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2013 saw Tourism Ministry making a lot of promises

PTI     December 28, 2013
The year 2013 saw Tourism Ministry of India making a lot of promises like bringing about a liberal visa regime, easing restrictions for film shooting and removing hurdles for the growth of the tourism sector but some incidents of sexual assault on foreign tourists brought shame.

Tourism Minister Chiranjeevi quit midway after the government's decision to create Telangana state. His resignation was not accepted and he attended files without going to office.

The ministry made a strong pitch for extending visa-on- arrival (VoA) facilities to many countries, including the US, the UK, Canada, Brazil, Australia, Germany, France and South Korea.

Currently, there are only 11 countries, including Japan, New Zealand, Vietnam, Singapore and Indonesia, which are being given the facility.

The ministry says the tourist visa regime is an impediment to the growth of foreign visitors in the country which ultimately results in lesser foreign exchange earnings.

However, though the VoA issue was also taken up by the Planning Commission, only South Korea seems to have got the nod from the government till now.

The growth in foreign tourist arrivals was 3.8 per cent as 60.48 lakh overseas visitors came during January-November against 58.25 lakh in the same period last year.

The foreign exchange earnings from tourism was Rs 94,156 crore during the 11 months of the year as against Rs 83,938 crore in the corresponding period last year, registering a growth of 12.2 per cent.

The ministry organised a series of roadshows abroad in 2013 showcasing Indian destinations in different countries.

In order to change the perception that India is a winter destination, the ministry stepped up efforts to showcase the country as a summer tourist destination by promoting virgin peaks of the Himalayas.

The year also saw approval for the proposal for setting up of the Central Institute of Hotel Management, Catering Technology and Applied Nutrition at Jagdishpur in Sultanpur district in Uttar Pradesh.

The ministry joined hands with Genesys to launch 'Walking Tours' at, an innovative website to make it easy for tourists to walk or drive through the most-visited cities in India by providing all tourism-related information at one place. The site linked with the Incredible India portal, aims to cover 54 cities in the country.

In the backdrop of sporadic incidents of crime against foreign tourists in the country relating to harassment and assault, the ministry initiated steps for the safety of tourists.

A foreign tourist was raped and killed in Madhya Pradesh in March while another had to jump from the first floor of a hotel in Agra to escape sexual assault.

Chiranjeevi said such incidents could hurt the growth of tourism.

Expressing concern over the safety of tourists, particularly foreigners, the ministry came out with a plan to encourage people involved in tourism sector to wear badges with slogan "I Respect Women" as an image-makeover exercise.

It was aimed at instilling confidence among foreign visitors and also to show that majority of people here do not support crime against women. .

In the wake of the country getting negative publicity over incidents of crime against foreign tourists, it was decided at a tourism ministers' conference that all states and union territories will have tourism police.

Chiranjeevi was at the forefront in launching the 'Clean India' campaign at Taj Mahal in collaboration with the ONGC to inculcate civic sense among citizens to keep tourist places, including monuments, clean.

There was a plan to take up the campaign at many monuments, including Ellora Caves and Elephanta Caves in Maharashtra, Red Fort in Delhi, Golkonda Fort in Hyderabad and Mahabalipuram in Tamil Nadu with the help of ONGC.

But the campaign somehow slowed down after the launch at Taj.

Aiming at making railway stations tourist-friendly, the ministry sanctioned about Rs 27 crore for development of amenities at five stations -- Amritsar, Rai Barelli, Agra, Trivandrum and Gaya.

The Tourism Ministry sanctioned a special financial package of Rs 100 crore for restoration and reconstruction of the tourist facilities damaged due to rains and floods in Uttarakhand.

Ministry along with Shipping Ministry has chosen 15 heritage lighthouses, including Gopalpur in Odisha and Kanhoji Angre in Mumbai to be developed as tourist sites.

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