India will soon unveil steps to tap cruise tourism in a big way along its 7,500 km-long coastline and is trying to address the issues of cleanliness, connectivity and security to improve the country's image in global tourism market, a senior minister has said.
"Tourism ministry along with Surface and Waterways ministry are taking cruise tourism in a big way," Culture and Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma, who was here to officially launch the 10-week festival "Confluence: Festival of India" for Australian cities, said.
"At present, we are sharing a very less share of cruise tourism of one per cent. We have 7,500 kms of coastal belt with us and both the ministries have a joint group headed by secretary tourism. Very soon we are going to define the path of how to take cruise tourism in a big way," Sharma said, adding that this sector will also include cruise tourism to Australia.
The issue of developing cruise tourism with Australia was raised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Australian government and top industry leaders in Melbourne during his first official visit in 2014.
Sharma said the government was also seriously looking at and addressing the four main issues of cleanliness, hospitality, connectivity and the safety and security to improve the India's image in global tourism market.
"We have launched the helpline which is in 12 languages. We have deployed tourist police, tourist friends and retired volunteers in all tourist destinations," Sharma added.
The regional connectivity and the new aviation policy launched two months ago will also further help tourism sector, he said, adding that the Tourism Ministry along with Railway Ministry was also launching special tourist coaches for international visitors.
"For example there is a Banaras bound train, there will be a tourist coach in that and priority will be given to an international visitor," Sharma said.
"In World Economic Forum, we were ranked 65th, now we are 52 which is a up jump of 13 points, we are not lagging behind," he said.
On Monday, the minister also met his Australian counterpart Richard Colbeckto discuss the areas of cooperation to increase the flow of tourists both ways.
"There is already a cultural exchange programme between the two sides but we are looking at what else can be done," Sharma said.
An MoU inked during the 2014 Modi's visit is being followed and has resulted in big projects like 'Festival of India' in Australia and Oz Fest in India, he said.
The inflow of tourists into India from Australia and vice a versastood at almost same at over 230,000 tourists.
According to Sharma, India was dealing with the law and order problems in several states and that was being looked at carefully by the centre.
"It becomes duty of that government to ensure safety and security of their nationals," Sharma said adding, "you have to take certain measures".
"We also give advisories or precautions to our states and to our tourists like every other country depending upon their conditions."
Last week, Australia updated its travel advisory asking it citizens to reconsider their need to travel to Assam state and to exercise a high degree of caution in India overall."
Stating that the Australian government's advisory was nothing different, Indian High Commissioner Navdeep Suri stressed "most western governments were following a very conservative approach in terms of issuing travel updates".
"They don't want to take the risk," Suri said while urging to compare similar advisories which have been issued for other countries including France.
However,Suri said that when compared with China,the Australian advisory level was different as unlike India, China has not been subjected to terrorist attacks.
"For India it is for different factors," Suri said.