G Kishan Reddy, Cabinet Minister for Tourism, has stressed on the need for greater intra-BRICS tourism cooperation, sustainability and infrastructure development.
G Kishan Reddy recently addressed the BRICS Tourism Ministers’ Meeting as the Chairperson through video-conferencing, which saw in attendance tourism ministers of all BRICS coutries—Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
The meeting saw review of the intra BRICS Tourism cooperation and adoption of the Ministers’ Communique, an outcome document on cooperation and promotion of tourism between the BRICS countries. The Ministers’ Communique recognised that the COVID-19 pandemic has severely endangered public health and has presented immense challenges to the implementation of sustainable development goals.
In his address, Reddy pointed out that the pandemic has brought many challenges for the global tourism sector. “We all need to support our tourism business and face this unprecedented crisis to save jobs and restart tourism. Apart from immediate measures we need to learn lessons from the crisis to prepare comprehensive tourism recovery plans. The crisis presents an opportunity to reshape the tourism ecosystem for a more sustainable restart in future,” he said.
Saying that tourism sector is a major source of economic growth and provides one in 11 jobs worldwide, he added, “I am pleased to note that prior to the pandemic, BRICS countries continued to be a major source market for inbound tourism to India. Tourism plays an important role in building bridges between societies and benefiting visitors and local communities.”
Reddy informed that India has taken various physical and financial measures to support travel and tourism industry, particularly micro, small and medium enterprises; self-employed tourist guides and other such segments. “India has taken lead in vaccinating its people, and putting in place measures for promoting health, hygiene and COVID appropriate behaviour to contain the pandemic. Domestic travel now is fully open in India and domestic travel has shown strong recovery and India is now looking forward to a calibrated opening of international travel for tourists. in order to encourage international visitors, India has announced five lakh free visas for tourists till March 2022,” he shared.
To address the challenges arising out of the pandemic, Reddy said that India has proposed synergised efforts for sustainable recovery for travel and tourism to ensure its contribution for global economic recovery through BRICS alliance for green tourism. “It’s time to mainstream sustainability in tourism sector and align tourism towards achieving sustainable development goals by 2030. BRICS alliance for green tourism can catalyse action on many fronts, promoting greater use of renewable sources of energy, supporting businesses in green tourism, skilling our youth for new jobs and a renewed focus on nature, wildlife, eco and adventure tourism,” he stressed.
Highlighting the need for tourism cooperation between BRICS countries, Reddy said, “Each BRICS member country offers unique tourism products to encourage further growth of intra-BRICS tourism flow. It’s important that we all have a good understanding of each other’s tourism products and offerings. We must fully promote and market our rich tourism resources and attractions, ranging from historical and diverse culture and friendly people, combined with other activities such as conferences, business opportunities, etc. Each country can also make these products more accessible to the visitors from other member countries. There are common tourism products in BRICS countries, such as culture tourism, nature, wildlife, ecotourism, etc, which present an opportunity for greater cooperation and exchange of information and best practices. During this crisis, there is utmost need for member countries to come together to support recovery of travel and tourism, as well as strengthen cooperation in these areas of promoting responsible and sustainable tourism, investment in tourism infrastructure, close interaction between tourism enterprises and human resource development etc.”
Talking about the Ministers’ Communique in his closing remarks, Reddy proposed to adopt and recognise that BRICS alliance for green tourism. “This can accelerate action in mainstreaming sustainability and achieving sustainable development goals. I strongly believe that there is an immense scope for collaboration among the BRICS countries in the field of tourism. Our continued cooperation will help in strengthening our strategies for recovery of travel and tourism sector,” he suggested.
Addressing overtourism in India
Commenting on tourists flocking different domestic destinations and raising concerns of COVID and over-tourism, Reddy said that it is vital that tourists cooperate in controlling the spread by following protocols. “The state governments are responsible to control the spread, and they have been given advisories to follow COVID protocols. However, that cannot be done without the cooperation of the people and tourists. COVID protocols are simple to follow and tourists must make sure to avoid too much gathering. On behalf of Government of India, I would like to say that they need to learn from our recent experience of COVID and what we have seen in the past. If we want COVID to be out of India, the 1.3 billion people of the country must become warriors and volunteers to beat it. Of course, the Central Government, State Governments, district and local administrations have the responsibility and they are working on it, but people’s cooperation is needed to make it happen,” he said.
He added that although in our country the infrastructure is less, but compared to the rest of the world, we are better in many things and are doing good work. “Currently, the biggest vaccine drive is underway in our country. I would request tourists going to different destinations in the name of revenge tourism, to keep in mind their family, neighbourhood and society, and maintain protocols wherever they go,”
When asked about opening borders, he shared that till July 31, it has already been announced that international flights will not operate. “The Government doesn’t want to deliberately stop tourists, but we can’t put more lives at risk. When things get better, we will announce,” said Reddy.