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Friday, November 28, 2014

India - on the road to excellence

The launch of electronic visa for nationals of forty three countries yesterday is one of the brightest moments for the tourism industry of the country. That it will spur inbound tourism is not in doubt, but that it displays the intent of the new government to give a fillip to this so far almost neglected sector is the powerful message that comes across clearly. Railways and tourism, the two sectors that were on the radar of the ruling party even much before the last general elections now appear poised for a major upturn. The use of the word “appear” is because with governments it is always wise not to count chickens before one actually sees them hatching.

My stint in the federal ministry of tourism began with me wondering why we crave a national impact even before being able to do anything substantial about the city of Agra, often christened as the mecca of Indian tourism. Why this city still remains the epitome of civic mal-governance is what bothers me even at such moments that for all of us even remotely linked with the sector are moments of rejoicing.

The economic impact and the multiplier effect of tourism on the national economy has always been fairly well touted so far and why not – there are glaring examples of many national economies surviving on and also thriving on mere tourism. Yet our nation that has the finest and most diverse collection of destinations and climates, culture and heritage, lifestyles, cuisines and shopping has not been really successful in taking full advantage of its endowments. 

The reason really lies in our inability to let the private sector adequately delve in areas that directly impinge upon tourism. The reason also lies in lack of cleanliness almost across the national spectrum, our penchant to fleece and bureaucratic apathy to development. Perhaps the realization that a plethora of small steps if allowed to flourish are much more potent that grandiose plans that usually do not see the light of the day, needs to sink in deeper. And the almost surreptitious acceptance of the fact that governments have miserably failed in running their small tourism businesses combined with lofty proclamations of grand intent really does not make any sense to me.

Achieving excellence in whatever we do has to be the aim and the tourism sector offers us a big enough plate to do that.  It is one sector that does not really need major investments exclusively for itself but can thrive merely with commitment and intent is a reality that needs acceptance. Like tourists, the entire sector only needs to be facilitated with favourable policies and mind-sets. The introduction of electronic visa for increasing tourism and various other measures to facilitate economic growth are displaying the road ahead rather favorably.

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