Gov­ern­ment staff can now visit Nepal, Sri Lanka, Mal­dives on LTC

Bhutan Times - - Editorial -

The civil avi­a­tion min­istry has given its nod to a pro­posal to pro­vide leave travel con­ces­sion for gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees to Nepal, Bhutan, Mal­dives and Sri Lanka to boost tourism in the re­gion.

A se­nior of­fi­cial in the min­istry con­firm­ing the de­vel­op­ment said, “The move is in­tended to boost tourism within SAARC (South Asian As­so­ci­a­tion for Re­gional Co­op­er­a­tion) coun­tries. Pak­istan and Bangladesh has been left out for now be­cause of se­cu­rity is­sues.”

The ap­proval from the min­istry of civil avi­a­tion was re­quired so that the LTC can be availed of on na­tional car­rier Air In­dia while fly­ing to th­ese coun­tries.

In­ter­est­ingly, lat­est avail­able of­fi­cial data shows that there has been a de­cline in for­eign tourist ar­rivals from Nepal, Bhutan, Mal­dives and Sri Lanka in 2013.

Sri­Lanka does fea­ture among the top five coun­tries ac­count­ing for 3.77 per cent of for­eign tourist ar­rivals in In­dia. How­ever, tourist ar­rivals from Sri Lanka to In­dia dropped by 11 per cent in 2013.

Sim­i­larly, ar­rivals from Nepal de­clined by 9 per cent, Bhutan by 1 per cent. For­eign tourist ar­rivals from Mal­dives went down by 10 per cent in the same pe­riod.

The LTC scheme ex­tended to the four iden­ti­fied coun­tries will be de­signed akin to those for travel to Jammu & Kashmir and to the North­East.

The mea­sure, gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial say, will en­hance tourism and sub­se­quently eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment in the South Asian re­gion.

“There are around two mil­lion gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees. With the ex­ten­sion of the LTC scheme there is bound to be greater tourist in­flow and out­flow with th­ese coun­tries”, added the of­fi­cial.

In the 18th SAARC Sum­mit held in Nepal in Novem­ber last year, Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi had em­pha­sised the need for en­hanc­ing con­nec­tiv­ity in the re­gion, say­ing it was eas­ier to travel to Bangkok and Sin­ga­pore than to coun­tries in the neigh­bour­hood.

There is a sig­nif­i­cant pop­u­la­tion of Bud­dhists in the SAARC re­gion and In­dia has lately be­ing mak­ing at­tempts to boost tourism such places of re­li­gious sig­nif­i­cance like Bodh Gaya, Sar­nath and Kapilavastu.

At the sum­mit, Modi had in fact flagged off a bus ser­vice con­nect­ing Kathmandu with New Delhi. BOOST FOR RE­GIONAL TOURISM * DUE TO se­cu­rity is­sues, Pak­istan and Bangladesh have been ex­cluded from the scheme

* THE NOD from the civil avi­a­tion min­istry is re­quired for the pro­posal so that em­ploy­ees can avail the LTC scheme when fly­ing on Air In­dia to th­ese coun­tries

* THE SCHEME will be sim­i­lar to that for travel to Jammu & Kashmir and to the North-East

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