A toast to 2014
What a year it has been for us! As a new government made its way to the Centre, this year saw three tourism ministers and two secretaries for tourism. The year 2014 also saw tourism making its way to the manifesto of a political party for the first time. And what a cheer this move got from the entire travel and trade community!
The year also saw some disappointments as God’s Own Country - Kerala – decided to go dry. This left the travel and hospitality community high and dry as they contested the state’s liquor policy.
While certain issues continue to plague the tourism industry, the biggest achievement of this year has been the announcement of the Visa on Arrival enabled by Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) for 43 countries. This announcement opens the window to a plethora of opportunities for the Indian tourism and hospitality industry. Already, FTA in India has witnessed a major growth this year and now it seems we are very well on our way to establish ourselves as a prominent tourist destination. The visa policy of countries is many a time a deterrent for foreign travellers and now with India easing visa norms, we feel this is the right step to move ahead.
At the launch of the VoA scheme in Delhi, the Union Minister of State for Tourism (Independent Charge), Dr Mahesh Sharma, was being grilled by the media about India’s open visa policy and how it might trigger a terrorism threat in the country, Dr Sharma at that time made a very pertinent point, “We will fight Terrorism with Tourism.” Moving ahead, this is the right sentiment to develop tourism in the country.
The fact that the government is serious about tourism is reflected in the fact that an amount of ` 500 crore has also been proposed in the budget for the year 2014-15 for development of 5 tourism circuits.
Understanding the issue of safety of tourists, MOT has also issued the Guidelines on Safety and Security of Tourists for State Governments/Union Territories and Tips for Travellers.
With a Government so serious to develop tourism, we too should pitch in as an industry and take Indian tourism to new heights. As we bid goodbye to 2014, we welcome 2015 and hope that the year ahead is better than the one that’s gone by. Cheers!