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June 6, 2023


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‘India’s tourism industry will need significant investments’

4 min read

New Delhi: India’s tourism ministry is working on several programmes to bring back investor confidence in the sector, according to the country’s minister of tourism, Gangapuram Kishan Reddy. In an interview, Reddy highlighted the need for substantial investment to transform India’s tourism economy into a formidable force. He emphasized the importance of public-private partnerships (PPPs) to drive development in the sector, which he estimates will require “many lakh crores” of investment. Edited excerpts:

Is the government prioritizing the development of tourism?

Because of various reasons, for the last so many years, tourism has been a neglected sector. There are so many opportunities in the country when it comes to the promotion and branding of destinations, public-private partnerships, policy, and publicity. But this hasn’t happened well enough. In a country the size of India, the central government alone cannot manage everything. But across different states, very little has been kept aside for tourism improvement. For instance, if we look at the northeast states, very little was provided, and a lot of that amount would be spent on salaries.

What is the government doing to improve the situation?

For this, the ministry of tourism has come up with its first Global Tourism Investors Summit, which will happen soon. The summit has been conducted to attract private investments in the tourism sector, keeping in mind that for India to compete with the rest of the world for foreign tourists or even domestic tourists who can confidently visit our tourist destinations, there has to be a certain amount of infrastructure activity there. We also want different states to compete with each other to attract more investments to their states.

Will that benefit these states?

This will help many state governments formulate better policies and give incentives to attract these private investments. All properties except the India Tourism Development Corp. and the Archaeological Survey of India monuments, which sponsor the Swadesh Darshan scheme, are owned by different states directly, and so the onus lies on these states to plan their budgets and policies around tourism well. In such a time, we have to involve state governments to develop good policies. We now also have a 100% FDI policy for investment in certain categories.

But why go down the PPP model?

I have said before that neither state governments nor the centre can spend enough on tourism. Even if we spend many lakh crores, it won’t be enough to develop tourism since there are many thousands of destinations. If we look at the second quarter of FY 22-23, inbound tourism has increased tremendously. To develop the sector further, to attract investments of large sizes, the private sector has to be involved. We want to create an investment atmosphere. We are expecting foreign investors to take part in this summit. Hospitality associations or other bodies like the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) will also help reach out to their international counterparts to bring in investors.

The budget for overseas promotion activities like Incredible India has been cut by more than half in this year’s budget to 167 crore from 525 crore two years ago. But at the same time, you have a target to bring in 25 million tourists by 2030. How will this vision be achieved?

Yes, that is because of covid. In the last two years, no country has been doing any overseas promotions. In fact, even to date, the centre and state governments have been issuing guidelines for the covid. We now have plans to develop these promotions. After the cabinet approves it, we will also resume these activities. If we had spent on overseas promotions in the last two years, it would have been a waste since tourists were unwilling to travel.

Will you be running the new campaigns digitally or on television in the identified overseas destinations as you did before 2015?

We will do it all. This is the first time we have involved various embassies and tourism offices of the top 20 countries that send tourists to India to help develop our overseas promotion programme. They have just begun work. For this, we are also in touch with tourism officers in these embassies to identify local media and social media influencers etc., to promote tourism in India by marketing them to the Indian diaspora.

But recently, the government shut down seven tourism offices in the world. What was the reason for shutting down these offices in big cities like London, Tokyo, Beijing, Dubai, Singapore, New York etc.?

Yes, instead of having a small tourism office with one officer sitting in these countries, we have involved the entire embassy in the same work. This will be more beneficial to us. The idea was to have a holistic approach on the part of the government to developing tourism which includes using the officers of the Ministry of External Affairs, UNESCO, etc. For instance, even during the G20, while the ministry isn’t directly involved in the planning of many meetings, it draws benefits. There are going to be 250 meetings. The handoff to the ministry of tourism will happen as soon as each of these meetings is conducted.

How much will be spent on the G20 from the 2,400 crore allocated to the tourism ministry this year?

We will spend what is needed, and there will be nothing lacking from our end.

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