Thursday, April 16, 2009

FICCI Suggests Easy Visa for 2010 CWG Tourists

FICCI Suggests Easy Visa for 2010 CWG TouristsIn order to reach the target of 10 million foreign tourists by 2010, India needs to focus on a visa strategy, tourists' security and upgradation of infrastructure, industry body Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry(FICCI) has said. In its 13-point agenda, it pointed out that efforts needed to be made to refashion India's image as a safe and secure destination.

Amongst the measures recommended by FICCI are marketing India as a safe destination with tourists being offered adequate security with an active tourist police.

The industry body has underlined the need for visitors to be reassured that India has remained incident free and those areas where any untoward incidents had taken place were "bouncing back" like any other destination in the world.

Need to train personnel and stop untrained con artists, taxi drivers working as tour guides was also a priority. "Tour guides must have proper training, good language and a badge to identify them as approved tour guides," a document released by FICCI said.

Industry has also spoken about targeting short haul distances with economical innovative packages and projecting India as a value for money destination.

Lack of infrastructure like hotels has been the weak link, particularly in the NCR region. India is short by 100,000 rooms while Delhi needs 30,000 rooms ahead of the 2010 Commonwealth Games. There are 90,000 approved rooms in India whereas Beijing alone has 80,000 rooms. Investing in tourism infrastructure by identifying hotel sites, developing guidelines to ease land prices so that more hotel rooms are available in India, especially in the budget category, must be done on priority, FICCI said.

There was also a need to improve civic amenities through the public private partnership model. FICCI recommended that the urban development ministry must identify at least two model cities (tourist centres) as part of a pilot project to boost tourism and development.

It also listed modernisation and upgradation of airport infrastructure and providing 50-60 international gateways as urgent issues.

A long standing demand of the industry has been rationalisation of direct and indirect taxes like road taxes on tourist vehicles, luxury tax on hotels, VAT on food and beverages and sales tax on ATF.

Another recommendation was to develop a visa strategy such as issuing electronic visas, visa free entry for certain target countries and visa on arrival.