India should attract more foreign tourists: SeljaMay 30th, 2009 - 6:06 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi, May 30 (IANS) India needs to attract more foreign tourists, whose number has dipped after the Mumbai terror attack and due to economic depression, Tourism Minister Kumari Selja said Saturday.
“The tourism sector has a lot of challenges apart from attracting foreign tourists to India. Our goal is also to focus on the Commonwealth Games next year,” she said after taking charge of the ministry.
In the last few months, the numbers of foreign tourists visiting India has dipped. “It is due to economic recession and also the terror attack in India,” she said, referring to the Nov 26 Mumbai attack in which over 170 people, including 26 foreigners, were killed.
About 5.08 million tourists visited India in 2007, recording a growth of 14.56 percent. But since January, there has been a fall in numbers, with a 17.6 percent dip recorded that month with 487,262 foreign tourists coming to the country.
However, in April, some improvement had been witnessed with 370,756 tourists visiting India - a dip of just 3.5 percent.
“We need to counter this drop in numbers and aggressively promote the sector in partnership with the private sector,” said the minister.
“We have to undertake vigorous campaigns with private companies as tourism is also a source of huge foreign exchange,” she added.
Selja, who also holds the housing and urban poverty alleviation portfolio, said that preparations for the Commonwealth Games were in “full swing” but the authorities needed to speed up the process further.
“We have little time and we have to put everything on the fast track. An overwhelming number of tourists are expected, so we need to be prepared to cater to that. But India is ready to host the games,” she told reporters.
When asked about the assault on and harassment of tourists in India in recent months, she described it as “unfortunate”.
“We have to work on creating a secure environment for the tourists,” she said.
Highlighting the advertisement featuring Bollywood star Aamir Khan in which he advises people to respect tourists and not to harass them, Selja said it is the duty of all citizens to heed the actor’s advice.
“The advertisement is so good. It has been made so well and sends the right message,” she added.
About the shortage of hotels in India, the tourism minister said: “It is a challenge for the tourism ministry. Various government agencies are working on this and we need to work in tandem with them on this issue.”
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