A new tourism policy has been in the works for a long time, what progress has been made on it?
Once our advisory board is set up, we want to hold a brainstorming session to discuss everything threadbare before finalising anything. Agendas change from time to time. For instance, adventure tourism has changed. This was an area neither formally part of tourism, nor of sports. Over 120 peaks were thrown open for adventure tourism and we need security norms in place as well as infrastructural support. I feel the entire process is likely to take up to a year to complete.
Do you think it is time now for India to set up a tourism marketing board, which takes a 360 degree view of promoting India in the domestic market and abroad?
I believe India has everything that the world does not have — biodiversity, heritage and culture. Despite this, if people dont come, we need to have a transparent mechanism to understand why they dont come to India. I started to engage with people on Twitter to understand this and people told me to expect criticism. But in eight months, I have not faced criticism. We resolved hoteliers concerns over high GST rates, duration for e-visa increased and new peaks were opened. As far as marketing is concerned, I dont think we need a separate board.
The US is among countries to have issued a travel advisory as India witnesses protests over CAA and NRC. How is the government planning to manage the negative perception?
I believe this is the result of a planned conspiracy against us. We can improve perception when we are at fault. But if outside forces are conspiring against us to malign our image, we need to consider this carefully. I believe they (those issuing advisories) have not seen India. Leh-Ladakh bore the brunt of this advisory even though it is a separate Union Territory and there was no violence there. The advisory belatedly mentioned Leh was a separate region. I also want to point out that there is a lot of misinformation about the internet clampdown in Kashmir. The only thing stopped is mobile internet, which terrorists can use. Outside, though, the perception is that everything is in abeyance.
What about the northeast? Travel operators said tourist footfalls have dipped in the northeast due to protests over CAA-NRC and in Kashmir after the Article 370 decision.
Northeast is fine. We even held the ITM in Imphal (November 2019). It is wrong to say that abrogation of J&Ks special status under Article 370 had anything to do with this. I do not agree with this.
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