As part of the tough austerity measures introduced to tide over the deepening financial crisis engulfing the State, the Congress-led UDF government has decided to restrict foreign trips by its ministers and secretaries.
As a first measure, the Finance Department has vetoed the plan for a world-wide tour by Tourism Minister A.P. Anil Kumar and his department Secretary Suman Billa between November and April next year.
An order issued by Additional Chief Secretary (Finance) V. Somasundaram and accessed by The Hindu, warns Ministers and Secretaries against foreign tours using money from the public exchequer. The order was issued in the background of Mr. Anil Kumar’s request to go on a world tour for conducting road shows popularising Kerala as a tourist destination. Mr. Somasundaram, in his order, sought compliance by all Ministers and Secretaries to the austerity measures and asked them to desist from unwanted travels. He mentioned that the order was issued after getting the approval from the Finance Minister and the Chief Minister.
According to Tourism Department sources, Mr. Anil Kumar wanted to visit London, Paris and Barcelona in November and Helsinki in January. He also had plans to visit Vienna and Prague in February and Berlin in March. A Russian trip was planned for April and he wanted to cover Moscow and St. Petersburg. All these trips were planned with the Tourism Secretary. But the Finance Department rejected all of them. However, it allowed Mr. Anil Kumar and Mr. Billa to visit New York, Chicago and Los Angeles in the last week of October as the preparations for the proposed road shows there have been made.
The Tourism Department has plans to conduct road shows in 31 important cities of the world in next three years. According to Mr. Somasundaram, most road shows and promotional activities are by and large private events. He advised the department to provide all basic support to leading tour operators from Kerala, who take part in the road shows to attract visitors. Ministers and Secretaries have very little to do to attract overseas tourists, he said.