister explained the new schemes PRASAD and HRIDAY introduced in the Budget of 2014-15. The MPs appreciated the introduction of Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) as an excellent initiative and that it should be expanded further. They also spoke of opportunities to promote culture and tourism in their respective constituencies.

Shri Bishnu Pada Ray spoke of the immense potential of Andaman and Nicobar from tourism angle and development of Viper Island and Cellular Jail by the ASI. MPs also advised about proper monitoring of Central funds.

Presentations on the working of the Ministries of Tourism and Culture were made before the members of the consultative committee during the meeting. Dr Shri Sharma elaborated the vision and mission of the two ministries to the Members of Parliament. An overview of the tourism sector, the scenario of tourism in Indian economy, global scenario, challenges and goals were also discussed in the meeting.