Tourism in India has grown steadily despite meltdown: Selja


New Delhi : Tourism in India has grown steadily in the past few years despite rise in world crude oil prices and the global meltdown, but it is yet to see its full potential, Tourism Minister Kumari Selja said Tuesday.

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“It is heartening to note that in spite of rise in world crude price, global financial meltdown, tourism in India has grown steadily and has witnessed great buoyancy in the last few years,” Selja said at the first inter-state regional conference of the tourism ministers of the north and central states.

She said the number of Foreign Tourist Arrivals (FTAs) has increased by 5.6 percent in 2008 over 2007. Although the figure fell this year because of the Novemeber 2008 Mumbai terror attacks and the economic slowdown, a reversal is being seen June 2009 onwards.

About 5.37 million foreign tourists visited India in 2008. The first five months of 2009 showed a sharp decline in the number of foreign tourists arrivals, compared to the same period in 2008, but a slight increase was witnessed in June and July.

Selja also highlighted that the Foreign Exchange Earnings (FEE) have increased to $11,747 million in 2008 from $3,103 million in 2002.

But she said the sector is yet to see “its full potential” and immediate attention needs to be given to security and safety of the tourists, especially women tourists.

“The growth of tourism sector would depend on the inflow of the domestic and foreign tourists that could be ensured only when we are able to provide them with a safe and secure environment,” she said, adding it must be asked whether India is as safe as other global tourist destinations.

Describing domestic tourism as the “backbone”, Selja said an estimated 561 million domestic tourist visits were reported during 2009.

“With the rapid economic development taking place in the country, the availability of greater disposable income and affordable holiday packages, tourism in India is increasing steadily,” she said, adding she believed domestic tourism would remain as the backbone and provide much needed resilience to the Indian economy.

“Even if this sector alone is promoted to its full capacity and maintained, it can prove to be enough for sustaining higher economic growth. This segment can certainly counter the negative impact of the global meltdown and give a push to the economy,” she said.

Selja said if the sector is effectively promoted, it can “act as a catalyst for the furthering the economic growth in view of its wide ranging linkage effects and multiple impacts.”

Quoting figures, she said the sector offers tremendous job opportunities and pointed out that the number of manpower employed increased from 44.7 million to 51.1 million during period 2004-05 to 2006-07.

“It not only has the capability and capacity to take country’s economy ahead but also sustain it for the time to come. For example, its contribution to Gross Domestic Product has increased from 5.83 percent to 6.11 percent during the period 2002-03 to 2007-08,” she added.

The minister said the idea behind the conference was to “ensure holistic and integrated tourism development in close cooperation and coordination with the states” and similar conferences are also planned for the eastern and northeastern states and the southern and western states.

Highlighting the steps taken by the ministry to promote tourism, Selja said they are making efforts to develop wayside amenities in the identified tourist circuits, developing 142 rural sites for rural tourism and planning mega shopping festivals.

Selja said the states should monitor projects that are sanctioned by the ministry, and suggested that a state level committee take up the task and send a quarterly report to the tourism ministry.

“Last but not the least, tourist flow shall remain poor if the assets created are not only properly maintained but kept clean and in the hygienic conditions,” she added.