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Proposed tourism policy looks to ramp up five key segments

NEW DELHI : The coming National Tourism Policy (NTP) may propose to launch five individual tourism missions as the government moves to leverage the sector to enhance India’s soft power and make it a key driver of economic growth and job creation. The five missions will be dedicated to green tourism, digital tourism, tourism and hospitality sector skills, destination management organizations, and tourism micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

Ahead of framing the policy, the Union tourism ministry conducted a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis of India’s tourism sector battered by the covid-19 pandemic, taking the global developments into account.

Key guiding principles of the policy include increasing visits, stay and spending; enhancing competitiveness and attracting private sector investment; national tourism missions and strategic pillars supported by institutional and governance framework.

The draft of the National Tourism Policy “aims at improving framework conditions for tourism development in the country, supporting tourism industries, strengthening tourism support functions and developing tourism sub-sectors,” the tourism ministry said in a 27 September statement.

The strategic pillars identified for policy interventions are visa, immigration and customs processes; welcoming, safe, clean and hygienic destinations; seamless connectivity and transport infrastructure; destination planning and development; promoting investment; marketing and promotion; quality assurance and standardization and R&D. While the average daily stay for a foreign tourist in India is 21 days, the average daily spend is around $34.

Queries emailed to a tourism ministry spokesperson on 29 September remained unanswered till press time.

India has been making its transport infrastructure tourism-ready with 140 airports and plans to take it up to 220 airports by 2025. The tourism ministry has sanctioned ₹7,000 crore for tourism infrastructure development.

This assumes importance given that 10.93 million foreign tourists visited India in 2019, spending more than $30 billion. This also comes at a time when India is looking to leverage its G20 presidency to showcase the country’s tourism potential.

The Union government has been trying to soften the impact of the covid pandemic and extended financial assistance to the tourism sector till 31 March.

The government in March 2021 included hospitality, travel and tourism, leisure and sporting sectors within the scope of its emergency credit line guarantee scheme (ECGS) rolled out as part of the covid stimulus package.

The scheme offered credit for six years, with a two-year moratorium on repayment. The extent of credit offered to businesses was up to 40% of their total outstanding credit across lenders. The idea was to make additional funding available to protect jobs and the economy.

Later, in June 2021, the government offered financial support to 10,700 tourist guides and 1,000 travel agencies. The scheme offered working capital or personal loans to people in the tourism sector to discharge liabilities and restart businesses impacted due to the pandemic. Under this scheme, loans up to ₹10 lakh were offered to registered travel and tourism agencies and up to ₹1 lakh for tourist guides. Also, free one-month tourist visas for the first 500,000 tourists with a total outlay of ₹100 crore were introduced to support the sector.

The new tourism policy comes soon after Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on 15 August, aimed to make India a developed nation by 2047. Tourism is a labour-intensive industry and has a multiplier effect on job creation in other areas. After expanding by 8.7% in FY22, India’s economy further grew by 13.5% in the June quarter of this fiscal with the trade, hotels, transport, communication and services sectors showing strong recovery. Despite the swift recovery from the impact of the pandemic and the war in Europe, the Indian economy still faces major challenges, including rising interest rates and high inflation.

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