New Delhi : Tourism and Culture Minister Ambika Soni Wednesday launched an e-commerce platform of the tourism ministry's 'Incredible India' campaign to allow tourists to access information about any travel destination in India with suitable accommodation and book the facilities online.
Soni said here that the latest initiative of the ministry would be the most effective method of accessing information by the tourists, while admitting that she was quite illiterate when it came to accessing information from the Internet.
"This will strengthen our visibility on the Internet and is a big boon for our bed and breakfast scheme. It will put those who want to give out their accommodation for rent and those who want to occupy it in direct contact," said Soni.
The e-commerce platform was developed jointly by the tourism ministry and Eviivo, a Britain based business solution company.
Christy Fernandez, secretary of the tourism ministry, said this initiative would help remove the general perception that India was an expensive destination.
"There is a general perception that India is an expensive destination. This initiative will help the consumer get in touch with small and medium service providers and access services at affordable rates.
"A consumer wants the best offer at the most competitive prices. This initiative will benefit all the stakeholders of the tourism sector," Fernandez said.
According to the tourism minister, the foreign tourist inflow to India grew from 3.29 million in 2005 to 4.43 million in 2006.
Another segment of tourism that Soni highlighted was medical tourism. "Medical tourism will benefit maximum from the e-commerce platform. We had 125,000 medical tourists to India in 2004 and the numbers are set to increase much more," she said.
"The medical tourism industry is worth $333 million and is growing at the rate of 25 percent every year. We have been able to facilitate special medical visas for a year and are working with the ministry of home affairs to increase the duration to three years."
She also urged the people to support the 'Atithi Devo Bhava' (guests are like gods) campaign of the ministry which encourages sanitation and proper sewage disposal and campaigns against graffiti on historical monuments.