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ITDC records 183 pc jump in profits

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, July 6: Mrs Ambika Soni's taking over as the Union Tourism Minister early this year has brought good luck to the Indian Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC). With the disinvestment a passé with the new Congress-led UPA Government, the Minister has been taking active interest in revival of the ITDC.

The result, the Public sector undertaking's overall profits in the first quarter of 2006-07 have shot up by whopping 183 per cent as compared to the corresponding period last year. The corporation not only offset a loss of Rs 4.83 crore but also achieved a profit of Rs 3.66 crore in the first quarter of this year; thus showing a rise in profits by Rs 8.04 crore.

The Hotels Division, a major activity of the Corporation, registered a hike in profit of 296 per cent compared to the first quarter of 2005-06. It recovered from a net loss of Rs 1.26 crore in the first quarter of previous fiscal to register a net profit of Rs 2.49 crore in the quarter under review, thus making a net profit of Rs 3.77 crore.

This quarter, the ITDC's Duty Free business recorded a net profit rise of 139 per cent as compared to last year. It reported a net profit of Rs 1.05 crore in the quarter as compared to a net loss of Rs 2.68 crore a year ago, thus making a net profit of Rs 3.75 crore.

The corporation is planning to revamp the image of its hotels division and has taken new initiatives ranging from free internet access in its hotels to renting laptops, gowns for lawyers and medical tests at unbelievable low prices to increase its business.

"ITDC would go for a major image change and would enhance its bouquet of services. The new services are in line with the corporation's strategy to capture a major chunk of the 2010 Commonwealth Games business," according to an ITDC spokesperson.

Keeping in mind the growing medical tourism in the country, ITDC has tied-up with various pathological labs to collect test samples of guests from its hotels. The lab reports of these tests would then be put on intranet for the guest by evening and reports delivered by next day. "We will charge a nominal fee from the guest for this additional service and are amongst the first in the world to extend such a unique facility to our guests," the spokesperson said.

IATO, DTDC to ensure alternative accommodation for C'wealth Games

NEW DELHI, July 3: IATO and Delhi Tourism development Corporation (DTDC) will explore the possibility of working together for regularization of guest houses in the unrecognized sector in Delhi and also implement the home stay scheme to meet acute shortage of accommodation for the visitors during the forthcoming Commonwealth Games.

Dr. Sanat Kaul, Chairman and Managing Director of DTDC welcomed the suggestion of working together to provide alternative accommodation to the visiting guests made by the IATO President, Mr. Subhash Goyal, in his welcome address at a recent meeting.

Mr. Goyal asserted that it would indeed be a "miracle" if the Government or private entrepreneurs were able to construct some 70 to 80 hotels in the three and four star category in the short period left for the games. The only pragmatic alternative, he said, was to regularize guest houses whose number is as high as 15,000 in the capital and also implement the home stay scheme supported by IATO.

He, however, made it clear that IATO could recommend only those guest houses which had the government's seal of approval so that its image is not tarnished by some unscrupulous elements engaged in this business.

Dr. Sanat Kaul said that it would be his endeavour to not only improve the ambience and quality of life in Delhi but to ensure that it no more remains a transit point but gets the status of a tourist destination.

Mr. Ashwani Lohani, Chairman and Managing Director, Madhya Pradesh State Tourism Development Corporation, who was also among the guest speakers, made an excellent presentation on the rich cultural heritage of Madhya Pradesh and some of its finest destinations.

He admitted at the outset that his state could not compete successfully with states like Kerala, Goa and Jammu & Kashmir in terms of tourism but asserted it had all the potential to become number one state. He also disclosed that a comprehensive tourism policy of the state Government would be soon announced. The state he said was engaged in improving infrastructure and rationalizing taxes.

Mr. Parvez Dewan, new Chairman and Managing Director of ITDC, disclosed that ITDC in its first quarter this year had turned a corner by earning 183 per cent higher revenue in the first quarter of this year as compared to the previous year when the corporation was in the red.

He also disclosed that ITDC had entered into a strategic agreement with Escorts under which the clients at ITDC would be given a health check-up in their own rooms for Rs. 3,000 (or USD 66 only). Besides ECG/BP tests, samples of their blood, urine etc would be collected and the report handed over to them within 24 hours.

Mr. Dewan said that sites were being spotted for more properties in the capital but hinted that all of them might not be in the public sector alone.

Earlier Mr. Ravi Kalra read out a report about the efforts being made by IATO in respect of 90 per cent abetment of service tax and other issues.

Inter-State luxury trains in the offing

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI: The Railways have called for inter-state cooperation and public-private partnership in the running of luxury trains like 'Palace on Wheels'. The popularity of the Palace on Wheels, run by Rajasthan Government, can be gauged from the fact that it is fully booked until 2010.

Addressing an IATO luncheon meeting here, the Director (Tourism), IRCTC, Mr. Rakesh Saxena, said that there was scope for running the second 'Palace on Wheels' and other such luxury trains. "The Railways were in touch with the state governments and more such trains were in the offing," he added.

But, Mr Saxena, suggested their operation should not be confined to one State only but extended to cover regional tourism circuits. There could also be public-private partnership in such ventures.

Responding to a plea made by the IATO President, Mr Subhash Goyal, that IATO members like (IATA Members), should also be allowed to sell railway tickets, Mr Saxena said that his Ministry would consider it if IATO forwarded a proposal interlaced with "adequate safeguards".

Mr Saxena also suggested that the Golden triangle (consisting of Delhi-Agra-Jaipur), on which the Palace on Wheels runs, could be extended to cover Khajarho and Varanasi which had great tourist appeal. "This will give further boost to tourism," he added.

Mr Saxena also pointed out that the Railways proposed to allot land for about 100 hotels at places of tourist and commercial interest. Mr Goyal had earlier in his introductory remarks pointed out the shortage of hotel rooms. Mr Saxena said the hotels would be run by the well-known hospitality chains and hoped that it would, to a large extent, meet the shortage of hotel rooms in the country.

Mr Goyal in his address also said that it was sad that the travel and tour operators, who were mainly responsible for the spectacular growth in the fields of aviation and tourism with their organizations like IATO spearheading a campaign for open sky policy and expanded infrastructure, were being given a rough deal. He was particularly critical of the introduction of service tax which he described as totally unjustified and discriminatory.

Two senior officers from the Tourism Ministry, Mr Amitabh Kant (Joint Secretary) and Mr Rajeev Talwar (Additional Director General) who were the guests of honour at the meeting, fully acknowledged the role of travel agents and tour operators in the promotion and marketing of India abroad, and assured IATO of their full support in backing its just demands.

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