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Who Says India is Not Safe?
Saheer Karimbayil
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
The tourist ecosystem of the country was always plagued by several concerns like inadequate infrastructure and therefore lagged behind other tourism destinations in the world. Among the serious challenges cited were shortage of hotel rooms, stringent visa requirements, and congested airports. The recent terror strike in Mumbai in which culprits targeted star hotels of the country’s business nerve center and foreign tourists in them has precipitated the situation. As a result, the number of foreign tourists visiting India this year dipped to 3.71 lakh from last year's 3.84 lakh.

To do away with the distorted perception of Indian tourism among the world community, the Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO), in collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism, organized road shows across major cities in the U.S. including New York, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. IATO President Vijay Thakur led a delegation of about 30 stakeholders, including tour operators and hoteliers, to these cities.

Thakur expressed hopes that these road shows will help Indian tourism industry cover the recent losses it suffered due to recession and other factors. "We want to take the fear away from the minds of tourists from America and other countries and tell them that India is safe,” Thakur said at the road show held in Chicago.

The road shows began in February as part of the Tourism Ministry's 'Visit India 2009' program under its flagship ‘Incredible India’ campaign and will cover tourist traffic generating markets of Australia, Argentina, Europe, Ireland, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Singapore, Thailand, and the U.K. by October this year.

The IATO, which foresees a revival of business and leisure tourism once the recession completely bottomed out, also promotes new offerings like rural, cruise, and medical tourism through the networking events among other offerings like complimentary air tickets, free stay at hotels, and new rural sites for tourists to explore.

Facilitated by the India Tourism Office in Los Angeles, a valedictory function at the Parc 5 hotel in San Francisco saw delegates from various companies creating awareness about their own individual packages that ranged from rural tourism to medical tourism. At the function, Sanjiv Vashist, Assistant Director, India Tourism Office in Los Angeles welcomed the delegates while the IATO made a presentation on the tourist sites of India.

During the road show, those planning to travelwere facilitated with financial assistance from the Indian federal government. The companies that participated in the road show included: Anaya Tours, Apollo Voyages, Bestway Tours & Safaris, Bharat Travel Service, Concord Exotic Voyages, Dynamic Tours, Erco Travels, Ideas Cell Tours, India Vision Tours &Travels, Indian Travel promotion, Indo Asia Tours, Inpac Hostels & Resorts, Kash Venture Travels, Le Passage to India Tours & Travels, Namaste Tours, Noble House Tours, Ontime Travels, Pioneer Personalized Holidays, Planet India Travels, Razdan Holidays, Scenic Journeys, Stic Travels, Surya Reisedienst, Taj Hotels Resorts & Palaces, The Travel Plnners, Tourism India Management Enterprises, Travel With Us, and Vasco Travel.

The efforts to revive tourism do have the potential to play a balanced game in India’s recession-ridden economy if the expectations are to be realized. There are big hopes. The tourism industry anticipates an increase in the tourism revenues to $275.5 billion by 2018 from about $100 billion generated by the industry in 2008 at a 9.4 percent annual growth rate.
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