It sounded almost Churchillian: “we have the beaches; we have the mountains; we have deserts; we have wildlife; and we have adventure sport.”
But it was actually Union Tourism Minister Kumari Selja enumerating India’s strengths as a tourist destination while speaking to Indian journalists on the margins of World Travel Market (WTM), which opened here on Monday.
At the end of her hour-long interaction, however, the question remained: why, despite such eye-watering attractions Indian tourism was such a shambles?
Ms. Selja acknowledged that “connectivity” and “accessibility” were a problem but said efforts were being made to build and upgrade infrastructure. There were also plans to develop “heliport” tourism by building helipads in remote places of tourist attraction not accessible by road or rail.
Currently, Indian tourism is going through its worst phase which Ms. Selja attributed to a combination of factors including global recession, swine flu and the Mumbai attacks, among other things.
Things have been so bad that during January-October Indian tourism registered a negative growth of -17 per cent compared to the same period last year. Although the situation has improved slightly since October, the growth remains negative.
However, Ms. The Minister insisted that her department was not complacent and it was determined to promote tourism in a “big way” by focusing on “niche marketing.” She said that she was expecting some 100,000 tourists during next year’s Commonwealth Games in Delhi.
“We are hoping that those who attend the Games would also see a bit of India.”
Besides a number of Indian States, 60 private companies are participating in the four-day WTM, breathlessly described by organisers as a “must-attend” annual event for travel and tourism professionals.