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India launches new campaign to attract foreign tourists

BERLIN, March 16: In an effort to reverse the decline in international tourist arrivals in the country after Mumbai terror attacks, India has launched a new tourism promotion campaign to woo the foreign visitors.

The new campaign 'Visit India Year 2009' has been launched at the current International Tourism Exchange in Berlin to present the country as an attractive destination for the holidaymakers.

The campaign is a joint initiative by the government and the tourism industry to win back international visitors who have stayed away since the terror attacks in Mumbai last November, said Secretary for Tourism Sujit Banerjee, who launched the campaign at a conference of international media and travel trade representatives.

India's tourism industry has to cope with global terrorism and global economic downturn, which are threatening to put a break this year on a decade of phenomenal growth in international arrivals, driven by the successful 'Incredible India' marketing campaign and steady improvements in the tourism infrastructure, Banerjee told a news agency.

International tourist arrivals in India continued to grow last year even after the financial crisis began to unfold in some major tourism markets such as the United States and Britain, but the Mumbai attacks dealt a severe blow to foreign tourist travelling to the country, he said.

International arrivals have been falling since November and this trend gained momentum this year, Banerjee said.

"Therefore, the government has joined hands with leading airlines, hoteliers, holiday resorts and tour operators in this ambitious marketing campaign to bring back foreign tourists by offering them a wide range of incentives and bonuses during the period between April and December, 2009."

According to the estimates of the India Tourism Office, international tourist arrivals in India slumped to around 5.6 percent in 2008 to 5.37 million visitors after averaging 10 percent up to September. Their number dropped to more than 17 percent in January, 2009.

The decline in international tourist arrivals comes after India achieved a 14.3 percent growth with arrival of 5.08 million tourists in 2007. A similar growth was registered in 2006 when over 4.45 million foreigners visited the country.

Between 2003 and 2007, the number of international arrivals in India went up from 3.09 million to 5.37 million.

The airlines participating in the campaign, Air India, Jet Airways and Kingfisher Airlines will offer a "companion free ticket" for every ticket purchased for international and domestic flights. Connecting flights to the departing airports are included in the final travel costs.

The Indian Travel Agents' Association (IATO) offers holiday-makers a free sightseeing tour in a city of their choice.

Govt ignores Tourism sector in revival package

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Dec 4: A Committee headed by Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, has announced several financial incentives to revive the slowdown in the industries due to global economic meltdown.

However, tourism sector which contributes to national economy & major source of foreign exchange to our country has been ignored. Tourism is negatively impacted due to economic slowdown and recent terrorist attacks and there is over 30 per cent downturn.

‘Tourism need more support now with tax concessions to boost the slump in business’, says Mr Vijay Thakur, President, Indian Association 0f Tour Operators (IATO).

We have written to our Minister to take up our cause for inclusion in the government's package programme to revive industry and provide industry’s status with all incentives given to Export Industry, added Mr Thakur.

IATO seeks relief for tour operators

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Nov 20: Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO) President Vijay Thakur has urged the Tourism Ministry to provide relief to tour operators in the light of slump in the tourism sector due to global economic recession.

He was speaking at a meeting called by Secretary (Tourism), Mr. Sujit Banerjee to discuss about the measures need to be taken to meet the challenges being faced by the tourism sector due to global economic recession.

“As Tourism sector is experiencing a slump this year due to global economic recession, so we pleaded to Secretary (Tourism) for some relief measures on a top priority basis to boost morale of the tour operators” said Vijay Thakur.

The IATO proposal pleads for issuing of tourist visa on complimentary basis or issue visas valid for two years instead of the current six months. This will encourage more tourists to visit India.

He said the tax component was very high in India. To make India a choice destination the package cost should be brought down to the maximum possible to make it competitive with South East Asian Countries.

The tax component on Tourism sector accounts for 52% including 43% local & state taxes and fees in India against 12 to 18% in other countries. The decline in industrial growth and levy of fringe benefit tax had added misery to tourism sector with tourists preferring to avoid travel to India” said Thakur.

“In our presentation, we have focused on issues related to high hotel tariff and more fiscal support to tour operators for participation in international tourism expo like I.T.B., FITUR, ATM etc. by granting higher outlays under MDA Scheme of the Ministry of Tourism. Reduction in ASI monuments entry fee, rationalization of road taxes, withdrawal of luxury tax were other points raised” added Arjun Sharma, Senior Vice President, IATO.

Secretary (Tourism) had assured us to give his full support and he would take up the matter with the concerned authorities and whatever needs to be done in the department, he will look into the suggestions and do within the rules applicable.

This initiative of the Secretary (Tourism) has been well appreciated by the Industry.

IATO convention to focus on ‘Managing Growth’

By Deepak Arora & pix By Noyanika Arora

NEW DELHI: The theme of the 24th annual convention of the Indian Association of Tour Operators will be “Managing Growth”, according to Vijay Thakur, President of IATO. The four-day convention will be held at Hotel Swosti Plaza at Bhubaneswar in Orissa from August 7.

Explaining the rationale behind the theme, Chairman of the Convention Arjun Sharma said that there was no doubt the growth of the tourism sector will continue to happen. “We will grow from 5 million international tourist arrivals to 10 million tourists. The growth in the inbound sector is continuing with 12.4 per cent and the foreign exchange earnings have shown 29 per cent increase. What is important is the key to sustain the growth. And this will depend on how sensibly we manage the growth by creating better tourism infrastructure, building new products, niche segments and trained manpower.”

Sharma said “Incredible India campaign has enabled India to reach global market but ground reality, which tourists face on arrival, is very discouraging. We must recommend to the Government to have a very selective approach with best 20 destinations to attract overseas tourists with all infrastructures at place.”

“While efforts are being made to create better infrastructure, shortage of land is the biggest challenge faced by the industry and incentives are very limited. In fact, leisure tourists are now avoiding India as rising room rates are beyond their reach. Hotel rates are increasing to such extent that even high end tourists feel the pinch and facilities do not match the prices,” said Vijay Thakur.

Arun Anand, Vice President said “Apart form that, there is a shortage of manpower, which is a real bottleneck so these are real management issues now along with emergent issues like global warming, e-commerce etc.”

Arjun Sharma said the Business Sessions would be focused on these issues and several experts have been invited for addressing the delegates. “Details are being worked out and preliminary contacts have been made with the speakers. We want these sessions to be very interactive.”

This will be for the first time that in IATO, all registrations for the convention will be online to be Eco-friendly and carbon light. Orissa as a host state has assured its full cooperation and formed a strong partnership with the industry, said Mr. Lally Mathews, Treasurer of IATO.

Through the convention, IATO aims to provide a common platform to work closely with all government ministries and service providers in the private sector. IATO has also worked out special cultural events so that delegates can unwind at leisurely pace after hard days work. There will be exciting door prizes at each business sessions for participants, added Rajesh Mudgill, Co-Chairman of the Convention.

The important segment of the convention will be the usual tourism fair; where in states will showcase their products, marketing innovation competition and states presentations. Post convention tours have been worked out for the delegates to explore Orissa, said Rajesh Mudgill.

Zero commission to travel agents deferred by a month

MUMBAI, Aug 4: The country’s top three air carriers — National Aviation Company of India Ltd (NACIL), Jet Airways and Kingfisher Airlines — have jointly deferred cutting travel agents’ commission from the existing 5 per cent to nil by one month. However, agents say that it doesn’t make a difference.

“They made a presentation to us and therefore we have agreed to defer cutting the commission by a month,” said a NACIL spokesperson.

Shahrukh Kapadia, managing committee member of Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI), said: “After giving all the reasons why zero commission is not a good idea and highlighting that the airlines’ were not well prepared to accept a new system, all they do is defer it by a month.”

In June this year, the airlines had informed agents of the cut and had fixed the effective date of October 1 for the change in the six-decade-old system.

India aggressively tapping MICE tourism market

NEW DELHI, Aug 6: India is tapping the MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) tourism market aggressively with enquiries increasing over 50 percent last year, Union Tourism Secretary S Banerjee has said.

It was estimated that the total world market for MICE tourism was in excess of USD 280 billion. Of this, the share of Asia-Pacific region alone was USD 60 billion and India accounted for USD 4.8 billion which was less than 2 percent of the world market, he said.

Hyderabad, he said, has positioned itself in the forefront in this effort and would be hosting the prestigious PATA travel mart in September this year.

The advantage of promoting MICE tourism was enormous as it was estimated that each delegate to a conference on an average spent 2.5 to 4 times more than the leisure traveller, he said, adding, that there was scope for existing hotels and resorts to position themselves effectively as MICE destinations.

Banerjee, while speaking at a programme on tourism in Kolkata on Tuesday, said that the ministry of tourism has initiated the development of mega destinations and circuits with investment of Rs 25 crore for each mega destination and Rs 50 crore for circuits.

The identification of mega destination and circuits was a continuous process on the basis of surveys, footfalls and projected trends, he said.

So far, 22 mega projects were identified, of which 10 were mega circuits, including the Ganga heritage circuits in West Bengal under which the entire stretch of the banks of the river Ganga would be developed.

ShangriLa New Delhi celebrates Synergy

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, June 2: It was a fun-filled evening of “Synergy” at the ShangriLa hotel, New Delhi. Besides fun, some great music and dance, the evening – to mark the third anniversary of ShangriLa’s corporate marketing initiative programme called “Synergy” -- had its share of games, lucky draws and great prizes.

The prizes included about 15 internationals hotel stays at Shangri-La hotels and resorts worldwide, consumer durable products and much more.

The night also saw a phenomenal performance by Sandhya Mridual, the pop star, Nitin Bali, rendering their popular numbers like neele neele ambar par and many more bollywood songs.

The “Synergy” programme has been designed exclusively to recognize and reward corporate travel planners for patronizing Shangri-La Hotel, New Delhi. Over 800 members from corporate houses participated in the evening.

“We have close to 1000 members already enrolled for the programme from various cities and representation from renowned corporate entities, multinational corporations, diplomatic mission and Indian conglomerates. The benefit related program works on a simple premise of ‘Rewarding for Patronizing’. The benefits are extended to people who may not be using the end product but recognize our product and services,” said Andrew Steele, General Manager, Shangri-La hotel, New Delhi.

The program brings amazing benefits and redemptions like exquisite leather products, cell phones, home appliances, washing machines, laptops, home theater, and other consumer durable products for your everyday use, free holidays and much more!

“Synergy” allow you to earn points by simply booking your corporate clients at Shangri-La Hotel, New Delhi, based on the category of room booked and every materialized room night.

“The accumulated points then can be redeemed for a range of exciting rewards either at regular intervals or at the end of the membership which is renewable every year.”

“We render its popularity to the unstinted support and the confidence of our synergy partners in our product and service,” added Andrew Steele.

Some of the prize winners included Reema Uppal, Pawan Kapoor, Kaushki Sharma, Dolly Singh and Jagdish Lal.

India opens first tourism office in China

BEIJING, April 7: India launched its first tourism office in China and announced Buddhism as a key part of its aggressive strategy to woo more Chinese tourists which will further enhance people to people contact between the two Asian giants.

"Buddhism would be one of the principal attractions" in promoting India as a tourism destination as far as China is concerned, Union Tourism Minister Ambika Soni said at the opening ceremony in Beijing on Monday.

China has "enormous potential" in tourism sector, she said, adding "affordable packages" will be introduced to attract Chinese tourists to India.

The Minister asked the tour operators, travel agents and airlines representatives to increase the volume of traffic between the two countries.

Around 68,000 Chinese tourists visited India in the last year out of total 40 million international travellers from the country, while more than 4.5 lakh Indian tourists visited the neighbouring country.

Special luxury trains to Buddhist sites will be introduced and lesser-known tourist spots will be promoted by the government, she said.

The Office, opened in line with the agreed plan of action for India-China Friendship Year Celebrations during 2007, will be headed by acting Director R S Meena.

Pointing out that rising land costs in India makes investment in the sector difficult, she said: "Centre has written to the state governments to identify their tourism potential so that those can be utilised properly."

Government has decided to promote India as a "short haul" tourist destination and 20 places will be identified for the purpose, Soni mentioned.

Tourism may play as "great bridge" between two nations which can boost bilateral relationship, Indian envoy to the country Nirupama Rao said on the occasion.

As a part of promotional campaign, week-long Indian food festival will commence from April 8.

The Indian style Buddhist temple in Luoyang in Chinas Henan province was expected to be ready by June, Rao said.

The structure with an Indian hall inside the 1,900 year old White Horse Temple is being funded by the India as part of a religious and cultural exchange agreement signed between the two countries in 2005, officials said.

Several promotional events are also being organised in the country, including a week-long Indian food festival that will start from 8th April in Chinas economic hub, Shanghai.

Government has decided to make its promotional website available in Chinese.

The minister also inaugurated a photo exhibition by Chinese photographer Rita Zhao, named "My Discovery of India."

Tourism Industry disappointed with Union Budget

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Feb 29: The tourism industry has expressed its disappointment over the Union Budget 2008-09. The captain of the industry said Finance Minister P Chidambram has neither lowered the high service tax nor has acceded to the request for including hotel industry in the infrastructure list along with the airports.

IATO President Vijay ThakurPresident of Indian Association of Tour Operators Vijay Thakur said the high service tax reduces the competitive advantage of India destination vis-à-vis the neighbouring countries like Thailand, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong that offer relatively cheaper packages.

“It is so as these nations do not have to pay the doses of taxes which tourists are required to pay in India in addition to service tax like luxury tax, VAT on meals, high monuments entry fee and high road tax,” added Thakur.

He said the position has further been aggravated with the rupee appreciation against US dollar, which brought down the earnings in the tourism business between 12 to 15 per cent.

The IATO President once against requested the Finance Minister for extending all such exemptions/concessions which are being extended to export industries.

Vijay Thakur mentioned that tourism has been contributing 5.8 per cent to the national GDP and the major contributor for creation of jobs but tourism has been sidelined in the present budget. Even simple request of restoration of Section 80HHD of Income Tax Act and withdrawal of FBT which mainly covers administrative cost to save the industry has not received any merit in the budget.

FHRAI Secretary Vivek NairExpressing his major disappointment over the Budget, Honorary Secretary, Federation of Hotel & Restaurant Associations of India (FHRAI) Vivek Nair said “the Finance Minister has not acceded to our request that the hotel industry be included in the Infrastructure list along with airports so that the various benefits as available for Infrastructure projects would be available to the sector.”

Recently, he said the Reserve Bank of India discontinued granting permission to Hotel companies availing of ECBs/ FCCBs as they were not included in the Infrastructure list.

Given the huge shortage of Hotel rooms existing in the country and the need to add at least 100,000 guest-rooms in the next three years if the target of 10 million tourists by the year 2010 is to be achieved, Nair, who is also Vice Chairman & Managing Director, The Leela Palaces, Hotels & Resorts, said the conferring of Infrastructure status would have given the necessary fillip to the Hotel Industry.

In fact, the FHRAI Secretary said the request that the benefit given in the last year’s Finance Act under Section 80-ID of a tax-holiday for 2, 3 & 4-star hotels being set up in the National Capital region of Delhi and surrounding areas in time for the Commonwealth Games 2010 be extended to all category of Hotels throughout the country, has also not been acceded to.

“This benefit would have given the Hotel Industry an opportunity to re-invest back for the development of new hotels,” he added.

FHRAI Secretary General Harish SudSecretary General FHRAI Harish Sud and IATO’s Vijay Thakur, however, welcomed the Finance Minister’s proposal to extend a tax-holiday to 2/ 3 & 4-star hotels for 5 years being developed in areas which have UNESCO declared sites.

Sud and Thakur said “this would give an impetus to cultural tourism as most of these destinations have inadequate Hotel Infrastructure.

Thakur said the exemption of FBT to guest houses was also quite supportive to meet the growing need of accommodation in the country.

However, Sud said “we estimate a maximum of about 30 hotels with about 3,000 guest-rooms would be built which would be able to avail of this benefit and thus this proposal would only cover 3 per cent of the total of 100,000 guest-rooms which are required to be made operational if the present demand-supply mismatch is to be mitigated.

An investment of Rs. 40,000 crores is estimated to be required for such an additional room inventory to be created in the next three years which appears to be well-nigh impossible to achieve and thus the present mismatch of demand-supply is expected to continue, added Nair.

Thakur said Tiger Reserves were the country’s rich wildlife heritage and foreign tourists find our tiger reserves a major attraction. “One time grant of Rs 50 crore to the National Tiger Conservation Authority to protect the tigers would encourage wildlife tourism to the country,” he added.

Tourism industry seeks tax concessions

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Feb 26: India’s premier travel and tourism and hotel associations have urged the Finance Minister to extend concessions to the industry to make it more attractive and competitive in the world.

In a memorandum to the Finance Minister, Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO) has sought input credit, exemption from fringe benefit tax, reduction in excise duty and sales tax on Aviation Turbine Fuel (ATF), extension of the benefits of section 80 HHD to the tourism industry, rationalization of luxury tax at 5 per cent.

In a pre-budget proposal to the Finance Minister, the Federation of Hotel and Restaurants Association of India (FHRAI) has sought grant of infrastructure status to the hotel industry under Section 80-IA, increase in Floor Area Ratio (FAR) applicable to Hotels in Delhi and NCR, which is currently at 150, and extension of Section 80 1D to include 4-star, 5-star and 5-star deluxe hotels throughout India.

Vijay ThakurIATO President Vijay Thakur said “Indian Rupee has appreciated by almost 15 per cent in the past one year and all the export industries got very badly affected due to the falling US Dollar rates. Inbound tourism sector, which is represented by IATO is also in the nature of export of services wherein the only difference is that the services by tour operators are being provided to foreign nationals within India against 100 per cent foreign exchange. The tour operators sign contract with foreign operators 18 months to one year in advance in US Dollar terms. “

Thakur said the impact got further aggravated due to the input service providers like hotels, airlines, guides, monuments entrance fee moving from dollar to rupee tariff and converting at much higher conversion rates than the prevailing market rates.

In fact, he said medium and smaller tour operators have been hit maximum due to their inability to hedge the margin and these constitutes the maximum number of tour operators.

Thakur said “we seek the same concessions as are being extended to other export industries by the government to protect them from the appreciation of rupee against dollar. We are pleading to the government to provide exemption from service tax charged to foreign nationals, allow cenvat credit to input services, remove FBT on promotional work, revive 80 HHD of income tax, which boost reinvestment of the tax savings by the tour operators and also some financial assistance for tour operators participating in overseas promotions being made by Ministry of Tourism.”

“All these will make our packages competitive otherwise we are being made over priced product and losing business to our competitor,” added IATO President.

Thakur further added that members were making loss of 10 to 15 per cent, thus finding it difficult to sustain their business and staff.

Harish Sud FHRAI Secretary General Harish Sud has urged the Finance Minister to include hotels in the list of infrastructure projects. He said airports, which were the other component of tourism infrastructure, have already been included in this list.

Sud said another 100,000 guestrooms were required to be constructed all over the country if the required hotel infrastructure is to be ready to receive 10 million foreign tourists by 2010. A huge investment of an estimated Rs. 40,000 crores is required to be made in this regard.

He said the current cost for setting-up of new Hotels including the cost of land is indeed very large across all categories of Hotels. For example, he said for a 5-star deluxe hotel the cost ranges from Rs 300 Crore to Rs 600 Crore and above depending on the location of the hotel and the number of guestrooms.

“At these very high costs per room, the economic viability of the new projects is at peril and given the increase in inventory of guestrooms in future, the present prevalent high room rates would also be more rational. This would make the economic viability even more difficult,” he added.

In fact under Section 10 (23) g of the Income Tax Act, hotels were added to the infrastructure list so that interest received by financial institutions and banks from loans extended to hotels were tax exempt. However, he said the Section itself was discontinued with effective from April 1.

FHRAI has also sought a review of the impact of levy of Fringe Benefit Tax levied on the corporate sector for expenditure incurred by them in hotels and restaurants. This tax acts as a disincentive for using these facilities and in turn affects the employment opportunities in the sector.

FHRAI has also sought the rationalization of the Customs Duty structure for hotels and restaurants in tune with the international practices, to enable the Indian service sector to compete with their International counterparts, to the benefit for the Indian economy.

“This is specially so for import duty payable by small sized hotels and restaurants who do not earn substantial foreign exchange and therefore, are not eligible for any of the Export Promotion Capital Goods Schemes,” added Sud.

Bali continues to allure tourists

By Deepak Arora & Sushma Arora

BALI, Feb 19: Though Bali is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, its cultural and spiritual heritage brings it much closer to the Indians. Therefore, one feels at home while being in Bali.

For most Balinese, daily life is inspired by Tri Hita Karana – a tri-partite concept regarding a person’s spiritual relationship with God, nature and other human beings.

It is for this reason, ceremonies and daily rituals abound throughout the island, with the Balinese making offerings in Hindu temples sometimes more than five times in a day. They will celebrate a tooth as earnestly as others celebrate a birthday. It is their belief that there is a continuing battle between good and evil, a belief manifested in the numerous barong dances.

There are innumerable temples in Bali with each house also having a family temple. One can see temple guardians outside homes or premises with two gargoyle statues at an entrance and exit representing good and evil.

Soon after one gets soaked into the wonderful beaches, beautiful blue skies and warm sunny climate, one is simultaneously touched by the warmth, peacefulness and beautiful smile of the people of Bali. It leaves unforgettable moments for visitors.

Bali has over 130 leading hotels and resorts, including Four Seasons, Oberoi, Hyatt, Sheraton and the Ritz Carlton. One of the most popular hotel is Hard Rock Bali, located next to Kuta beach, the most popular area with the foreigners.

Besides its location, Hard Rock hotel has one of the biggest pools (3,200 sq mt) in Bali. It is the only pool with underwater music. Besides its location, the hotel offers queen size beds and its Loft room is very popular with the Indians visiting the enchanting island.

Being in the heart of the city, Rohaizad Puteh, Director of Sales and Marketing, Hard Rock, says the hotel is walking distance to shopping areas, convenient stores and wide-range of restaurants. For those keen to try a hand a surfing, the hotel offers tailor-made courses from well-trained instructors trained from Australia.

Puteh says India is an emerging market for us. Besides the family individual travels, he said “we are also looking at the MICE market from India as we offer one of the finest meeting and fun place.”

For those looking for marine sports activities, one can go to the Nusa Dua beach. Wayan Pasar, Director, Mawar Kuning Dive Marine Sports, says we offer wide range of water sports like scuba diving, parasailing, snorkeling, banana boat, Jet Ski, Water Ski, Fish ride and coral watching through the glass bottom boat. “Needless to say its all reasonably priced,” he adds.

For those culturally inclined do not miss the Kecak, a unique ritual dance and Sanghyang or trance dance at Sahadewa at Batubulan.
Another must is visiting to Mount Batur to have a wonderful view of the active volcano and it’s Crater Lake from Kintamanin hill.

On return from Mount Batur, one must make a stop at Ubud, which is Bali’s artistic heart with innumerable art galleries and craft shops. Here one can do shopping to heart’s content.

But don’t forget to bargain, which is acceptable in Bali. The simplicity of the Bali people can be gauged from the fact that at one shop, my wife, Sushma, forgot to bargain and took out money to pay to the shop at the girl. Immediately, she held my wife’s hand and said “bargain.” My wife then bargained and got the same stuff at half the price. Such simple and honest are these people.

Afterwards, one should visit Tanah Lot temple which is built on the top of a rock in the ocean. It is famous as the sunset temple.

Whatever it is, visitors to this captivating island are the lucky beneficiaries of good-natured ness of the people. It is for these reasons; Bali remains too alluring for the visitors.

The number of tourists visiting Indonesia rose 13 per cent to 5.51 million in 2007 from 4.87 million in 2006. The rise comes as Indonesia enters its official "Visit Indonesia 2008" campaign, which aims to increase tourist arrivals to 7 million for this year.

The increase was led by a 31.1 percent rise to 1.66 million foreign visitors on the resort island of Bali during the year. The Bali administration had set itself the target of attracting 1.9 million foreign tourists in 2008.

Uttarakhand focus on Spiritual, Adventure Tourism

By Deepak Arora

Prakash PantNEW DELHI, Feb 3: Uttrakhand Government is laying special emphasis on Spiritual, Adventure and Wildlife and Eco Tourism to give a boost to the State’s economy and place it on the global tourism map.

“The State Government is building better sanitation facilities and cheap rain baseras (nigh shelters) for 1.20 crore religious tourists that visit the State every year,” said Prakash Pant, Uttrakhand’s Tourism Minister.

The domestic tourists visit the State for yatra to Char Dham – the four most holy pilgrimages of India – Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath, Haridwar and Rishikesh and Hemkund Sahib.

Pant explained the Spiritual tourism would include wellness tourism, yoga, meditation and Panchkarma. To renew a focus on this, he said one-week Yog Mahotsav would be held at Rishikesh from March 1.

“Top yoga and spiritual gurus and experts, including Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Swami Ramdev and Dr Pandya of Shanti Kunj have agreed to participate in the Mahotsav. It will be attended by over 3,000 to 4,000 participants from India and abroad.”

To give a new fillip to the adventure tourism, the State Government has launched a training programme for unemployed youth in river rafting, canoeing and skiing, Para gliding, mountaineering and wall climbing.
“A total of 2,200 youth are being trained in these sports,” he said and added “Nehru Institute of Mountaineering is training another 300 high-mountain training guides at the government expense.”

The idea is create employment opportunities for the youth. The Minister said the State would also be holding a Adventure Tourism Mart in September or October this year.

Pant said the State Government has also cleared building of six ropeways on BOT basis to private parties. These include Rishikesh to Neelkanth; Rambara to Kedarnath, Mussourie to Dehradun; Binser Road to Kesardevi; Snow View to Chidiagull and Kharsali to Yamnotri.

The State has allocated Rs 96.04 crore in the current financial year to upgrade infrastructure and build new tourist circuits. Out of this, he said Rs 83.04 crore has been release and Rs 45.82 crore spent.

The tourist circuits being upgraded include Ritha Saheb and Nanak Matha, Dhanolti-Chamba-Narender Nagar; Corbett National Park; and Munsyari in District Pithorgarh.

Out of the Central grant of Rs 21.29 crore, the State has already received Rs 16.61 crore. “We have utilized 60 per cent of the Central grant,” he added.

Pant said the State, which has a population of only 84 lakhs, is expected to receive 2.25 crore tourists this year. To meet the accommodation challenge, he said “we are allowing private parties to build hotels in the State.”

He said the State will have its first five star hotel over 10 acre land at Dehradun. It’s being build by Emaar MGF consortium and Inter Continental Group combine.

“The MOU for this was singed in August, 2007 and it has to be completed in two years. The State Government has provided the land and it has been given on 40 years lease. The private group has started paying the lease of Rs 53 lakh from the day the MOU was signed. It will also share 2 per cent revenue with the State government.”

Pant invited all private groups to come forward and build hotels and tourism infrastructure in the State.

Taking Le Meridien Singapore to newer heights

By Deepak Arora

Claude RathSINGAPORE: Claude Rath is a General Manager of a hotel with a difference. Work is his passion and he works with the same passion and zeal with his staff and inspires them to further develop their skills. “That’s my biggest reward when I see them grow,” he says.

Claude, who is General Manager with Le Méridien Singapore, proudly says that the customer gets the best location and service when they arrive at the strategically located hotel on the world famous Orchard Road, the shopping, business and entertainment hub of the city.

“The customer’s great experience begins from the moment they arrive at the hotel. The way we greet them, receive them and make them comfortable goes beyond the style.”

For this, he gives full credit to his staff. He gives them the opportunity to grow and deliver the service as a team.

Revealing his strategy, he said in the first three months he connects with them and finds out where they come from and where they want to go.

“The objective to excel more and more is never ending. Therefore, I keep raising the bar as we move on. Simultaneously, I keep sharing my passion for excelling in work with them.”

It is for this reason he is successful in filling up one of the largest hotels with 407 deluxe guestrooms and suites. Le Meridien’s year round occupancy is 87 per cent which is close to the global average of 88 per cent. The biggest hotel in Singapore is Swissôtel the Stamford which has 2,000 rooms.

Of course, all guestrooms at the Le Meridien are designed to incorporate features to maximise comfort for both the business and leisure travellers, equipped with electronic in-room safe, mini-bar, IDD, high speed internet, telephone, television, radio and spacious bathrooms with environmentally-friendly toiletries.

He also ensures that all the members of his staff are treated like human beings by each other, especially by the seniors. “My apprenticeship was in the old school style where a trainee had to go through the tough grind. I won’t let my staff go through what I went through.”

He says the way to treat people is important. Being nice does not mean being take over.

Claude is truly European in style. He was born to a German father and a Parisian mother and grew up in Italy. Besides Le Meridien, he has worked with some of the international chains like Hilton, Holiday Inn and Four Seasons in France, Mauritius and Singapore.

Complimenting India for its rapid growth in tourism, he said “if I am given a choice to work in India, I will not close my eyes to the offer.”

Another good thing about Le Méridien Singapore is its grand marble lobby with polished granite and gleaming brass which is enhanced by an expansive atrium softly lit by skylight. The hotel is close to two MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) stations – Somerset and Dhoby Ghaut that provides easy access to all areas of the island.

Le Méridien is the only hotel in Singapore to boast a prestigious neighbour, the Presidential Palace (The Istana) flanked by lush gardens. Directly opposite is the Istana Park, a tranquil and serene haven right in the heart of a bustling city.

Besides providing wired and/ wireless high speed Internet access, the hotel also boasts of several restaurants and lounges.


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Himachal to improve air, rail and road connectivity
ITDC records 183 pc jump in profits
IATO, DTDC to ensure alternative accommodation for C'wealth Games
Inter-State luxury trains in the offing
TAAI convention to promote SAARC tourism
Uttaranchal - India's future Switzerland
Uttaranchal to have tourist police soon
TAAI to hold next convention in Colombo from Sept 24
Unesco confers heritage award on Lakhpat Gurudwara in Kutch
Uttranchal initiative to promote Himalayan tourism
Himalayan Environment Trust awards given away
Himalayan Adventure Expo 2005 popular
Last village on Tibet border gets a facelift
Pay for quick check out at Delhi airport
IATO, Greek counterpart sign MOU to promote tourism
MD's Midas touch brings Centaur out of red
Himachal becomes first State to remove sales tax on ATF
Visa on Arrival gains steam

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