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Union Budget: Tourism gets big push in 'Amrit Kaal' budget

Govt. allocates Rs 167 crore for overseas promotion

Nirmala Sitharaman union budget Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman carrying a folder-case poses for photographs outside the Finance Ministry at North Block, in New Delhi | PTI

Rahul Gandhi could be an unlikely mascot for the government’s tourism mission. Bharat Jodo might have earned BJP’s scorn but the government wants to focus on getting Indians to travel in the Amrit Kaal. Tourism is one of the four “transformative’’ in its vision for this age. 

“The country offers immense attraction for domestic as well as foreign tourists,’’ said Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. “There is a large potential to be tapped in tourism. The sector holds huge opportunities for jobs and entrepreneurship for youth in particular. Promotion of tourism will be taken up on mission mode, with active participation of states, convergence of government programmes and public-private partnerships.’’

The push for tourism comes at a time when India has taken over the Presidency of G20. “Fifty additional airports, heliports, water aerodromes and advance landing grounds will be revived for improving regional air connectivity,’’ she said. It is the ideal time for India to showcase the sheer diversity of tourism venues. And India is spending a lot of money on promotion. In 2022-23, the budget for Overseas Promotion and Publicity including market development assistance was a whopping Rs 341 crore, which was over Rs 330 crore last year. Admittedly, 2021-22 was Covid-hit and the budget allocated for promotion was Rs 9.42 crore. For the year 2023-24, the allocation for promotion stands at Rs 167 crore. While the allocation is almost half of last year, it is worth noting that only Rs 60 crore was utilized for overseas promotion of India. Hence, the government will still be spending a fair amount pushing tourism abroad.

For the promotion of tourism within the country, the budget allocated is Rs 75 crore. An amount that has been steady since last year. “Sector-specific skilling and entrepreneurship development will be dovetailed to achieve the objectives of the ‘Dekho Apna Desh’ initiative,’’ said Sitharaman. “This was launched as an appeal by the Prime Minister to the middle class to prefer domestic tourism over international tourism. For integrated development of theme-based tourist circuits the ‘Swadesh Darshan Scheme’ was also launched. Under the Vibrant Villages Programme, tourism infrastructure and amenities will also be facilitated in border villages.”

The past is very much the image India wants to project this year. And heritage sites have been at the heart of the G20 agenda. If the Sherpa meeting was held in Udaipur—with the vibrant colours of Rajasthan, the first tourism track of the G20 meeting will be held on February 7 to 9 in Rann of Kutch. A tented city has been set up at Dhordo on the white sands of the Rann for about 100 delegates. The next day, the delegates will be taken to see Dholavira, which was inscribed on the World Heritage List a few years ago. This is very much at the heart of the Bharat narrative that the government wants to craft where India claims the Indus Valley Civilisation. 

The next round will be at Siliguri in West Bengal in April, the third meeting will be held in May in the north and finally ending with Goa. “Our endeavour will be to showcase our destinations, monuments, culture, festivals to the visiting delegates,’’ Minister of Tourism G. Krishna Reddy has been quoted as saying as he launched the visit India 2023 programme recently. “Each foreign delegate should return as a cultural ambassador of India, this kind of environment be created, is the vision of our PM.” 

The budget supports this vision. At least 50 destinations will be selected to be showcased virtually and physically. Tourist guides, high standards for food streets and tourists’ security, all the relevant aspects would be made available on an App to enhance the tourist experience.

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