New tourism policy in works, will take India to top ranking: Prahlad Singh Patel

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New Delhi, Mar 19 (PTI) India plans to unveil a new tourism policy soon, Tourism Minister Prahlad Singh Patel announced in Rajya Sabha Friday, saying the country has embarked on a journey to achieve the top ranking in the sector by 2024 despite challenges.

About a month ago, the Centre circulated a new proposed tourism policy among states for its finalisation. It focuses on developing medical, religious and other facets of tourism and offering new destinations other than the popular ones such as the Taj Mahal and the Qutub Minar.

Replying to a discussion on the Ministry of Tourism, Patel said, 'Our leadership is focused on developing the (tourism) sector. We have sent tourism policy to state governments. It has been one month. The policy…will enable us to reach the target (of higher ranking) set by the country.' He informed the House that India was on the 65th position in 2014 and it reached to 34th in five years.

'Our journey was to take the country to the first position but then this pandemic happened. I believe in the people of this country, on the culture and traditions, beliefs and leadership. The target which we have set for ourselves, we will achieve that in 2024. There are challenges but we will achieve our goal,' he said.

Patel also told the House that a decision was taken to use Chinese language at monuments where more than 1 lakh tourists visit but they are not comfortable in English and Hindi. He said Korean has also been put to use.

Patel said that the government has started a tourist facilitator course in which 5,500 people have registered.

He said that challenges before the country lie in handling foreign tourists if they visit places that are facing challenges in managing COVID-19 crisis.

The minister said there were 3,772 registered monuments and over 10,000 large and magnificent temples in South India built Before Christ and this needs to be highlighted.

articipating in the discussion, RJD member Manoj Jha suggested that a ‘freedom movement tourist circuit’ can be developed as the country is going to celebrate the 75th year of Independence.

Earlier participating in the debate, SP member Jaya Bachchan, who was assigned four minutes to speak, abruptly cut short her speech in protest against the time allocated to her.

'This is the reason I did not speak in the last session. Whatever I want to speak cannot be done in one minute. I absolutely protest and I will not speak. This is absolutely not correct and not fair,' she said, when asked by the Chair to conclude her speech.

Sasmit Patra, who was in the Chair at the time, responded by saying the timing is fixed by the PAC (Parliamentary Affairs Committee).

During her speech, Bachchan said there was a time when foreign tourists used to throng Kashmir but unfortunately, now they do not.

However, she said, domestic tourists have started returning to the valley and the image that there is a threat to life there and no security needs to be improved aggressively.

'It is very important to improve the image of the country which at the moment is very-very poor. I am sorry for saying this, but that is the truth,' Bachchan claimed.

T K S Elangovan (DMK) said 5.5 crore jobs have been lost due to COVID-19 and the tourism sector needs to be revived through measures taken by the government.

Elangovan said, 'Don't say that this is new. Babri Masjid is not new. It has a history of at least 1,000 years old. If it is there, people will come and see that. The question is, don't attribute reason to demolish an ancient monument. That is very important, it should be preserved. Only in that way we can attract tourists the world over.' K C Ramamurthy (BJP) said state-wise round-the-year tourism packages should be prepared and propagated.

Ayodhya Rami Reddy (YSRCP) called upon the government to handhold the tourism sector through various policy interventions.

He said the tourism industry was faced with a twin challenge -- of regaining its lost ground due to the pandemic and creating better facilities for the future.

He said the Ministry of Tourism should come up with a Master Plan entailing the right models which can be emulated.

Congress member G C Chandrashekhar said, 'As per the Standing Committee of Tourism's report, March, 2021, the underutilised fund of Rs 1,239 crores has been surrendered to the Ministry of Finance without spending. Rs.1,239 crore is a huge amount....to promote domestic tourism, the government has introduced the PRASAD Scheme in 2015. But, only 11 out of 26 projects have been completed.” He proposed a regulatory body to monitor the products and services for the international and domestic tourists. He also proposed to have a single window process of permission to charter flights to ease the process.

AIADMK’s S R Balasubramoniyan, said, 'Design schemes with generous allocation of funds to make tourism and allied industries to not only survive, but also to thrive.' TRS member K R Suresh Reddy said, 'I would advise that instead of selling PSUs, instead of selling LIC, why don't you sell Indian tourism? That is where you will really get money. Convince the Prime Minister. Make him the face of tourism so that the Ministry can benefit.' Other members including Shiv Pratap Shukla (BJP), Ram Chandra Prasad Singh (JDU), Narain Dass Gupta (AAP), Jharna Das Baidya (CPIM), A D Singh (RJD) and Sujit Kumar (BJD) also spoke. PTI PRS RSN MSS KKS KKS TIR TIR