Millennium Post

‘My main focus is to concentrate on the Clean India campaign’

When it comes to popularising Indian tourism across the globe, is the ministry focusing on promoting the country only among Asian countries?

We are focussing on promoting tourism across the globe, but especially in Asian countries. In fact, I recently met the Secretary General of The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Taleb Rifai in Madrid, Spain and had an extensive discussion with him regarding this issue. I have invited him to India for the 25th Joint Meeting of UNWTO Commissions for East Asia & the Pacific and South Asia, which is going to be held in Hyderabad on 12 and 13 April 2013. There are more than 29 countries participating in this meet and the special invitees for the event include Brazil, South Africa and Spain.

Have you enjoyed your stint in the tourism ministry so far and has the glamour factor associated with Chiranjeevi, the Telugu film superstar, helped in promoting Indian tourism?

Being in the Tourism Ministry has been a wonderful experience for me. Of course you can see by now how big is the media turn up for press conferences. I think the glamour aspect is definitely working (smiles). But there is still a lot of work to be done here and I am focusing on doing that.

After taking over as the Tourism Minister from your predecessor Subodh Kant Sahay, what has been your primary focus?

My main focus is to concentrate on and execute the ‘Clean India campaign’. Whenever I have been abroad, the response I have received is that India is a beautiful and lovely country, but the main issue lies in the lack of cleanliness and improper maintenance of hygiene that people associated with India.  Everyone loves to visit this country because of its rich heritage and historical background but the lack of cleanliness and also hygiene and health conditions are a major constraint. So, we are working on that front. India is especially a popular destination for those from the Buddhist countries, but the lack of proper hygiene and health conditions are major drawbacks.  During the earlier tourism minister Subodh Kant Sahay’s time, I had been invited as a guest for the Clean India campaign. It is a subject I completely  believe in. I would want to focus on this campaign and take it further ahead.

Does the hospitality industry expect any sops in the upcoming budget?

In the upcoming budget session, we do hope to raise the issue of sops for the hospitality sector. I had a discussion with some visiting Japanese delegates on the subject as well. One more point which is raised when I travel abroad is that we need to have affordable hotels in India and we are lagging behind in this.  Now that foreign direct investment has been allowed in the country, there is a lot of scope to establish new hotels in India. With the private public partnership model (PPP) model coming in, we expect a lot of new hotels to come up very soon. A lot of foreign investors want to come and invest in the Indian hospitality sector, especially in the 3-star hotels segment - something on the lines of motels, which is what we warmly welcome. The Reserve Bank of India has also now allowed Indian companies in the hotel sector to avail benefits under the ECB (External Commercial Borrowings) scheme through which they can now repay their outstanding rupee loans and/or finance fresh capital expenditure.

Also, the ministry has received an additional Rs 500 crore this year, taking our budget to Rs 1,773 crore.

Recently, you met the Japanese Senior Vice-Minister of Tourism, Hiroshi Kajiyama. How was the meeting and did the talk focus on any particular campaign or issue?

We had a very satisfying discussion with the Japanese Senior Vice-Minister of Tourism, Hiroshi Kajiyama and we discussed the points of  a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the two countries,  which has been drafted. We have focused on strengthening the ties between the two countries via focus on tourism.  We have highlighted PPP and investment in hospitality sector, areas in which they would want to enter in the Indian market. There were also discussions on exchange of tour operators. We will be inviting a lot of tour operators from Japan so that they can be familiarised with our local destinations. We will be holding road shows in Tokyo on 18 February and Osaka on 20 Febryary. Mutually, we would like to do a lot of packages where we can attract  a lot of Japanese tourists. Also there is keen interest among Japanese tourists in places linked with Buddhism in India.

Before Japan, you also met Spanish Minister for Industry, Tourism & Trade Jose Manuel Soria Lopez, how did the bilateral talks with Spain shape up?

It was a wonderful experience. They are very proactive and showed a lot of interest in being involved with the Indian tourism industry as well. During my visit, I met the Spanish Minister for Industry, Tourism & Trade Jose Manuel Soria Lopez in Madrid. They raised the issue of there being no direct air connectivity with India. To come to India from Spain, one has to go to Frankfurt or Dubai and take a connecting flight which brings them here. We are seriously focusing on this issue and they too have been very cooperative with us. We will speak to the aviation ministry regarding this. Also both India and Spain have agreed  to set-up the Indo-Spain Tourism Promotion Forum for building a dialogue between the stakeholders of tourism, travel and hospitality industries in both countries. They also shown a keen interest in investing in the hospitality sector.

There has been a deceleration of growth in in-bound tourists in December and January. Will your new campaign ‘Find What You Seek’ help in improving the rate of incoming tourists?  Would you start this campaign in international media and if so in which countries?

We have already been looking into this issue. In fact it was discussed during my visit to Fitur and was also brought up during the international tourism mart. We would vigorously like to take it through ad the campaign will start soon.  Our primary focus would be on popularising this campaign in countries which are a part of the Buddhist circuit.
Next Story
Share it