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Monday, Aug 26, 2019

In PM Narendra Modi’s speech, a big push to domestic tourism

He urged middle-class and upper middle-class Indians to take their children to places across the country, including the Northeast.

india Updated: Aug 16, 2019 00:01 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the nation from the rampart of Red Fort during the 73rd Independence Day, in New Delhi, India, on Thursday, August 15, 2019.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the nation from the rampart of Red Fort during the 73rd Independence Day, in New Delhi, India, on Thursday, August 15, 2019.(Mohd Zakir/HT PHOTO)
         

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday appealed to the people to try and visit at least 15 tourist destinations within the country by 2022, when India marks 75 years of freedom, to give a fillip to the domestic tourism sector.

In his address to the nation on Independence Day, he said India had much to offer and if domestic tourism got a boost, international footfall would also increase.

“I know people travel abroad for holidays, but can we think of visiting at least 15 tourist destinations across India before 2022, when we mark 75 years of freedom?” Modi wondered.

He urged middle-class and upper middle-class Indians to take their children to places across the country, including the Northeast. “You have to take out seven to 10 days for a vacation, but please spend the time within the country.

“We should travel to local destinations, no matter what. Even if the place has disruptions or does not have good hotels, all such experiences lead to a better life,” he said.

If tourism grows, more jobs would be created, he said. “We need to think of how we can improve tourism… The central government as well as the state governments should come together to ensure that every state develops three-four tourist destinations,” he said.

Modi’s tourism pitch comes close on the heels of the government’s announcement that 10 “iconic sites” in India would be upgraded to world-class destinations. Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said in her budget speech that 17 model sites would be built by the government to encourage tourists to visit the country.

The Centre has been targeting 20 million annual foreign tourist arrivals, but steep visa charges and 28% goods and services tax in luxury hotels have been stumbling blocks. Recently, Prahlad Singh, Union minister of state for tourism (independent charge), said efforts were underway to simplify the visa application process and some recommendations had been sent to the home ministry.

According to tourism ministry data, about 10.56 million foreign tourists visited India in 2018, leading to foreign exchange earnings of Rs 1,94,892 crore. About 2.4 million foreign tourists arrived on e-visas, which were extended to 167 countries in 2018.

Pranob Sarkar, president of the Indian Association of Tour Operators, said the Centre would have to step in to improve facilities at tourist destinations and monuments. He said a rethink on the GST structure for the tourism industry would go a long way. “Visa fees, too, need to be revised. If we don’t do that, we will lose tourists to other South Asian countries,” he said.

Historian Sohail Hashmi said the government must ensure there are basic facilities for tourists at various monuments. “The site needs to be lit well and have basic infrastructure such as a functional toilet and eateries. Many sites do not have an eatery for tourists,” he said.

First Published: Aug 15, 2019 22:39 IST

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