The Indian Ministry of Tourism is on a development spree under the regime of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, implementing and sanctioning as many as 25 projects worth INR 20.48 billion (304 million USD) under the Swadesh Darshan Scheme since its launch in January 2015.
Unperturbed by global threats such as terrorism or distorted economy, the tourism sector in India is setting ambitious goals to say the least. Aiming to accelerate domestic as well as international tourism in India, the tourism ministry launched the Swadesh Darshan Scheme with an objective to develop theme based tourist circuits in the country on the principles of high tourist value, competitiveness and sustainability, in an integrated manner.
Additionally, it also aims at synergizing efforts to focus on needs and concerns of all stakeholders to enrich tourist experience and enhance employment opportunities in the country. With an annual growth of around 10 pc of the tourism market, the country is expecting to attract over 13 million foreign tourists by 2020.
13 Theme circuits
Under the Swadesh Darshan Scheme, thirteen unique themes are identified and programmed for development by the ministry. These includes the North-East India circuit, Buddhist circuit, Himalayan circuit, coastal circuit, Krishna circuit, Desert circuit, Tribal circuit, Eco circuit, wildlife circuit, rural circuit, spiritual Circuit, Ramayana circuit and heritage circuit. 21 states and Union Territories have received a positive feedback on 25 different projects and rigorous work is underway.
The Swadesh Darshan Scheme aims to position tourism as a major engine of economic growth and job creation by promoting India as a global brand and a world class tourist destination. The ministry aims to develop world class infrastructure in various circuits and showcase full potential of the wide range of unique tourism products India can offer. Most importantly, the ministry intends to build a responsible tourism initiative with the active participation of local communities in a sustainable and inclusive manner.
France, China, South Africa to help enhance eco-tourism
The ministry of tourism is strongly endorsing the eco-circuit in the Swadesh Darshan scheme with Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed with ten nations taking the tally to 44 countries on various sustainable tourism projects. France, China, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and South Africa (awaiting Cabinet approval) are some of the major countries who signed a bilateral agreement to enhance eco-tourism in India.
Primarily targeting the eco-tourism around fresh water lakes, the tourism industry stakeholders in India will be strictly guided by a comprehensive sustainable tourism criteria evolved by the tourism ministry. New frontiers such as adventure sports, development of lakes, beaches, water bodies, forests and aquatic eco-systems are treated on a high priority basis.
India ranks 40 globally
According to the UNWTO Tourism Barometer (Volume 14, May 2016), India is placed at the 40th spot in terms of global tourists footfall. Although the number of foreign tourists to various states and union territories during 2015 has seen a growth of around 4.5 pc, there is still a huge window for improvement in the tourism sector.
Albeit, the steep growth in the international tourism numbers encouraged by e-tourist visa, the ministry of tourism currently have no plans of waiving the tourist visa fees. The information given by Dr. Mahesh Sharma, Minister of State for Tourism and Culture in a written reply in Lok Sabha last day states that “There is a broad discussion underway for overall liberalization in the existing visa policy so as to enhance the ease of travel of foreign tourists to India.”