Create National Tourism Board to drive policy Arjun Sharma

Posted On Nov 7, 2014

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Create National Tourism Board to drive policy: Arjun Sharma

An empowered National Tourism Board should be formed on a public private partnership (PPP) model to drive tourism policy of the country, says Arjun Sharma, Managing Director, Le Passage to India.
“A task force at the Centre as well as state level should be set up for cleanliness and security, for which predominantly ex-servicemen should be mobilised.”

Development of tourism is one of the key priorities of the NDA government at the Centre led by PM Narendra Modi, and the government has taken some steps in line with its priorities for tourism sector. In its maiden budget presented in July, the government announced the implementation of e-visa in a phased manner from this year itself. Once implemented, e-visa would definitely give a muchneeded boost to inbound tourism in the country. Launch of ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ and the government’s focus on infrastructure development will also go a long way in the development of tourism in the country. However, much needed to be done if India has to realise its tourism potential and catch up with the world’s leading tourist destinations. Sharma feels that the government should take certain initiatives on priority basis to increase FTAs in the country. “One of the most important initiatives by the government should be creation of an empowered National Tourism Board which should be created on the PPP model. This tourism board must be allowed to drive policy for tourism sector,” said Sharma. As an another important measure, Sharma suggested that a task force at the Centre as well as state level should be set up for cleanliness and security, for which predominantly ex-servicemen should be mobilised. Lack of hygiene in and around tourist attractions and lack of security for tourists have been the major concerns of tourism industry. Irrational, complex and exorbitant tax structure for tourism sector has been another key concern of Indian tourism industry, which not only makes India uncompetitive as destination, but also creates barriers for seamless tourist movement in the country. Sharma feels that taxes levied on the tourism sector should be unified, rationalised and made globally competitive. In order to maximize the number of tourist arrivals in the country, there is need to enhance the tourism products being offered by the country. Sharma feels that diverse tourism products being offered by the country should be enhanced with the addition of new products.

“Tourism activities like sports tourism, rural tourism, and adventure and wildlife tourism should be given fillip as they add to the diverse tourism products that India has to offer,” said Sharma. According to Sharma, as a mechanism to help tourists in a crisis situation, the government should set up a crisis management team within the Ministry of Tourism. “There is an urgent need to put together a troubleshooting or a crisis management and communication team within the Ministry of Tourism,” said Sharma. Not much is happening right now so far as marketing campaign to promote tourism is concerned. Sharma said that there is an urgent need to recommence the media and advertising campaign in international markets, especially in the key source markets. Inbound tourism season for the country has already set in, and the industry is hoping a better inbound season as compared to previous year. Sharing his expectation from the inbound season, Sharma said, “The season appears to be mixed with some markets like Russia are showing strain as a large number of companies are going bankrupt. Europe is still struggling while Asia is looking up. The inbound business appears to be growing but the growth this year will be marginal.” Welcoming the early implementation of e-visa, Sharma said that the simplification of the visa process will undoubtedly provide the necessary stimulus to the tourism sector. “It (e-visa) was one of the long standing requests of the industry and of vital necessity. In fact, a joint study carried out by UNWTO and WTTC in 2012 suggested that by implementing the electronic visa, India can benefit by additional 6 million travellers and over the next three years, the country can add approximately 1.8 million new jobs,” said Sharma. However, he added, “what is critical is that we need clarity on the timeline, by when it will be rolled out and campaigns to back the initiative.” As announced in the General Budget 2014-15 presented by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in July, phased roll-out of e-visa was supposed to start by the end of October, but so far there has been no official announcement as regard to the date from which e-visa would come into effect.

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