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New Delhi, September 23, 2013: Dr K Chiranjeevi, Minister of State with Independent Charge for Tourism, Government of India, has assured complete support to the hospitality industry to mitigate the current challenges it faces in terms of taxation, approvals, etc. Inaugurating the 48th Annual Convention of Federation of Hotel and Restaurant Associations of India (FHRAI) in Kochi, Kerala, Dr Chiranjeevi said that his Ministry was aware of the bottlenecks and has already stepped up activities to address the same. He said that there was a shortage of hotel rooms, especially in the mid-scale segment in India. Emphasising the significance of the segment, he said that it would drive more investments in the hotel sector in the coming years.

As part of improving tourism infrastructure in the country, Dr Chiranjeevi said that the Ministry of Tourism (MoT), Government of India has already approved 29 Mega Tourism Projects across 22 states. He informed that the government was keen to involve the private sector through the Public Private Partnership (PPP) model of development. The Minister added that MoT was currently looking to develop tourism offerings in segments like Sports, Adventure, Cruise, Pilgrim, Medical and Wellness. He appreciated Kerala Tourism’s proactiveness in leveraging maximum financial assistance from the Union Ministry for tourism-related development.

In his keynote speech, Sitaram Yechury, Member of Parliament and Chairman, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Tourism, Culture, and Transport, said that India’s tourism potential has remained “under-utilised”. Criticising the way stakeholders were competing “to sell” tourism products, he said that the industry should rather attempt to “evoke curiosity” about the destination in the minds of people and develop infrastructure to draw visitors. He questioned the rationale of the government spending crores of rupees for overseas marketing, and on the other hand not doing enough to attract people to India.

Lauding the Kerala model of inclusive tourism, Yechury said that “a good place to visit should be a good place for local people to live in”. “Tourism should be part of a holistic development and not isolated islands,” he stated.

Speaking on the occasion, A P Anilkumar, Minister for Tourism, Government of Kerala, said that Responsible Tourism initiatives pursued by the state has helped build a “tourism culture”. He said that there has been considerable change in the attitude of people towards tourism. They understand the benefits of tourism to the society in terms of employment generation and raising standard of living, he added. Kerala has spent over Rs 500 crore for tourism development in the last two years, Anilkumar informed. Talking about the recently launched seaplane service, the State Tourism Minister said that regular services of seaplanes will commence after monsoon.

Addressing the delegates at the Convention, Vivek Nair, President, FHRAI, urged the Central and state governments to evolve a “holistic development framework” for tourism in India so that the country can grow to its potential. While stressing on the need for improving the existing tourism products, Nair appealed to the governments to relax restrictions imposed as part of the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms, prohibiting tourism development at beach destinations. He said that the relaxation would help coastal states to leverage the potential of Beach Tourism. He also urged for improved synergies between various agencies at the Central and state levels to take the tourism growth story forward.

Jose Dominic, Chairman, FHRAI Convention Organising Committee, speaking eloquently about Kerala’s strides in the tourism sector, said that the growth the state has achieved in the sector “was nothing short of a miracle”. He said that tourism development in Kerala was not because of a large inflow of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), but because of the passion of the local entrepreneurs. He said that Responsible Tourism in Kerala was no more a “niche” concept, but part of the “mainstream”.

The 48th Annual Convention of FHRAI is being conducted at Le Meridien Resort & Convention Centre, Kochi from September 18-21. - hospitalitybizindia.com

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