As many as 42 exhibitors, including state and union territory tourism departments, tour operators, hoteliers, resort owners, Air India, IRCTC, ITDC, and other stakeholders were present at the India Stand at WTM London.
Ask anyone who had visited the WTM London 2016 event about the standout feature of the event and chances are that a majority will say it was the Kerala Tourism stand. It is little wonder then that the snake boat replicas of the Kerala Tourism pavilion helped them bag the Best Stand Feature. But the snake boats were not the only bright spot; India was literally shining at the event. Being the Premier Partner at the event, it had for its theme – India-The Land of Eternal Heritage. The Indian delegation was represented by Dr. Mahesh Sharma, Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Tourism and Culture along with Vinod Zutshi, Secretary, Ministry of Tourism, Govt of India; Ashok Chandra Panda, Minister of State (Independent Charge), Tourism & Culture, Govt of Odisha, Dr. Venu V, Principal Secretary, Kerala Tourism and various other senior tourism officials from various states.
Talking about the promising scenario for Indian tourism, Dr. Sharma said that the upswing in Foreign Tourist Arrivals (FTAs) in India (from 7.68 million in 2014 to 8.03 million in 2015 showing a growth rate of 4.5 per cent) is an image booster for Indian tourism. About the host country, he said that tourist arrivals in India from the UK alone was 8,67,601 in 2015, registering a growth of 3.4 per cent growth over the previous year. With India having invested more than $400 million in developing tourism infrastructure around the country in the last 18 months, Dr. Sharma said the government was expanding its e-Tourist Visa scheme and is also working towards safety and cleanliness. He added, “India has set a target to achieve 1 per cent of international tourist arrivals through a multipronged approach, including proactive marketing strategies in partnership with tourism stakeholders. The Electronic Tourist Visa (eTV) initiative has been a great step in this direction and has further boosted tourist arrivals.”
While apprising about various strategies adopted by the ministry, Zutshi talked about the government’s focus on infrastructure development, promotion of niche areas, such as medical, golf, cruise and MICE. With responsible tourism as one of the themes for a session, Zutshi informed how responsible tourism is being included in India’s tourism policy, adding that India is also looking at adopting the principle of polluter pays for the industry. “We have to study the carrying capacity of destinations. India is prioritising tourism by investing in the public infrastructure in order to facilitate specific tourism investments from the private sector.” Talking about threats to tourism, he said, “Countries need to be more responsible when issuing travel advisories as perception of safety in destinations is a key factor.”