Through an array of engaging initiatives, India's Tourism Ministry is making efforts to kickstart the travel segment
MICE to hospitality and restaurants certification programmes to promoting the country's scenic and culinary offerings, the ambit of intervention by India’s Ministry of Tourism is wide. The initiatives to kick-start the crucial travel segment is spearheaded by Union Minister of Tourism, Prahlad Singh Patel and backed by Additional Secretary-Tourism, Rupinder Brar
India’s Union Ministry of Tourism is on a roll, keeping people engaged during the pandemic and offering them a glimpse into the country and its various tourism offerings. The Minister of State for Tourism, Prahlad Singh Patel, backed by Rupinder Brar - Tourism, has led the initiatives.
Among the opening gambits was the implementation of the Dekho Apna Desh clarion call given by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, through social media campaigns and webinars, many of them involving celebrities speaking about various aspects of India culture and tourism, from Sadhguru Vasudev Jaggi to Chef Ranveer Brar.
Additional Secretary-Tourism, Rupinder Brar
“The idea came to us when we saw how people used technology a lot these days. So we thought about curating and showcasing the beautiful destinations that people can travel to from home. India is so diverse that there are so many places Indians have not travelled to. We are trying to build a narrative around the various experiences of India and make the country accessible to everyone,” Brar said.
Prahlad Singh Patel, Union Minister of Tourism
Indian tourists approximately spend $28 billion on international tourism, which, if spent on domestic tourism, can change the face of the Indian travel industry. According to Union Minister of Tourism, Prahlad Singh Patel, the growing influence of tourism as an economic powerhouse and its potential as a tool of development is irrefutable. “Not only does the tourism sector spearhead growth, but it also improves the quality of people’s lives with its capacity to create large-scale employment of diverse kinds. It supports environmental protection, it champions diverse cultural heritage and it strengthens peace in the world.”
Domestic tourism has immense potential and India has not done enough. “This is an opportunity to leverage a side of the business that was growing. People have been travelling out of India for events and wedding destinations. It is time for us to evaluate ourselves and put India first.
As a part of this thought, we started a series of webinars, exploring different facets of India," Brar added.
The ministry is working with state governments and Union Territory administrations to encourage them to implement various relief measures their ambit, via a waiver of penalty or interest to be levied on payment of dues owed to the state bodies, relief from excise fees, electricity duty, and reduction of property tax, among others.
“The states are primarily looking at encouraging people to explore more when travel resumes fully,” says Patel.
Not many Indians know that the Kumbhalgarh Fort Wall is the second largest in the world, a fact on which the ministry wants to focus
The many measures
In May, Brar had released a white paper by Dineout, a restaurant tech platform with guidelines and best practices for the F&B industry in a post-COVID world. The whitepaper listed down restoration guidelines on staff management, staff health and safety, restaurant space sanitisation, food safety, social distancing, inventory management, and measures for takeaway and delivery business models.
It addressed key actionable points to successfully operate in a contactless manner, keeping the safety of both diners and staff members under consideration. Brar recognised the merits of contactless dining as a confidence-building measure to bring back diners and reiterated the importance of following recommended practices. “These guidelines ensure that restaurants are safe spaces for diners as well as staff members,” she said.
The ministry has also taken several other steps to shore up the beleaguered travel industry. Among them, reopening monuments to travellers by August 1, said Patel. Right now, the Ministry of Tourism is working towards opening tourist spots across Andhra Pradesh and some other parts of India and considering eco-tourism projects in Uttarakhand. It is actively working to create a set of guidelines for travellers, monuments, guides, hotels and restaurants, tour operators and other stakeholders. It will be in line with the Ministry of Health guidelines and various ideas that are coming from the industry, says Brar.
Brar mentioned the ministry’s ‘Incredible India Tourist facilitator certification programme’, which will act as an enabler for transforming a local citizen with no specified skills, having proficiency in a regional language, into a potential bread earner for their households. “This will further help citizens to own niche tourism products and show it to the visitors.”
Through social media campaigns and webinars the Ministry of Tourism is focusing attention on domestic travel and encouraging Indians to travel more to destinations across the country, such as the Himalayas.
Opening up safely
The priority of the government will be to open up safely. As Brar mentioned, “Protocols and guidelines are being prepared for hotels tour operators and taxi drivers in consultation with states. Their suggestions have also been included.”
According to the proposed guidelines, the government will make downloading of Aarogya Setu app mandatory for tourists who are booking hotel rooms. This apart, all employees working in hotels will have to undergo thermal screening daily.
The Ministry of Tourism wants travel to take centre-stage, with MICE tourism as its component. Brar added that protocols and SOPs have to be in place and every stakeholder has to be informed about it, which is true for MICE as well. "We have to position ourselves as a country that is safe for MICE tourism. We have to pitch ourselves as a country, which is aware and prepared for such situations."
From MICE to hospitality and restaurants, from culture to monuments and India’s scenic destinations, the ambit of intervention by India’s Ministry of Tourism is wide in a bid to kick start a segment that creates a huge number of jobs across the country.