For the first time since its inception on October 1, 1966, the India Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC) celebrated its Foundation Day this year. Nivedita Khandekar spoke with Dr Lalit Panwar, chairman and managing director (CMD) on the ITDC’s ‘incredible journey’ and its future plans. Excerpts:
Looking back at the 45 years’ journey, what has been the highlight, changes and what are the future plans?
When ITDC started in 1966, tourism was not in fashion. But the then prime minister had a vision. She could see that there would be a need of a public sector driver to drive tourism development in India. I can confidently say, we have fulfilled that role. Now is the
time to ‘redefine the role’.
When you say ‘redefining the role’, what would be the focus and activities that you plan?
Earlier, we were just running hotels. But now we will enter the unchartered areas such as Jammu & Kashmir, the northeastern states and the beautiful islands to promote tourism. The tourism and hospitality sector need a lot of human resources and we are determined to improve it by introduction of dedicated course opportunities for the staff.
You spoke about northeastern states. The ‘Incredible India’ campaign is almost a decade old and had thrown some light on the NE states. What next?
Apart from the existing facilities at Guwahati, Kaziranga wildlife sanctuary and Tripura, we will now focus on the neglected areas, specially Nagaland, Sikkim and Meghalaya. Another sustained activity is, picking up young boys and girls from the NE states and putting them into hospitality and tourism
training institutes at
One of the popular programmes run by ITDC has been its ‘Food Festivals’. Any improvisations about the concept?
With a clear three-pronged strategy of ACC (arts, crafts and cuisine), we held cultural festivals wherein food was part of it. Now food would be the focus. We were the pioneers in food festival business but now private sector has taken over.
What about your core task, promoting India internationally?
For international tourists, our role will be more of a facilitator vis-à-vis ensuring good souvenir shops, last mile connectivity to remotest places of tourist interest and conservation of cultural properties.
Please elaborate on your role in conservation of properties?
India is perceived as a cultural destination. Monuments are our USP. We go for illumination of heritage monuments and running of sound and light shows at suitable locations.
For last few years, middle class travel has seen a huge surge. Are there any specific plans to promote this sector?
For the domestic tourists, we are in talks with the IRCTC for coming up with ‘interstate package tours’. These would be area/location specific and may be targeting certain groups.
But then, how do you address the issue of inadequate infrastructure?
The board has on November 15 approved the formation of a JV company, which will help state tourism departments and corporations to develope tourism infrastructure. The ITDC and ILFS are coming together to form Ashok tourism infrastructure development corporation, with name Ashok Infra.