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Lynchings bad for India’s reputation, says tourism minister Alphons in Beijing

Foreign tourist arrivals in India showed robust growth in 2017 despite its growing image as an unsafe and tourist-unfriendly country because of women’s safety issues, several cases of mob lynching and a ban on beef in most states.

india Updated: Aug 29, 2018 12:20 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times, Beijing
Lynching,Mob lynching,KJ Alphons
Photo and caption provided by Vivek Nair - KJ Alphons BJP Leader from Kerala. **Picture received on August 17, 2016**

Lynchings are bad for the reputation of India, Indian tourism minister KJ Alphons has said in Beijing, indicating that such cases have the potential to slacken the country’s pull among foreign tourists.

“Well, it (lynchings) shouldn’t happen. Simple. And, the PM (Prime Minister Narendra Modi) has called them criminals. And, he told the states you have to take action because law and order is a state subject,” he said. On whether cases of lynchings have had an impact on tourism, he said: “Well, not on a big time basis…not really.” “But anything happening like that is bad for the reputation of the country. We won’t say it’s good for the reputation of the country,” he added.

Foreign tourist arrivals in India showed robust growth in 2017 despite its growing image as an unsafe and tourist-unfriendly country because of women’s safety issues, several cases of mob lynching and a ban on beef in most states. “Tourism is already doing very well. If you take 2017, our tourism grew by 14 percent (foreign tourist arrivals) and the revenue grew by 19.2 percent,” Alphons said. The sector generated $27 billion in revenue and contributed about 7 percent to the GDP.

The ban on beef isn’t impacting tourism either, he added.

“Not really. You see, there are states like Kerala, Goa and the northeast…these (states) which are all beef eating states. These are all big tourism destinations. So people would go wherever they are comfortable,” he said. “I think we need to respect the sentiment of the people anywhere…that’s so fundamental.”

On women’s safety, Alphons recalled foreign journalists asking him about the 2012 Nirbhaya case. “If you are asking me today about an incident six years back, what does it mean? It means you don’t have any other case to quote to me. That means my country is safe,” he said

“See, there is a massive unfairness in this whole reporting process. I was about to use another word. There is huge bias in reporting. I don’t want to play with numbers. Things should improve anywhere in the world,” he said. Alphons said maximum efforts were being made to ensure security of tourists which included helpline 1363 in 12 languages including Mandarin. Last year, the helpline received close to 2.75 lakh calls.

Alphons was talking to reporters in Beijing on Tuesday after leading a seminar on promoting tourism from China – the world’s largest outbound sector with 145 million going abroad last year – to India. In 2017, 2.4 lakh Chinese visited India and he termed the number “miniscule”. The number of Chinese tourists to India hasn’t gone up because India has never marketed itself in China, the minister said.

“We are the closest neighbours. We are just across the mountain. And, the time taken is four hours, five hours…shortest flight to go to any destination. We never marketed ourselves. So that is the whole problem,” he said. “We are starting the India tourism office in Beijing. We are going to appoint a strategy advisor for China and a PR agency for China,” he said.

Alphons said it was surprising that India didn’t have a dedicated tourism office in China. “Well, yes, it is surprising…I was shocked when I heard China has got 144 million outbound. So, this is a neighbour, we should have concentrated on big time.”

Among other steps, India is planning to increase the number of officially certified Chinese-speaking tour guides in India. The number currently is 38.

First Published: Aug 29, 2018 12:19 IST