Laying emphasis on the need to work together, as a united body, the World Travel and Tourism Council, India Initiative (WTTCII) hosted a retreat at Bekal in Kerala in end September. The retreat at Kerala brought together Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, and the industry stakeholders, with a purpose of discussing a common agenda – to develop tourism in the southern region.
The event was attended by Subodh Kant Sahai, the then Union Minister for Tourism; A P Anil Kumar, Tourism Minister of Kerala; Anand Singh, Tourism Minister of Karnataka; R H Khwaja, Ex-Union Tourism Secretary and Arun Mishra, Director General of Civil Aviation, as well as senior officials from all southern states and Maharashtra. During the retreat, participants discussed various issues affecting inter-state tourism and exchanged ideas to push the same. Sahai said, “Tourism has yet to get the highest political and economic priority and recognition. It is still not a political agenda of many states that must realise tourism is a business model.” He suggested the need for a Committee under the Chief Minister or the Chief Secretary of the state to be formed to be able to solve problems through discussion and dialogue.
A P Anil Kumar informed the seaplane project, which was announced in the Emerging Kerala event to connect the backwaters and Arabian Sea to all tourism destinations in Kerala, will progress as per plan. While Karnataka’s Minister for Tourism, Singh, promised to improve connectivity and infrastructure in Hampi.
Khwaja pointed out the existing contrast in India saying, “There are two sides to what is happening in India. There is Incredible India as well as Impossible India! One of biggest impediments to tourism is aviation. States are levying ATF taxes ranging from four per cent to 38 per cent. Seamless travel has been launched between Delhi-Agra-Jaipur covering four northern states; why can’t this happen amongst the five southern states?”
All participants agreed that states play a very important role as they are custodians of some very high value, high potential tourism assets. “It is for them to understand the value, the potential that these assets can create for the state’s economy. States will need to nurture these assets in a sustainable manner and create platforms and avenues for the state government, private sector and most importantly the local community, to reap sustainable benefits from the tourism assets,” said Vikram Madhok, Chairperson, WTTCII.