Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said “out-of-the-box thinking” and “long-term vision” can take tourism to new heights, and added that villages in far-flung areas of India have now come up on the tourism map.
Addressing a post-budget webinar on “Developing Tourism in Mission Mode”, he also pitched for devolving applications which will have information in multiple languages of India and those listed in the United Nations besides multi-lingual signages at tourist sites.
The prime minister said the India of today is moving forward with a “new work culture”.
He expressed delight at the appreciation shown towards this year’s budget by the people of India, and said had it been an old world culture, no one would have thought of such post-budget webinars.
“But our government involves all stakeholders before and after the budget and tries to work with them,” Modi said, adding that important suggestions have come from these webinars.
The prime minister elaborated on how this year’s Union Budget would help the tourism sector and create many economic opportunities for the youth.
“This webinar today is for transformation of the tourism sector, and when all stakeholders come together, we achieve desired results and within stipulated time frame,” he said.
An “out-of-the-box” thinking and long-term vision can take tourism to new heights, Modi said.
“To give new heights to tourism in India, we will have to think out of the box and work with a long-term planning,” he said.
He also emphasised that rejuvenation of religious sites has boosted tourism.
Citing the example of Kashi Vishwanath Dham in Varanasi, he said around 70-80 lakh people used to visit the temple in a year before it was rebuilt, but the tourist footfall crossed seven crore last year after the renovation.
He also informed that 15 lakh devotees have gone to see Baba Kedarnath compared to only 4-5 lakh before the completion of reconstruction work in Kedarghati.
“Some people think that tourism is a fancy word for high-income groups, but in India, it has a long socio-cultural context,” Modi said, citing various yatras undertaken by the masses over the centuries.
Tourism is a very old concept and yatras have been happening, and people used to undertake yatras despite challenges.
He gave the example of Char Dham Yatra, Dwadash Jyotirling Yatra, 51 Shaktipeeth Yatra and said it is used to connect the places of our faith while also strengthening the unity of the country.
Observing that the entire economy of many big cities of the country was dependent on these yatras, the prime minister lamented the lack of development to enhance facilities suited to the times despite the age-old tradition of yatras.
He said hundreds of years of slavery and the “political neglect” of these places in the decades after Independence were the root cause that inflicted damage to the country.
“The India of today is changing this situation,” the prime minister said, adding the increase in facilities leads to an increase in the attraction among the tourists.
The webinar is part of a series of 12 post-budget webinars being organised by the government to seek ideas and suggestions for effective implementation of the initiatives announced in the Union Budget.
The Union Budget has stated that promotion of tourism will be taken up in mission mode, with active participation of states, convergence of government programmes and public-private partnerships.
During the webinar, Modi also said that even far-flung villages in India have come up on the tourism map due to improvement in infrastructure.
Throwing light on the parameters before a tourist destination is developed, the prime minister listed out the potential of the place, ease of travelling to the destination, and new ways to promote the destination, the PMO said in a statement.
He emphasised that these parameters help in preparing a roadmap for the future.
Modi highlighted the huge scope of tourism in the country and listed out coastal tourism, beach tourism, mangrove tourism, Himalayan tourism, adventure tourism, wildlife tourism, eco-tourism, heritage tourism, spiritual tourism, wedding destinations, tourism via conferences and sports tourism, among others.
Modi said several places in India are to be developed through the route of competitive spirit and challenge as mentioned in this year’s budget, while also focussing on the holistic development of the destinations.
If civic amenities are increased, there is good digital connectivity, good hotels and hospitals, and cleanliness, India’s tourism sector can grow manifold, he said.
The prime minister said wedding destinations are a big business now, and this has a huge potential in India.
“We should develop at least 50 tourist destinations which will appear on the list for tourists whenever they think of visiting India,” he added.
Highlighting the basic challenge of the tourism sector, the prime minister pointed out the lack of professional tourist guides here and stressed the need for certificate courses in local colleges for guides and competitions.
He suggested that guides working in a particular tourist destination should also have a specific dress or uniform so that tourists will come to know them at first glance.
The prime minister said there is a growing attraction towards India and informed that eight lakh foreign tourists have come to India in January this year compared to only two lakh in January last year.
He also underlined the need to profile tourists who have the maximum spending capacity and create a special strategy to attract them to the country, the PMO said.
Modi informed that foreign tourists who come to India spend an average of USD 1,700, while international travellers spend an average of USD 2,500 in America and around USD 5,000 in Australia. “India has a lot to offer to high-spending tourists,” he pointed out.
The prime minister stressed that every state needs to change its tourism policy to align with this thought.
He gave the example of bird watchers who camp in the country for months and underlined that policies should be made to target such potential tourists.
Later, he issued a series of tweets and shared pictures of various tourism sites.
“In the context of India, the scope of tourism is very big,” he wrote in one of his tweets.
The prime minister also stressed on promoting school and college trips to the Northeast so that more people become aware and start developing infrastructure and facilities for tourists.
He also emphasised on promoting wedding destinations as well as sports destinations, and even cited FIFA World Cup, which benefitted Qatar’s economy.
“Tourism has the same potential in the country as agriculture, real estate development, infrastructure and textile,” he said.
Union Culture Secretary Govind Mohan later in a session during the webinar said that to begin with the Ministry of Culture will develop “five big cultural spaces in India and going forward more spaces will be developed”.
These are the places where the tourists will be exposed to the best of Indian music, dance performances, book reading, painting competitions, quiz competitions and other cultural activities in an integrated fashion, he said.