The three-day National Conference of State Tourism Ministers at Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh began on Sunday with a press conference chaired by G Kishan Reddy, Union Minister of Tourism, Culture and DONER. The conference aims to bring in diverse viewpoints and perspectives from all the states and union territories of India on tourism development and growth and to create a direct dialogue with the states on schemes, policies and steps being taken at a national level for overall tourism improvement in India.
The National Conference also aims to be a platform for sharing of best practices, successful projects, and tourism product opportunities. During the press conference MoS Tourism Ajay Bhatt and MoS Tourism Shripad Naik, Chairman FAITH Nakul Anand, DG Tourism G Kamala Vardhana Rao were also present.
During the Press Conference, G Kishan Reddy stated that in the past 75 years, India has become synonymous with tourism, spirituality, transformation, culture, and diversity. It is a matter of great pride to celebrate record breaking expansion, leading India to become 5th largest economy in the world. As such, establishing the tourism sector as primary concern, Ministry of Tourism has undertaken various initiatives and taken a four-fold development strategy that focuses on improving the connectivity via air, rail, and roads, enhancing the tourism infrastructure and dependent services, streamlining branding and promotion and showcasing the culture and heritage.
Highlighting the slogan of ‘Vikas Bhi Virasat Bhi’ given by the Prime Minister, Sh Kishan Reddy said that after vast process of consultations and deliberations, the National Tourism Policy will be brought out before the Budget session. He also informed that various tourist circuits are being promoted and a new ‘Ambedkar Circuit’ shall soon be launched. The Himalayan Circuit will also be promoted under the action plan for development of tourist circuits, G Kishan Reddy elaborated.
The Union Tourism Minister further added that the National Conference of State Tourism Ministers is also important in the current context of India’s G20 presidency. G-20 will be used as a platform to showcase India’s tourism potential to the world, he disclosed.
Emphasising the importance of air connectivity G Kishan Reddy said that number of airports in the country has increased from 74 in 2014 to 140 now, and it is further proposed to increase number of airports to 220 by 2025.
He also said that Prime Minister’s vision of associating Indian diaspora and NRIs for promoting tourism will be encouraged and urged each diaspora Indian to motivate at least 5 foreigners to visit India as per vision of our PM.
The financial assistance to tourism sector, which is the biggest sufferer due to Covid 19, continues to be extended upto 31st March, 2023 he said.
The Tourism sector generated INR 16.91 lakh crore (USD 240 billion) or 9.2% of India’s GDP in 2018 and has supported around 42.67 million jobs or 8.1% of total employment.
The Conference is divided into thematic sessions on Development of Tourism Infrastructure, Cultural, Spiritual & Heritage tourism, Tourism in the Himalayan states, Responsible and sustainable tourism, Role of digital technology for the marketing and promotion of tourism destinations, Emerging importance of homestays in the Indian hospitality sector, Ayurveda, Wellness, and Medical Value travel, and lastly on Forest and wildlife tourism.
The ministry has sanctioned Rs 7000 crores for development of tourism infrastructure throughout the country. A number of 76 projects have been sanctioned under the Swadesh Darshan Scheme in 30 states and UTs for building tourist infrastructure across various themes. The PRASHAD Scheme aim to strengthen the tourist facilities around spiritual locations, under which 39 projects have been sanctioned in 24 states.
The infrastructure development at these tourists, pilgrimage and heritage destinations / cities focuses on cleanliness, security, universal accessibility, service delivery, skill development and livelihood of local communities. The ministry has recently launched the Swadesh Darshan Scheme 2.0 with the objective to develop sustainable and responsible destinations following a tourist & destination centric approach.
It is a development of the previous Schemes and would and the objective is to evolve as a holistic mission to develop sustainable and responsible tourist destinations covering tourism and allied infrastructure, tourism services, human capital development, destination management and promotion backed by policy and institutional reforms.
The National Conference also aims to build a common vision for tourism and it’s growth as we move towards India @ 2047. The upcoming 25 years being the Amrit Kaal, the aim of the Conference is to begin a common conversation between the State and Central Governments for setting the vision for tourism in India in the year 2047.
After the Press Conference, the event was also attended by Jai Ram Thakur, Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh.