Indicating a turnaround, foreign tourist arrivals into the country grew by 21 percent in December 2009, over the corresponding month in 2008. However, it fell by three percent for the year 2009 due to the meltdown, H1N1 scare and safety concerns following the Mumbai terror attacks, Union Tourism Minister, Kumari Selja said here on Saturday.
At an inter-State regional conference of tourism ministers from the Southern States, Selja said “We expect the buoyancy to return in 2010.”
She also sounded optimistic about the "Visa on arrival" scheme introduced recently for Finland, Japan, Luxemburg, New Zealand and Singapore boosting inbound tourism.
According to Tourism Secretary Sujit Banerjee, foreign tourist arrivals in 2009 declined 17.6 percent during the first 11 months in 2009 but revived sharply in December to register 21 percent growth over the year-ago period.
Selja said the Ministry had formulated guidelines for raising a Tourist Security Organisation comprising ex-servicemen. Though several states have deployed tourist police at important tourist destinations, there is a need for a specialised agency, she said.
The minister urged the states to take steps for protecting tourists against crime and disaster situations. On South India's tourism potential, the minister said the region had been known for its "wellness tourism", which was becoming a unique selling proposition for India.
The minister said the tourism ministry had launched another programme 'Hunar Se Rozgar' (employment through skills), offering short but quality training courses covering food and beverage service and food production. The programme targets youths of weaker sections of societies who are interested in joining the hospitality industry and are in need to acquire skills facilitating employment.
Later addressing mediapersons, she admitted that the Mumbai terror attack had a negative impact on the tourism industry but the ministry could increase its business by instilling trust among the foreign tourists to visit India through road shows. Speaking on the occasion, Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa said the government realizes the importance of tourism and has increased the budget from Rs 50 crores just a couple of years back to Rs 245 crores this year. He stressed on the common tax regime across the southern states in terms of road tax and entry tax. He also emphasized upon bringing in single luxury tax formula for all southern states.