Reviving Incredible India

Features, Front of House

With tourism being a major focus for the new government, the Ministry of Tourism is looking at reviving the brand Incredible India

By Rajarshi Bhattacharjee

n an exclusive interview, Shripad Yesso Naik, minister of state, tourism and culture (independent charge) talks about his vision for growth of tourism sector in India and how he hopes the Prime Minister’s allocation of more funds to the tourism ministry will take the industry to new heights.
For the tourism and hospitality industry, Narendra Modi instills fresh hope for inclusive growth of the sector. In the past, Modi has been successful to substantially increase tourist footfalls to Gujarat by pushing infrastructure development at key locations, promoting fairs and festivals and giving the much-needed publicity push with the ‘Khushboo Gujarat Ki’ campaign featuring Amitabh Bachchan. The Ministry of Tourism (MoT) will now look at bringing the Gujarat success model to promote the Incredible India brand among domestic and international visitors.

Inthe first phase of new developments, the MoT has announced Rs 18 crore for cleaning of Banaras Ghats in Varanasi. Naik says, “It is Prime Minister’s vision to clean the Banaras Ghat. Modi believes that the Banaras Ghat is frequented by millions and hence this facility should be extended to all and at the earliest.” The government also plans to develop tourist spots along the banks of river Ganga, starting from Gangotri to Ganga Sagar. According to the Minister, all possibilities of converting the river into a tourism hotspot will be explored by the new government with the introduction of shikaras (houseboats) and cruise ships starting from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh to Hooghly in West Bengal.
In the last 10 years, inbound travel grew 200% from 2.2 million to 6.6 million visitors in 2013, and is expected to touch 12 million arrivals by 2016. In a bid to rebuild the brand image, the ministry will run a major public relations exercise in the international source markets. The exercise will help in reassuring foreign tourists that India is a safe destination to travel. “It is time we scaled up operations in the international market. The ministry will adopt a two-pronged PR strategy to revive the country’s image in foreign markets. We will soon convene a meeting of state tourism ministers to elicit their support in implementing foolproof safety and security measures for tourists. The PR exercise will be organised in conjunction with Experience India Society in four cities of Berlin, London, New York and Tokyo,” he affirmed.
According to United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), India has one of the lowest tourist in-flow. Tackling this issue and showing his eagerness to make Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) visa facility operational at the earliest, Naik pointed out, “The ETA scheme recently received approval from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) for 40 countries. In the first phase, ETA will be offered to nationals from the United States, United Kingdom, Russia, Canada, Germany, France, Malaysia and Australia by the end of October 2014. Nripendra Misra, principal secretary to Prime Minister has asked the MoT to prepare a list of countries where the ETA can be further extended.”
Under this scheme, visitors will no longer have to visit the Indian High Commission but apply their visa online. The visa will be processed within five days and sent on traveller’s email address.
The Minister is looking for higher co-ordination and enhance synergies between the MoT and Ministry of Culture (MoC). Officials from both departments will highlight areas of convergence, by organizing festivals, roadshows, projects related to archaeological monuments and heritage sites, pushing Clean India campaign and brand building for the destination.
The MoC has signed Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) with MoT and various state tourism boards for improvement of visitor amenities at monuments and heritage sites. “The MoT will promote festivals and supply publicity material to Indian Missions abroad. Both ministries will collaborate for food festivals and coordinate with Indian Council for Culture Relations. The two ministries will develop a common calendar for road shows and Festivals of India will be developed,” Naik elaborated.
The admission fees of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI)-protected monuments will also be revised by the MoC, while rates charged for film shooting will be reviewed on a timely basis in consultation with MoT. signages in various monuments will be prepared by ASI after consultation with MoT. The ‘Clean India’ campaign will be impwlemented in monuments under ASI in a phased manner, among other initiatives.
Among other initiatives, ASI will implement the Clean India campaign in a phased manner at various monuments and heritage sites, as well as introduce more signage’s at monuments.

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