Govt Plans To Use J&K Polls To Woo Tourists

15 December 2008
The Indian Express

New Delhi: To counter apprehensions among tourists wanting to come to India in the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks, the Government is planning to use images from the election process in Jammu and Kashmir. As the flow of incoming tourists takes a hit because of last month’s terror attacks in Mumbai, the Government has decided to send out a strong message that India continued to be a safe destination. “Images of long queues of people waiting to cast their votes in J&K make a strong statement of life as it exists in the country. We do not need to be defensive on terrorism. Terror attacks can happen anywhere. But that does not mean the entire country can be branded unsafe. An incident in Mumbai does not make Kerala unsafe,” Tourism Minister Ambika Soni said on Monday. The minister’s statement came after a meeting of the National Tourism Advisory Board here during which the Government and all stakeholders from the travel industry deliberated on the measures to be taken to arrest a slide observed in the tourism inflow in the country in the past two months. First the global financial crisis and now the Mumbai terror attacks have taken its toll on the impressive growth that India has been registering in the past few years in the number of people visiting the country. October saw a marked decline in the growth figures as compared to the same month last year, while November actually registered a 2.1 per cent drop in the foreign tourist arrivals as compared to the same month in 2007. In the past few years, India has been showing a healthy 12 to 14 per cent increase in the foreign tourist arrivals every year. This is much higher than the global average of 7-8 per cent. Taking into account the likely impact of the financial crisis and the Mumbai attacks, the Government is now only hoping for a 7-8 per cent annual increase for this year. Soni announced a host of measures on Monday to boost the confidence of the travellers wanting to come to India. She said 2009 would be observed as the ‘Visit India Year’ during which visitors would be offered a number of incentives, including free holiday packages for 2010 depending on their current spending. Some industry partners had already agreed to chip in with their contributions to make this scheme a success. Considering the focus on security, the Centre has also asked state governments to act fast on the setting up of the tourist police with the help of ex-servicemen.