Punjab, Haryana, HP have yet to exploit their full potential
Tourism in any country is not just fun and frolic, it is a window to the country’s rich cultural heritage as tourism has emerged as a throbbing industry that can lend an unexpected impetus to its economy. DAILYPOST Editor Ajay Bhardwaj in a freewheeling conversation with Union Tourism Minister KJ Alphons discusses various facets of tourism
Q: India has a rich culture that spans more than five thousand years. How has it helped tourism to grow in t he country?
A: India’s rich heritage has been a big asset and it is because of this that it is one of three top countries in terms of tourism. In fact, the tourism sector in our country has been on a growth trajectory since the present government came into power in May, 2014. India has been ranked at third place in the new Power Ranking in the 2018 report of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) after China and the US. The report has evaluated the performance of 185 countries across four main indicators – total contribution to GDP, visitor exports (international tourism spend), domestic spending and capital investment. It is a major development that augurs well for the entire tourism sector in the country.
Q: How is it helping the economy of the country?
A: On an average every year we are earning almost Rs 16.5 lakh crores as revenue from tourism. And we employ around eight crores of people in this sector. In the last year itself we created jobs for over three crores of people which have been unparalleled in any industry. More significantly, tourism contributes 5.7 per cent to the national GDP which is quite substantial and tourism employees 12.26 per cent of the total employment in the organised sector.
Q: How much has been the footfall of foreign tourists in the country? Has it increased over the years?
A: There has been a steady increase in the number of foreign tourists in the last few years. Last year, 15.5 million foreign tourists visited the country generating the revenue of about Rs 15 lakh crore. So, tourism is one of the largest employers and a significant contributor of the national GDP.
Q: How about ensuring safety of foreign tourists?
A: Well, though law and order is the state subject yet the tourism ministry has been asking all states to have a dedicated team of police force to address the problems of tourists. As many as 14 states have tourism police and our effort is that all states should have it in order to infuse confidence among tourists.
Q: You think violence taking place in any part of the country hits the flow of tourists?
A: India is by and large a peaceful country. We do not have incidents of violence on such an alarming scale to deter tourists. Q: What is the new vision in promoting tourism? A: We are promoting north-east as a major tourist attraction. The north-east has magnificent topography which we need to showcase to the world. Moreover, we are creating new infrastructure under which 77 new projects are underway. My flagship programme of Swadesh Darshan is being promoted on a full scale for people within the country. The thirteen thematic circuits under the Swadesh Darshan scheme, including that of North East India Circuit, Buddhist Circuit, Himalayan Circuit, Coastal Circuit, Krishna Circuit, Desert Circuit, Tribal Circuit. It is to lend a new dimension to the concept of tourism altogether.
Q: How do you view tourism in states like Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh?
A: Punjab has a big potential to attract tourists with places like the Golden Temple, the Jallianwala Bagh and the Wagha border. In fact, Punjab has seen a phenomenal growth in tourism in the last few years which is a very positive sign. In Haryana , however, tourism has not grown to its full potential, whereas in Himachal there was wide scope to promote tourism through adventure events.
Q: How do you think Punjab can attract more tourists?
A: Punjab has a big potential to promote religious tourism through its gurdwaras and other places of religious importance. The rich heritage of the Sikhs is a major attraction for foreign as well Indian tourists.
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