New Delhi: India is attempting to liberalise visa procedures by adding nine countries to the the list of 11 nations whose citizens are entitled to the document on arrival, former southern star Chiranjeevi, who has been given independent charge of tourism as a minister of state, said on Friday. "We are trying to liberalize visa procedures by adding nine more countries to the existing 11 nations, visitors from which are given tourist visas on arrival," he said at a packed press conference in his office. "The proposal is under active consideration," he added.
Chiranjeevi, who looked confident in his new avatar despite his poor knowledge of Hindi, also said India has launched two new tourism campaigns the international "Find What You Seek" and the domestic "Go Beyond" - to attract new segments of foreign tourists to the country. "Till now, the government was promoting India from the destinations and products point of view internationally. The Incredible India campaigns which we launched in 2002 have been incredibly successful. In our Take II of Incredible India, we are going to focus on consumers. It reflects a very important paradigm shift in our strategy to promote India both within and abroad," he said.
The new campaigns were launched at the World Travel Market (WTM) in London on Nov 4-7, the minister said. India also won three awards for being "Asia's leading destination", "Asia leading tourist attraction - Taj Mahal" and "Asia's leading tourism board", the minister saud. Explaining the nature of the campaign, the minister said "Find What You Seek" will push foreign tourists to identify their "destination of delight" in India. "Let it be heritage sites, forts, beaches, backwaters, lakes, mountains, adventures, wildlife, culture, festivals, medical, wellness, MICE, religion or shopping, India offers something for everyone," he said.
Chiranjeevi said to encourage domestic tourism and promote lesser known destinations, the government has launched "Go Beyond" campaign. "This campaign focuses on promoting lesser-known destinations to domestic tourists. My ministry is committed to increase the range of destinations and provide good connectivity through synergy of efforts," Chiranjeevi said.
Citing figures, the minister said in 2011, India registered 6.31 million foreign tourist arrivals with an annual growth of 9.2 percent over the previous year. The foreign earnings from tourism during 2011 were $16.56 billion, registering a growth of 16.7 per cent over 2010. India's is ranked 38th in the world in terms of World Tourist Arrivals. The minister said he was keen to promote new rural tourism destinations as well. "India has such rich ethnic diversity and we want to make tourism in rural areas experiential," he said.
Chiranjeevi said he would try to promote India as a film tourism destination by attracting more foreign production houses to shoot in India. "This will draw international tourists. The infrastructure charges are so high that no one wants to shoot in India. I am talking to various ministers concerned to lower the cost of outdoor infrastructure. A park in Visakhapatnam charges Rs.50,000 for a movie shoot. That is expensive even for international companies," Chiranjeevi said.
The idea is to make a connect with tourists, the minister said. Chiranjeevi said that coinciding with the World Trade Market event, he also attended the UNWTO Minister's Summit to discuss "Open Borders and Open Skies: Breaking Barriers to Travel".