The National Conference of State Tourism Ministers was held from September.18th to 20th at Dharmasala. The conference aims to bring in diverse viewpoints and perspectives from all the States and Union Territories of India on tourism development and growth and to create a direct dialogue with the States on Schemes, policies, and steps being taken at a national level for overall tourism improvement in India. The National Conference also aims to be a platform for sharing of best practices, successful projects, and tourism product opportunities.
The second day of the Conference was started with felicitation of dignitaries from the various States of India by Mr. G. Kishan Reddy Union Minister of Tourism, Culture and DoNER, and Mr.Jai Ram Thakur, Chief Minister, Himachal Pradesh. Tourism Ministers from 12 States including Madhya Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Goa, Haryana, Mizoram, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Maharashtra, and Himachal Pradesh were present.
Mr.G Kishan Reddy said “With the pandemic behind us, the tourism industry is all set for a revival. As a travel destination, India offers a diversity of products and experiences. The rich heritage of India, one of the world’s oldest civilizations, is an all-embracing confluence of festivals, religions, traditions, and customs. For any global tourist, India is not just a place to see and visit, but a destination to experience and be transformed for life. Tourism has a very important role to play to achieve India’s immediate goals of a 5 trillion economy and its long-term goals of a developed nation.
Mr.Reddy said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has emphasised two aspects, First is the Whole of Government Approach, where we break down silos and work together across Government Ministries. Second, we have to work as Team India, where the Union Government and the State Government work together hand in hand for the benefit of the citizens. “I sincerely feel that, with all the government representatives, this is the perfect platform to put forth all perspectives and put in place a vision for the sector”, he added. The Minister further added that the support of local people and communities must be enlisted so that the benefits of Tourism percolate down to the grassroots. The whole of government approach and Jan bhagidari can revolutionise the Tourism sector in the country, added the Union Minister
Mr.Reddy appealed that just like NSS, and NCC we need to work on making Yuva Tourism clubs at all levels. States need to work on a war footing for establishing these tourism clubs which will familiarize the youth with the concept of Dekho Apna Desh. The minister also emphasised that to achieve the true potential of tourism, the most fundamental requirement is to ensure coordination at every level. We need a proactive approach, from every stakeholder, be it the center, state, or industry.
Mr.Jai Ram Thakur said, “It is a very important day for us as representatives from all over India are here with us. I am delighted that Himachal Pradesh got this opportunity to host all of you. This is an excellent initiative by the Ministry of Tourism. Himachal Pradesh presents lots of unique destinations to the world. “He further added that the tourism industry in India and Himachal was badly hit by the pandemic; however, now we are at the cusp of a change. He said, “Now, our government has also started the “Nai Raahein Nai Manzilein” scheme to highlight some of our lesser-known tourist destinations. The state has undertaken multiple new projects to attract the tourists not only for a weekend but for longer stays too.”
Mr. Shripad Naik, Minister of State for Tourism & Ports, Shipping and Waterways spoke of the successful implementation of the PRASHAD and SWADESH DARSHAN schemes of the Ministry OF Tourism while also highlighting other major initiatives and efforts of the government to promote tourism. PRASHAD scheme was launched by the Ministry of Tourism in the year 2014-15 for the integrated development of identified pilgrimage and heritage destinations aim to provide last-mile connectivity. The Minister also said, “The Ministry of Tourism has prepared a draft National Tourism Policy to promote India as a tourist destination in all spheres where it enjoys a comparative advantage”
Mr. Ajay Bhatt, Minister of State for Tourism and Defence, suggested that it is the need of the hour to bring out our hidden cultural and natural facets to attract more tourists. “We have tackled the difficult times of COVID-19 with the Dekho Apna Desh initiative. We are constantly moving forward under the able guidance of our Prime Minister. However, despite having one of the best natural beauties, India attracts less than 2% of global tourists; and, this only points to the potential that we can achieve.”, said the minister.
Addressing the gathering, Mr. Sambit Patra, Chairman, of India Tourism Development Corporation, said, “I firmly believe that as far as tourism is concerned it’s more about targeting the mental space. The first mantra is to appeal to the mental space with the right advertisement about our Incredible India. Pointing out the vast and diverse culture of the nation, he mentioned that in India ‘Kankar Kankar mein hai Shankar’ and we need to strive to highlight it for the prospective tourists.” He also added, “Under the able leadership of Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi, India is striving to make new advances in the tourism sector with the Ramayan circuit, Buddhist Circuit, Himalaya Circuit, etc under the Swadesh Darshan Scheme”
During the session, Mr. Arvind Singh, Secretary, of the Ministry of Tourism said, “The tourism sector was badly hit in the last two years because of COVID-19. For the first time after a gap of two years, we have gathered physically here to discuss the revival of the tourism sector; and, this in itself is a symbol of change in the tourism sector.”Mr. Arvind Singh also said that the G-20 presidency offers a unique opportunity for India to boost its tourism sector and the revival of the tourism sector will generate employment opportunities in India.
Welcoming the dignitaries, Mr. Nakul Anand, Chairman, FAITH said, “We meet together under a common cause which has provided livelihood to many. India, despite being the fifth largest economy in the world, accounts for a minuscule of the world’s tourism share. COVID-19 remained the worst crisis in the tourism sector. This year brought a new ray of hope. The year ahead will also see a rise in travel in India as the nation emerges from the pandemic shock. We need to blend and promote the current tourism with our ancient culture.” He also added, “The tourism industry is now answering the demands of the times and we are moving to a tourism sector that focuses on experiential values “
The conference is divided into thematic sessions on the Development of Tourism Infrastructure, Cultural, Spiritual & Heritage tourism, Tourism in the Himalayan states, Responsible and sustainable tourism, the Role of digital technology in the marketing and promotion of tourism destinations, Emerging importance of homestays in the Indian hospitality sector, Ayurveda, Wellness, and Medical Value travel, and lastly on Forest and wildlife tourism.
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