Tourists who used to go to China may consider India as a safer option, Union Tourism Minister Prahlad Singh Patel said on Monday and noted that the target is to double the number of foreign tourists in the next five years.
Replying to the debate on the demands for grants of Tourism ministry in Lok Sabha, Patel also said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the brand ambassador of India's tourism, and the footfalls in Mahabalipuram had gone up 42 per cent after he visited the place when he hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping.
"From the time I became the tourism minister, I see if there is any brand ambassador, it is the country's prime minister," he said.
He also referred to Modi's visit to Kedarnath.
Referring to the situation created by the spread of coronavirus, Patel said that it can be a matter of pride that "we brought Indian nationals from there" when people were afraid of going to the place.
"This faith will prove to be a blessing for India's tourism. We brought our nationals from Iran and when we give a guarantee to keep them safe, we give a guarantee that India is safe," he said.
The minister also said that those who used to go to China, they may perhaps consider India a safer nation.
"We are not seeing a gain in this but we should prepare from that point of view. For this, everyone has to work together," he said.
Patel said that tourism needs peace and while money has its role, more important is perception. "Tourists will go the place where there is peace," he added.
The minister also said that 10.89 million tourists came to the country in 2019 and India earned foreign exchange of Rs 2,10,981 crore. Domestic tourists numbered 1854.9 million, he said.
Patel said that India ranked 65th in 2014 and was now on 34th position. "We have made a big leap and our journey is to be number one in the next five years," he stated.
The minister also said that if a tourist place attracts more than one lakh tourists from a country whose residents are not comfortable with Hindi or English, the government will put signages in their language.
The House passed the demands for grants of the ministry by a voice vote.