SME Times News Bureau | 02 Apr, 2018
are afoot to open up out-of-bounds tourist destinations in the
northeast of India and other border states to foreign visitors to
boost India's tourism industry -- a major job creator that grew at
over 15 percent last year. Union Tourism Minister K.J. Alphons said
the issue was now before the Union Home Ministry, which was likely to
take a call on it soon.
He also said the effort of the
government was to move beyond the usual cliches about the country and
market the "wisdom of India" and invite youth from all over
the world to embark on a "journey of self-discovery" in
this ancient land.
"We have taken it up with the
Home Ministry two years back and have been repeating the request to
them, saying all these (remote) areas must be made accessible to
tourists, subject to restrictions -- whatever you think are
"I think the Home Ministry is in the
process of doing that. That is the call the Home Ministry has to
take, but I think they are pretty open to the whole idea. I hope we
will hear good news about that soon," Alphons told IANS in an
He was replying to a question if the government
would make far-flung picturesque places, including Arunachal Pradesh,
Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim, and parts of Himachal Pradesh,
Jammu and Kashmir, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand, accessible to foreign
In a wide-ranging interview at his office in
Paryavaran Bhavan, the civil servant-turned-politician said the
government's "huge focus" on the Northeast and other
Himalayan states would boost the Indian tourism industry -- currently
the seventh-largest in the world and tipped to be the third-largest
travel economy by 2028.
He said despite negative travel
advisories, the Indian tourism industry was still doing pretty
"The year 2017 was very good, with 10.2 million
foreign tourist arrivals, which is an increase of 15.8 per cent from
the last year. The global rate of growth is only five per
"Receipt of these foreign tourists was $27
billion That is an increase of 20.2 per cent in terms of
"And domestically, 7.8 million travels were
made last year. As such, a large part of our focus also goes to
domestic tourism. In a country of 1.2 billion people, it can spin
huge growth, it can generate incredible amounts of revenue."
"We want to double the number of foreign
tourist arrivals and double their receipts in three years. We want to
double domestic tourist trips in three years and we think all this is
The number may appear staggering but is
not over-optimistic, he said.
According to the 2018
economic impact report by World Travel and Tourism Council, India is
all set to establish itself as the third-largest travel and tourism
economy by 2028.
The country, according to the report,
will add nearly 10 million jobs in the tourism sector by 2028 and the
total number of jobs dependent directly or indirectly on the travel
and tourism industry will increase from 42 million in 2018 to over 52
million in 2028.
The minister said it was still a
conservative estimate going by the "incredible possibilities"
the tourism sector has.
"One of our biggest focuses
is the Northeast. All the states in the region have potential and we
will work on them. We are working on adventure tourism. You see, 70
per cent of the Himalayas is in India. And we do not need much
investment for para-gliding, river-rafting, trekking, cycling in the
entire range -- from Kashmir to the Northeast, through Uttarakhand
and Himachal Pradesh."
The government, he said, was
no longer selling only monuments, food, culture or natural beauty of
a country with a 5,000-year-old civilisation.
is this civilisation? Is it just about the monuments, food, culture,
people, heritage? No. We have condensed this entire 5,000-year-old
India and its legacies into yoga, into ayurveda, into the wisdom of
India. We are marketing the wisdom of India."
target, he said, were "young, enthusiastic, hyper-active
millennials" across the world.
"We thought yoga
was for old people. But no. Here is a guy who is a hyper-active
motorcycle racer looking for peace of mind. So we are saying, this is
India's wisdom. Come and embark on the journey of self-discovery,
find yourself with the wisdom of India," Alphonse said, showing
a new one-minute "Incredible India" TV commercial titled
"The Yogi of the Racetrack".
The short film was
released in Europe on February 23 and the minister said "it has
attracted an incredible response with 20 million views in the first
20 days of its release".
He admitted that the
country, to realise its tourism dreams, needed "massive"
connectivity, building hotels, restaurants. We are taking up these
issues with various ministries and working in coordination with them.
Like for road connectivity, I am taking it up with (Minister for Road
Transport & Highways) Nitin Gadkari. For air connectivity, I will
take it up with the Civil Aviation Ministry, and other issues with