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INDIA TO INTRODUCE ELECTRONIC VISA FACILITY THIS YEAR: DEWAN

With a view to liberalise the visa regime, officials in the Tourism Ministry are busy finalising introduction of the electronic visa facility within this year as that would enable India to figure amid top four countries in global tourism, a top Tourism Ministry official said at an ASSOCHAM event held in New Delhi today.

“A very historic decision has been taken in which the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), the National Security Advisor (NSA) and all the related agencies have unanimously supported introduction of electronic travel authorisation (ETAs),” said the Tourism Secretary, Parvez Dewan while inaugurating a seminar titled ‘Think Tourism-Think India: Thought Leadership Meet,’ organised by The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM).

“Though the decision has been taken, the orders have not been issued as the implementation does take time and while the software for the system is in place, there is a need to train the manpower,” said Dewan. “India will have one of the friendliest visa regimes once the electronic visa facility is introduced.”

He further informed that the Tourism Ministry has tied up with world’s top hotel school École Hôtelière Avignon.

The Tourism Secretary also informed that setting up of the Indian Culinary Institute (ICI) aimed at imparting training top-notch training in food has been formally approved the Ministry. “Currently, the training in food in hotel management institutes is a minor part of the curriculum while the ICI will be a repository of every single recipe in India including even the smallest community and that would include research and training the people in all cuisines popular across India.”

The ICI building will probably come in two years, while it will be having a campus each in Kolkata, Pinjore, Noida and the headquarters will be in Tirupati, he added.

Talking about domestic tourism scenario, Dewan informed that out of the population of about 120 crore, India has about 105 crore domestic tourists as per 2012 figures which is expected to slightly improve when figures for 2013 are ascertained.

“Though India ranks at 39th spot in terms of foreign tourist arrival and 16th in terms of foreign exchange receipts but India has the highest per-capita spend of a tourist in any country in the world,” further informed the Tourism Secretary. “We need to go on about visa liberalisation.”Speaking about the sector, the chamber’s President, Rana Kapoor said, “The Travel and Tourism sector has emerged as one of the key sunrise sectors and a potential game changer for India by driving equitable growth through large scale employment for specialized as well as unskilled workforce, developing remote locations, encouraging entrepreneurial ventures at the micro level and promoting environment management.”

“India has signed 48 agreements with other countries and international organisations to widen links of friendship and mutual promotion of tourism. Due to this, total tourist visits in India have grown at a steady rate of about 16 per cent in the last five years with a forecasted growth rate of 12 per cent in the next decade. The sector’s direct contribution to GDP is estimated at INR 2,222 billion in 2013 and generated 25 million direct employments in 2012, forecasted to increase at a growth rate of 2.1 per cent by 2023,” said Kapoor.

“Tourism in India is insulated against economic fluctuations and it is important to leverage its potential through a sustainable policy framework, encouraging community participation and collaborative community models, offering a holistic platform to promote inclusive growth and strengthening the backward linkages of the industry,” further added the ASSOCHAM chief.

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