Despite it's size and diversity in tourism sites, ‘Incredible India’ can manage to attract only about five million foreign tourists a year while Singapore, its South Asian neighbour, draws over 10 million visitors.
While the Tourism Ministry under Ambika Soni pats itself on the back for the increase in tourist arrivals in India from 3.34 million in 2004 to five million in 2007, Singapore’s figures for the same period stand at 8.32 million and 10.30 million, respectively.
Figures on foreign tourist inflow cited by Soni in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday reflect how, despite sustained efforts by her ministry to sell brand India abroad as an exciting destination, overseas visitors are not flocking in large numbers to its golden beaches, misty mountains and shimmering desert sands.
While the poor law and order situation in several states may not be a major factor in deterring them, it does play a significant role in keeping them away with crimes against foreigners becoming more frequent. The recent case of a teenaged Briton dying in Goa under mysterious circumstances lead to an uproar in the Rajya Sabha with angry members expressing their anger over the incident.
Soni told them that the Centre was concerned over such incidents and had proposed deployment of ex-servicemen as tourist wardens at prominent tourism sites all over the country. The Home and Defence ministries had agreed at a recent meeting to constitute a tourism task force comprising retired service personnel for ensuring safety of tourists. The blueprint for the proposal is ready and has been sent to state governments to enable them to act on it urgently, she stated.
Soni, however, ignored CPI(M) member Brinda Karat’s suggestion that her ministry should support the demand for a CBI enquiry into Scarlett Keeling’s death in Goa.