Kevadia: The government is in no mood to rush to reopen doors to international tourists at a time when Corona is rampant in some parts of the world. Top bureaucrats of the Tourism Ministry articulated this standpoint of the government on the concluding day of the tenth convention of the Association of Domestic Tour Operators of India.
Replying to questions at a media conference in Narmada Tent City in the vicinity of the Statue of Unity, the new Secretary in the Tourism Ministry, Mr Arvind Singh, said, “International tourism - Nobody can give a Yes or No answer because the situation is very fluid. Most of our travelers are from U.S. U.K. Europe and these are parts of the world where the disease is rampant. So, will it be prudent to open up visa from these countries and travels?"
He added, "Then there is a risk of importing the disease and now there is a talk of new mutants and variants. So, that will be a decision that will have to be taken in consultation with health authorities. Yes, on the one hand, these are the largest markets but on the other, these are the countries where the disease is still increasing at a rapid pace. So, a very conscious decision will have to be taken matching the urge to reduce the restrictions on travel with health-related concerns. Since we have air bubble agreements with several countries, discussions are on with the Health Ministry and the Home Ministry on further easing restrictions depending on fear and concerns about health. Discussions on easing visa restrictions for international travellers is definitely on."
The Tourism Secretary said that if the vaccination establishes itself well abroad and there is absolute confidence that the cases go down abroad, the restrictions can be eased.
At the same time, the government is trying to do what it can to boost domestic travel. Rail connectivity is working wonders and the tourist inflow to Kevadia (currently an average of 15,000 on weekends) has been been made easy with a railway station providing rail link with eight cities in India.
Realizing that difficult times call for extraordinary solutions and out of the box thinking, the Tourism Ministry began last April webinars based on the theme Dekho Apna Desh series to spread awareness about domestic destinations.
Till date, 76 such webinars have been organised. Beginning with a webinar on Delhi, the Tourism Ministry has covered several destinations including Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Kolkata, Punjab, Varanasi besides Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel- architect of United India and Gandhiji - The Bombay Years.
Before lockdown was imposed in India due to Corona in the last week of March 2020, Foreign Tourist Arrivals (FTAs) in India had an encouraging pattern.Foreign Tourist Arrivals (in million) during 2017, 2018 and 2019 were 10.04, 10.56 and 10.89 (provisional) respectively, according to a written reply in Lok Sabha on March 2, 2020, by the Minister of State (Independent charge) of Culture and Tourism, Mr Prahlad Singh Patel.
According to information sourced from the Bureau of Immigration, the Foreign Tourist Arrivals in India in January 2020 (Provisional) were 11,18,150.
The following month, the numbers declined to 10,15,632 and by March last year which saw the beginning of Janta curfew and lockdown in India, the decline was steep at 3,28,462.
While Tamil Nadu ranked number one in foreign tourist visits in 2018, Maharashtra earned the number two slot among the top ten tourist states chosen by foreigners.