Out-of-the-box thinking aids tourism, says PM Modi

The PM informed the audience that several places in India are to be developed through the route of competitive spirit and challenge

GUWAHATI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said out-of-the-box thinking and long-term planning can take tourism in India to new heights. He added that, due to improved infrastructure, even the villages in far-flung areas are now showing up on the tourism map of the country.

The Prime Minister was addressing a post-Budget webinar, the seventh in a series of 12 webinars organised by the government on the initiatives announced in the Union Budget 2023, on the subject of "Developing Tourism in Mission Mode".

Throwing light on the parameters before a tourist destination is developed, the Prime Minister listed out the potential of the place, the ease of travelling to the destination and new ways to promote the destination.

Modi emphasised that these parameters help in preparing a roadmap for the future and highlighted the huge scope of tourism in the country and listed out coastal tourism, beach tourism, mangrove tourism, Himalayan tourism, adventure tourism, wildlife tourism, eco-tourism, heritage tourism, spiritual tourism, wedding destinations, tourism via conferences and sports tourism.

The Prime Minister gave examples of the Ramayan circuit, Buddha circuit, Krishna circuit, Northeast circuit, Gandhi circuit and pilgrimages of all saints and stressed the need to work together collectively on this.

The Prime Minister informed the audience that several places in India are to be developed through the route of competitive spirit and challenge, as mentioned in this year's Budget, while also focusing on the holistic development of the destinations. He asked for a detailed discussion on how different stakeholders can be engaged.

Citing various yatras undertaken by the masses over the centuries, the Prime Minister noted that some people think that tourism is a fancy word for high-income groups, but it has been a part of India’s cultural and social life for centuries and people used to go on pilgrimages even when there were no resources available to them.

He gave the examples of the Char Dham yatra, the Dwadash Jyotirling yatra, and the 51 Shaktipeeth yatra and said that they are used to connect the places of our faith while also strengthening the unity of the country.

Observing that the entire economy of many big cities in the country was dependent on these yatras, the Prime Minister lamented the lack of development to enhance facilities suited to the times despite the age-old tradition of yatras.

He pointed out that hundreds of years of slavery and the political neglect of these places in the decades after independence were the root cause that inflicted damage to the country.

"The India of today is changing this situation. "An increase in the facilities leads to an increase in the attraction among the tourists," Modi said.

He further informed the audience that around 80-lakh people used to visit Kashi Vishwanath Dham in Varanasi in a year before it was rebuilt, but the tourist footfall crossed 7 crores last year after the renovation.

"15-lakh devotees have gone to see Baba Kedar compared to only 4-5 lakhs before the completion of reconstruction work in Kedarghati. Similarly, at Pavagadh in Gujarat, 80,000 pilgrims go for the darshan of Maa Kalika, compared to only 4,000 to 5,000 people before the renovation. The increase in facilities has a direct impact on the number of tourists and the increasing numbers mean more opportunities for employment and self-employment," the Prime Minister said.

The Prime Minister also talked about the Statue of Unity, the tallest statue in the world, and informed the audience that 27-lakh tourists visited the place within a year of its completion. He underlined that India's tourism sector can increase manifold with growing civic amenities, good digital connectivity, good hotels and hospitals, no trace of filth, and excellent infrastructure.

Pointing out that remote villages are now coming up on the tourism map due to their improving infrastructure, Modi said, "Our villages are becoming centres of tourism."

The Prime Minister informed the audience that the Central government has started the Vibrant Village Scheme for the villages situated along the border and emphasised the need to support businesses such as homestays, small hotels and restaurants.

Throwing the spotlight on the increasing number of foreign tourists in India, the Prime Minister noted the growing attraction towards India and said that 8-lakh foreign tourists visited India in January this year compared to only 2 lakhs in January last year.

The Prime Minister also underlined the need to profile such tourists and make special strategies to attract them to the country, as they have the highest spending capacity. He pointed out that foreign tourists who come to India spend an average of $1,700, while international travellers spend an average of $2,500 in America and around $5,000 in Australia.

"India has a lot to offer to high-spending tourists," he remarked and stressed that every state needs to change its tourism policy to align with this thought.

Talking about the basic challenges of the tourism sector, the Prime Minister pointed out the absence of professional tourist guides and stressed the need for certificate courses in local colleges for guides.

Modi suggested that guides working in a particular tourist destination should also have a specific dress or uniform so that tourists will identify them at a glance. The Prime Minister noted that a tourist’s mind is full of questions and guides can help them find answers to all those questions.

The Prime Minister called for developing 50 such tourism destinations so that every tourist from around the globe includes them during their trip to India. He also talked about developing apps for tourist destinations in all languages listed by the United Nations.

"Tourism has the same potential in the country as agriculture, real estate development, infrastructure and textiles," the Prime Minister added.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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