Tourism Ministers Moot Regional Tourism Councils
Union Minister of State for Tourism and Culture (I/C) exhorted heads of various State tourism departments to work in close cooperation to promote tourism
Stressing the importance of collaborative competition among States, Union Minister of State (I/C) for Tourism and Culture Prahlad Singh Patel has exhorted heads of various State tourism departments to work in close cooperation to promote tourism in the country. The Minister was speaking at the Tourism Ministers’ Conclave 2019 organised by Kerala Tourism at Hotel Leela Raviz Kovalam.
Patting Kerala for taking an initiative like this, Minister Patel said such a conclave would help in learning and understanding from one another’s experiences. “I don’t envision Centre and States as separate entities. Also, all the stakeholders should sit together to establish communication, be it a tour operator or a hotel owner or a driver,” he said.
“We must think that we are not in competition with each other; our competition is with other countries. If we sit together frequently, we will be able to learn from each other as tourism is a catalyst for all industries. The need to change our perception is more important than money,” he added.
Minister Patel said the Centre’s approach is that tourism should develop in all parts of the country whether it’s Ladakh, Goa, Kerala or North-East. “I want to emphasise that one particular paradigm can’t be applicable to all the States. The uniqueness of each and every State has to be leveraged to promote tourism. We have to also think about one nation one tax. There is also the issue of transport tax. All States should evolve a consensus to streamline it,” he added.
Pinarayi Vijayan, Kerala Chief Minister, who inaugurated the Conclave made a strong pitch for reduction in GST rates on hotel rooms, elimination of disparity in inter-State taxes on tourism vehicles and introduction of affordable airfares to expedite growth of tourism in the country.
“Tourism industry is faced with some serious challenges. These include high tax rates, lack of sufficient air connectivity and disparity in inter-State taxes. There is also an urgent need to rationalize taxes across all States and establish a mechanism to address the frequent hike in airfares,” he said, adding that it is important to have periodic exchange of ideas and interactions among States to address challenges impeding the growth of tourism in the country.
Kadakampally Surendran, Kerala Tourism Minister, said collective efforts are required to overcome challenges impacting the growth of revenue and job-generating tourism sector.
Krishnakumar Rishi, Bihar Tourism Minister; C T Ravi, Karnataka Tourism Minister; Jyoti Prakash Panigrahi, Odisha Tourism Minister and H Khehovi Yeputhomi, Advisor-in-Charge of Department of Tourism, Art and Culture, Nagaland were present.
Regional Tourism Councils
The Tourism Ministers’ Conclave 2019 has proposed formation of Regional Tourism Councils and developing tourism circuits, which can be region-based and involving neighbouring States. “We resolve to jointly promote our tourist attractions across the world in order to give a cutting edge to our campaigns,” it said. The resolution, moved by Minister Jyoti Prakash Panigrahi said setting up of Regional Tourism Councils will facilitate periodic interaction among different States and enhance collaboration.
The delegates made a strong case for reduction, simplification and rationalization of various taxes and levies, including GST, in tourism and travel industry to attract tourists and cushion the impact of stiff global competition. The resolution, moved by Minister C T Ravi said reduction in GST on hotel rooms was essential to attract more tourists.
The resolution also sought measures to reduce high airfares which resulted in tough competition from other global destinations. “We express concern over the high airfares during peak season and festival periods, which are forcing holiday-makers to opt for economical destinations. Besides, unexpected closure of certain airlines/carriers has led to increased airfares while minimal air connectivity with Tier II and Tier III cities has only compounded the problem,” it stated.
The Conclave also took note of the high and varied inter-State tourist vehicle taxes and called for its rationalization across all the States to ensure seamless travel.
The deliberations at the Conclave focused on three major topics: ‘Best practices in Sustainable Tourism’; ‘Challenges faced by Tourism Industry’; and ‘Branding and Promotion of State Tourism Boards’.
P Sreeramakrishnan, Speaker, Kerala Legislative Assembly; M Vijayakumar, Chairman, Kerala Tourism Development Corporation; Rani George IAS, Secretary, Tourism and Culture; and P Bala Kiran IAS, Director, Tourism, attended the event.