The new civil aviation policy of the union government which is quite on the cards, will address both the issues of opening up the skies and regional connectivity in a very aggressive and fulfilling manner, a top Tourism Ministry official said at an ASSOCHAM event held in New Delhi on Tuesday.
“The new tourism policy, which is just a matter of time, is going to highlight and emphasise a lot on the possibility of increasing Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Events (MICE) into India,” said Vinod Zutshi, Secretary, Ministry of Tourism while inaugurating a ‘Thought Leadership Meet on MICE Tourism in India,’ organised by The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM).
Talking about the e-visa for MICE, Zutshi, “We had a meeting with the Ministry of Home Affairs a few days ago, we insisted on MICE e-visa as well, we have been trying very hard for e-visa for MICE and medical and we are hopeful to have this e-visa to see the light of the day, particularly for business tourists to begin with but we are insisting that ultimately the conference visa should also be done, which we have been assured that it will be, step-by-step.”
He also said that government had sanctioned 20 projects with an investment worth Rs 2,000 crore for infrastructure under Swadesh and Prasad schemes in terms of – coastal, eco, wildlife, Buddhist tourism circuits.
Talking about the tourism growth rate in India, he said, “We have regained the pace that we had between 2010 and 2014, touching as much as 7-10 per cent, after a lean period of about a year in 2015, we are back in action.”
“The first two months January and February have recorded as much as 9.6 per cent growth, as far as FTAs (foreign tourist arrivals) are concerned,” said Zutshi. “Even the domestic tourism is booming with 14 per cent continuous growth rate and with an aim of achieving even more than 15 per cent augurs well as far as growth of both domestic and foreign tourism is concerned.”
“I think lot of credit goes to the peaceful and conducive environment in terms of law and order,” he added.
Zutshi also said that there is a need to identify coastal areas that can be developed as MICE tourist destinations in India, more so as there had been an investment worth Rs 500 crore made in promoting tourism in coastal states.
He also informed that the union government was working with state governments to develop Khajuraho, Sanchi, Bodhgaya, Varanasi and Tirupati as MICE tourism destinations in India.
Emphasising upon the need for aggressive promotion, marketing and branding, Zutshi called for synergy between private tour operators and the government to promote tourism sector in India.
Talking about India’s weakness in international bidding, he said, “We need to introspect and see what can be done, we tried in the last budget, as a pre-budget measure, we made a proposal to the Ministry of Finance to have a corpus by which we can be more aggressive while doing international bidding for MICE events, unfortunately it could not see the light of the day, but we will keep making those efforts.”
Zutshi said that India as a tourist destination had gained lot of mileage from the foreign visits of the Prime Minister. “The kind of visibility India has achieved in the form of visits of the Prime Minister all over the world, this is something by which we are drawing lot of mileage, the visit is followed by memorandum of understanding, bilateral agreements, media coverage and the international conferences being held.”