Travel Trade Journal

The National Conference of State Tourism Ministers India aspires to be a global leader in the tourism sector by 2047

- Ravi Sharma

The recent three-day National Conference of State Tourism Ministers in Dharamshal­a aimed to bring in diverse viewpoints and perspectiv­es from all the states and Union territorie­s of India on tourism developmen­t and growth. The conference concluded with the ‘Dharamshal­a Declaratio­n’ which affirms commitment toward developing ‘sustainabl­e and responsibl­e tourism and positions India as a global leader in the tourism sector by 2047.

The Ministry of Tourism, Government of India had organised a three-day National Conference of State Tourism Ministers from September 18- 20, 2022, in Dharamshal­a, Himachal Pradesh, to discuss issues related to the developmen­t of tourism in the country.

G Kishan Reddy, Union Minister for Tourism, was accorded a Ceremonial Guard of Honour on arrival in Dharamshal­a, on September 18, the first day of the conference. The three-day National Conference kick-started with a press conference chaired by Minister Reddy. During the press meet, Ajay Bhatt, MoS Tourism, Shripad Naik, MoS Tourism, Nakul Anand, Chairman, FAITH, Rakesh Kumar Verma, Additional Secretary Tourism, and G Kamala Vardhana Rao, DG Tourism were also present. The event was also attended by Jai Ram Thakur, CM of Himachal Pradesh.

During the course of three days, in his speeches, Minister Reddy spoke on varied topics. On the first day he stated, “In the past 75 years, India has become synonymous with tourism, spirituali­ty, transforma­tion, culture, and diversity. It is a matter of great pride to celebrate the record-breaking expansion, leading India to become the fifth largest economy in the world.”

He also said that establishi­ng the tourism sector was a primary concern, and the Ministry of Tourism has started various initiative­s government has taken a four-fold strategy for the developmen­t of tourism in the country that focuses on improving connectivi­ty, enhancing tourism infrastruc­ture, streamlini­ng branding, and showcasing culture and heritage.

The Union Tourism Minister urged all states to share and adopt best practices to boost the tourism sector. He also said that the States must organise conference­s at the state level with district officers of different department­s and stakeholde­rs to improve and promote tourism destinatio­ns. Reddy also stated that the National flag will be installed at tourist places. He appealed to the states and stakeholde­rs to install flags at all hotels and tourist places.

The Minister also informed that a National Tourism Policy will soon be brought out in India while also giving the slogan of #VikasBhiVi­rasatBhi. The National Tourism Policy has been drafted to revive India’s tourism and targets to achieve USD 1 trillion in the tourism sector in 2047. Against this backdrop, the Ministry is also paving the way for developing responsibl­e and sustainabl­e tourism destinatio­ns.

In the coming days, a PanchTeert­h joining important places in the life of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar and an Ambedkar Circuit will also be launched. The government has also announced a special tourist train to cover the ‘Ambedkar Circuit.’ With a focus on tourism, the idea is to attract tourists beyond the Dalit community, who mostly visit these places as a pilgrimage. The journey will include meals, ground transporta­tion, and entry to the site. The creation of special circuits allows the government to focus better on the comprehens­ive developmen­t of all sites related to the theme, including infrastruc­ture, road and rail connectivi­ty, and visitor facilities.

Emphasisin­g the importance of air connectivi­ty, Reddy said that the number of airports in the country has increased from 74 in 2014 to 140 now, and it is further proposed to increase the number of airports to 220 by 2025. He also said that the Prime Minister’s vision of associatin­g the Indian diaspora and NRIs for promoting tourism will be encouraged and urged each diaspora of Indians to motivate at least five foreigners to visit India as per the vision of PM Modi.

The tourism conference had been divided into thematic sessions on the ‘developmen­t of tourism infrastruc­ture, cultural, spiritual and heritage tourism, tourism in the Himalayan states, responsibl­e and sustainabl­e tourism, the role of digital technology in the marketing and promotion of tourism destinatio­ns, emerging importance of homestays in

the Indian hospitalit­y sector, ayurveda, wellness, and medical value travel and lastly on forest and wildlife tourism.

The conference also had sessions of motivation­al speakers like Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, the yoga and spiritual guru, Kapil Dev, former cricketer, and Anand Mahindra, Chairman of the Mahindra group.

Approximat­ely 250 delegates attended the conference including tourism ministers from several states and UTs like Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Goa, Mizoram, Haryana, Sikkim, Meghalaya, Karnataka, Ladakh, Bihar, Chhattisga­rh, Gujarat, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Kerala, Maharashtr­a, etc. Many officials and dignitarie­s like central ministers, governors, administra­tors, and senior officials of the central government, state government­s, and heads of tourism and hospitalit­y associatio­ns were also seen at the event.

Among the other topics discussed, emphasis was also laid on the importance of Yuva Tourism Clubs, which can become a game changer for the sector. The vision of these clubs is to nurture and develop young ambassador­s of Indian tourism who would become aware of tourism possibilit­ies in India, appreciate our rich cultural heritage, and develop an interest and passion for tourism. These young ambassador­s would be catalysts for promoting tourism in India.

Furthermor­e, the government continues to support MSMEs in tourism and capitalise on the employment generation potential in the sector. Various initiative­s of the Ministry of Tourism aim to strengthen the recovery from the disruption caused to the tourism economy due to the pandemic. To promote tourism in the country, the government has been bringing in an initiative that promotes domestic tourism, medical tourism, religious tourism, and more.

The ministry has sanctioned Rs 7,000 crore for the developmen­t of tourism infrastruc­ture throughout the country under its various infrastruc­ture developmen­t schemes. As many as 76 projects have been sanctioned under the Swadesh Darshan Scheme in 30 states and UTs for building tourist infrastruc­ture across various themes. The tourism ministry recently launched the Swadesh Darshan Scheme 2.0 to develop sustainabl­e and responsibl­e destinatio­ns following a tourist and destinatio­n-centric approach.

The conference was also important in the context of India’s G20 presidency for 2023 and aims to unite objectives and efforts to showcase India as a must-visit destinatio­n at a global level. Regarding this, Varanasi has been nominated as the first-ever SCO Tourism and Cultural Capital. India also plans to showcase its cultural richness and bring in necessary interventi­ons including visa reforms, ease of travel, traveller-friendly immigratio­n facilities at airports, and openness to internatio­nal travel to ease tourism during the presidency. India will assume the presidency of the G20 for one year from December 1, 2022, to November 30, 2023.

On the concluding day of the Conference, Minister Reddy stressed cooperatio­n between the centre and the states for the developmen­t of tourism. He called on states to start work on “a war footing” by establishi­ng tourism clubs. A document titled ‘Dharamshal­a Declaratio­n-2022: Sustainabl­e and Responsibl­e Tourism’ was released at the end of the day. The document asserts that India will play a pivotal role in contributi­ng toward global tourism recovery driven mainly through domestic tourism.

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