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18 Jul, 2013

Cleanliness, Safety Issues Dominate Indian National Tourism Conference


New Delhi, Ministry of Tourism, 18-July, 2013 – A National Tourism Ministers’ Conference was held here today to discuss the future strategies for realising the full tourism potential of the country. The Conference was chaired by Union Tourism Minister Mr K. Chiranjeevi. State and Union Territory Tourism Authorities were represented either through their Tourism Ministers and/ or senior officials. 22 National Tourism, Travel and Hospitality Industry Associations were also represented.

This meeting assumed a significant importance as Indian tourism has recently been hit by natural calamities and “some incidents”. Agenda items included the safety and security of tourists, Campaign Clean India to improve cleanliness at important tourist destinations, rationalisation of Taxes to make Indian tourism products competitive, bringing uniformity in the structure of Road Taxes and promote seamless travel, the timely implementation of tourism infrastructure projects, the time bound issue of licences and no objection certificates for various tourism related services, the provision of single window clearance for film shootings and MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions) activities, promoting accessible and sustainable tourism and improving coordination between various State Governments and Union Territory Administrations for promoting Intra-regional Tourism.

In his opening remarks, Mr Chiranjeevi urged the State Governments and UTs to enact the cadre of Tourist Police in one form or other. The Tourist Police can be deployed visibly in places where such incidents can happen. The Minister said, “If inspite of our best efforts, such incidents occur, we must take immediate action to bring the culprits to the book and ensure speedy court trials. While doing so, we must show our sensitivity towards the feelings of the victim and respect their dignity and privacy”.

Referring to the recent incidents of assault on women tourists which has seriously damaged India’s image, the Minister said “It is not only important that we provide security to the tourists but it is also important that we must instil a sense of confidence in them”.

Mr Chiranjeevi said the second important issue which has become a serious cause of concern and due to which India is losing business to other markets is cleanliness and hygiene. He said heaps of garbage at tourist destinations, open defecation at the beaches, morning soils on the railway tracks etc., discourage the tourists. The Minister said, “The problem is serious and if we fail to tackle it now, it may be too late. I suggest that all States and UT Administrations must declare various tourist destinations as plastic free, ensure regular removal of garbage, build proper toilets to check open defecation and sensitise the community about the need to keep the destinations clean”.

Expressing concern over high tax structure on tourism products, the Minister said that collective taxes like VAT, Service Tax and Luxury Tax on tourism related services range between 20 to 30 per cent in India as compared 5 to 10 percent in the neighbouring countries. He said, “I have opened a dialogue with the Finance Ministry to rationalise the central taxes. I would request you also to take up the issue of rationalisation of State taxes with your counterpart in Finance Department of your State”.

Referring to the recent tragedy in Uttarakhand as very unfortunate the Minister said while developing tourism destinations, we must keep in mind the principles of sustainability and carrying capacity. This must be done especially for the religious places where large number of pilgrims congregates at a given time. He said, “It is our responsibility that we must immediately assess the carrying capacity of various tourism destinations and address the sustainability issues. In case, some remedial measures are required, they must be taken before any disaster happens. Uttarakhand has been a warning to all of us”.

Responding to the concern raised by some states on the release of Central Financial Assistance (CFA) the Minister said last year, the Ministry could not release CFA to the States and UTs which failed to submit utilisation certificates for the advances given to them up to 31.3.2011 or refund such advances. He said the outstanding advance is a matter of concern to the Central Government. While many States and UTs were able to liquidate the advances up to 31.3.2011, some are yet to do so. “This year after 1.9.2013, Ministry will not be able to release any CFA unless the State Governments and UTs submit utilisation certificates for the advances given to them up to 31.3.2012 or refund such advances” the Minister added.

Mr Chiranjeevi urged the participants to put their heads together and work out best possible ways and strategies to develop and promote India tourism in most effective manner. He said Tourism development being a residuary subject in our Constitution is our collective responsibility.

Delegates laid stress on the safety and security of tourists, particularly women. The Conference launched a new campaign “I Respect Women” with Ministry of Tourism issuing badges in Hindi and ten international languages.

After due deliberations, the Conference adopted the following resolution which said that the Departments of Tourism of all States and UTs:

<> will work for ensuring the safety and security of tourists, especially women;

<> will consider setting up of a special force such as a Tourist Police, where it does not exist at present, either by taking few companies on deputation from the Police Department or by engaging Ex-Servicemen or Home Guards.

<> that in the case of any unfortunate incident involving a tourist, the Departments of Tourism of all States and UTs will ensure that immediate action is taken to investigate the crime and undertake speedy trials to bring the culprits to book.

<> that in the case of any unfortunate incident of assault on any tourist, the Departments of Tourism of all States and UTs will ensure immediate post-traumatic help to the victim respecting his/her privacy and showing utmost sensitivity to the feelings of the victim. The “service recovery” will be of the highest order.

<> will sensitise all stakeholders including the community through various electronic and print campaigns towards the need of being sensitive to the needs of tourists and being helpful.

<> will take necessary steps to inculcate proper values in children by arranging at least one lecture each every year in every class on the importance of sensitivity to tourists and the cleanliness of public areas.

<> will run a mass awareness campaign called “I respect women”.

<> will work to ensure cleanliness at various tourism destinations, inter alia, by ensuring the removal of garbage at regular intervals, declaring polythene and garbage free zones and providing toilets to stop open defecation.

<> will try to establish proper toilet facilities along roads leading to important tourist destinations utilizing the existing infrastructure like petrol pumps, dhabas, panchayat and other public buildings by utilizing services of unemployed youth.

<> will set up a coordination mechanism with the concerned municipality / local body to monitor the state of cleanliness at various tourist destinations on a regular basis.

<> will work towards making tourism destinations and traffic crossings beggar free, by making help zones nearby.

<> will work towards keeping their States and UTs clean, inter alia, by involving various corporate houses, public sector undertakings and non-governmental organizations as partners for ensuring the upkeep of various destinations.

<> will work towards imparting working spoken knowledge of a foreign language to every member of their staff that deals with the foreign tourists.

<> will work towards rationalizing the tax structure to make various tourism destinations competitive and also for enabling seamless travel.

<> will work towards providing the necessary licences/no objection certificates for various tourism services in a time bound manner.

<> will endeavour to make various tourism destinations accessible to differently-abled tourists.

<> will assess the carrying capacity of various tourism destinations, especially religious places, on the basis of the principles of environmental sustainability and take immediate remedial measures to avoid any untoward incident”.