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Parliamentary panel asks Indian missions abroad to promote tourist destinations

New Delhi: Taking cognisance of a study by the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER), which estimated that tourism in India would not regain its pre-pandemic levels till 2026, a Parliamentary panel has emphasised that Indian missions abroad must ensure promotion and marketing of tourist destinations and products.

The Standing Panel on Transport, Tourism, and Culture, in a recent report, recommended this after observing that there were 10.93 million foreign tourist arrivals (FTAs) in India during pre-pandemic year 2019, but the current FTA numbers are still well below the pre-pandemic levels.

The committee, on being informed by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) representatives that the tourism officers posted in Indian missions abroad have tourism promotion as additional charge, recommended that as responsibility for tourism promotion abroad now rests solely with the Indian missions, the tourism officers may be given sole charge as far as possible as it is necessary for the transitional change from the overseas tourist offices to the missions in many countries and to create confidence among the stakeholders that the missions are attaching top priority to tourism promotion.

The tourism officers were designated by MEA in October 2021.

However the panel was informed that since then the tourism officers have had only one meeting with the Indian stakeholders a year back.

The committee was also informed by the stakeholders that after the closure of the overseas tourist officers, India did not figure in the brochures of the overseas tourism agents, thus adversely impacting the prospects of Indian tourism. In its interaction with the MEA, the committee was further informed that the overseas tourist offices had a lot of funds available for this purpose and the Ministry of Tourism is still having discussions with the MEA on how to place a separate budget for tourism at the disposal of the MEA, which would enable them to give brochure support for the agents and other promotional work.

The committee was surprised that these aspects of budget for promotion and campaign schedule for the missions have not yet been resolved as the overseas tourist offices had gradually been shut down over the last two years and only the last eight were closed in March 2023.

There was sufficient time for the two ministries to have the transition formalities in place, it further noted. On further query, the panel was informed that the MEA is in consultation with the Tourism Ministry to jointly address such concerns arising out of closure of overseas India tourism offices.

The committee recommended that the Tourism Ministry may settle the matters expeditiously so that the MEA would have both the funds and the programme to go ahead with the work relating to tourism promotion.

The panel also said that the exclusion of India from tourism brochures is a major issue in the absence of which the visibility of Indian tourism places would be difficult to maintain.

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