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India is assuming the Presidency of the G20 in December and there will be a series of large number of meetings at 55 locations in the country which the G20 Secretariat has identified. So, all these locations will come on the global focus, and this is very important for India tourism, Arvind Singh, Secretary – Tourism, Ministry of Tourism, Govt. of India said while speaking as the Chief Guest at the recently concluded Hospitality and Tourism Conclave, organized by the Services and Export Promotion Council (SEPC), an advisory body of the Union Ministry of Commerce. G20 countries account for more than 50% of the world’s GDP and are the most important countries in the world. 
“Almost 215 meetings are slotted to be held from January 2023 to September 23 at 55 locations. This will culminate in the Summit which will be held at New Delhi. Each of these meetings will have a large number of audiences. The meetings will have Working Groups in different subjects: Finance, Environment Trade, Labour, Tourism amongst others,” Singh informed.
Elaborating more from tourism perspective, Singh said that tourism itself will have three Working Group meetings and will culminate in the Ministers Conference. “As a part of these large number of side events, G20 will also have advocacy groups and others attending. We are also planning side events on behalf of the tourism industry. A global MICE conference is proposed to be held in the month of April in Bengaluru as a side event of the G20 Summit. We, in the past, have seen that several countries who took the G20 Summit as an opportunity to project the nation to the global community,” Singh said.
Citing example of Saudi Arabia, he said that Saudi was predominantly seen as a religious destination, people were visiting it mainly for Mecca and Medina. Post G20 Presidency, it is open to travelers from Europe and other countries, and we see that happening. “Hence, it is an opportunity that all of us should take care of and truly utilize G20 in 2023. This is an event that we look forward to, the Government of India looks forward to, for positioning and projecting India as an important destination for the rest of the world,” Singh emphasized.
Speaking on the National Tourism Policy, he said that the talks on the new policy have been going on for some time. The last policy was formulated was in 2002. Once the new government took over, there was discussions in Parliament on the need for a new model of Tourism Policy in the last two years in 2018 and 19. But, unfortunately, due to the elections, the process was on the back burner.
“And recently, when our new Minister took over, there has been a rethink and we wanted to go ahead. The fact that we are celebrating 75 years of independence and we have a projection for the next 25 years for the country that all Groups are working and are we are in the group headed by the Commerce Secretary. The vision is that in 2047, tourism should be a $1 trillion sector in the country. So, there is a need for the new Tourism Policy,” he said.
He further said that the policy is at the draft stage. “We are consulting other Central Ministries. We have taken the recommendations from various states, global best practices from organizations such as UNWTO. We also carried out a detailed situational analysis including impact of the COVID-19, future projections for tourism sector with the vision for [email protected] Multiple rounds of consultations and feedback from Central ministries, state governments and industry stakeholders are taking place and the Draft Policy was also published on the website of the Ministry of Tourism for comments from the public,” he said and added that the policy aims at improving the framework for tourism development in the country, supporting tourism industries, strengthening tourism support functions, and developing the sub-sectors.
“It is argued to be key policies around 6 guiding principles, 5 national tourism missions, and 8 strategic pillars, supported by an elaborate institutional and governance framework. The key strategic objectives of the policy are to enhance the contribution of tourism in the Indian economy by increasing visitation, stay and spending, and making India a year-round destination,” Singh said.
He said that the government is taking steps to take care of the infrastructure deficit as far as tourism is concerned. “Several schemes of the government in the tourism places are also already there. We have seen a significant growth in the development of highways, roads, airports, waterways, and other infrastructure which improves connectivity in the country. This helps the sector, and we will be seeing the visible impact of this,” he said.
For instance, unconnected areas have got connected by air, by rail, and that has helped to travel. Highways in some parts of the country are very helpful booster tourism traffic when we saw domestic tourism just started. So once the infrastructure deficit is being taken care of progressively, I am sure we need to have to relook at the strategies that how do we project India as a major tourist destination, Singh said.
He further said that India is growing as an economy, and today is the fifth largest economy in the world. “We are expected to grow higher and become one of the top three economies in the world. We need to make sure that the tourism sector also performs and becomes one of the leading service sectors of the countries,” he said.
On the inbound tourism, Singh said that India remains a winter destination. “Most of the visitors visit during October and stay onwards till March. So, how do we create events and create their demand until India becomes a year-round destination, to create jobs and real opportunities in the tourism sector and ensure the supply of skilled workers. We all know that in areas where manufacturing or agriculture cannot reach, tourism can be the main employing force as it reaches remote areas of the country,” he said.
Also, to enhance the competitiveness of tourism sector and attract private sector investment, we have to make it attractive, remove the compliance burdens, taxation issues, to preserve and enhance the cultural and natural resources of a country. And this is something that India has position to offer. There are 40 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India. Very few countries can talk of such a number of World Heritage Sites. India has ski resorts, desert, beaches, wildlife reserves, lakes, river cruises, everything all in one country,” he said adding that one has to to travel to different countries to get that experience. So, we need to preserve and enhance the cultural and natural resources of the country,” he said.
“We need to ensure sustainable, responsible, and inclusive development of tourism in the country. Any tourism that is not sustainable and makes it difficult for the local communities. It’s going to be very difficult for the communities to support tourism in the future. We have seen photographs of people driving their jeeps on the lake in Pangong and then they expect the locals to welcome tourists with open arms in the future.  So, we need to be conscious, we need to be responsible travelers also. We also need to promote digitalization, innovation, and technology to support the industry,” Singh said.
Singh said that the government has identified five very important tools and missions that lays down the priorities of how the tourism sector should be in the next decade in the country. “The first is the National Green Tourism Mission. The objective of this mission is to maintain sustainability in the tourism sector, to encourage climate action in the tourism sector, to promote responsible tourism, and align tourism development with the Sustainable Development Goals of 2030.
“The second is the National Digital Tourism Mission which will work in development of tourism domain, data development of a unified tourism interface and support to MSMEs for digitalization and enabling smart tourism destinations and IT applications in the sector.
“The third is the Tourism and Hospitality Skill Mission that will work towards providing quality trained manpower to the sector. We have manpower, we have large number of training institutions, both in the public and the private sector. But we need more quality and quantity both.
“The National Mission on Destination Management Organization is the fourth mission. Many of our destinations do not have a very strong destination management organization which will maintain and market the destination. It maintains the assets in that city, coordinate all the functions with that of the state government, the national government, and it also helps in marketing and promoting the destination.
“And fifth, of course, is the National Mission on Tourism MSMEs, where we want to formalize the MSMEs to create awareness about policies, benchmark industrial policies for MSMEs and help create a good ecosystem.”
Singh said that the government lays a greater emphasis on the private sector. “We have proposed the National Tourism Board which will be chaired by the Union Minister of Tourism, with all the tourism ministers of the states, representatives of the ministries, and industry stakeholders, and this board will review the implementation of the policy and the implementation unit will provide secretarial support,” he informed.
He advised to follow an approach by involving the government, both in Centre and states. “We all need to be on the same page. We need to promote ‘Ek Bharat Sreshth Bharat’ where we need to provide greater interaction between the states and the union territories,” he said.
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