Centre will take conscious decision on easing international travel restriction: Tourism Secretary

KEVADIA, GUJARAT: The Centre will take a conscious decision matching the urge to ease restrictions on international travel with health-related concerns, said Union Tourism Secretary Arvind Singh on Saturday. Attending the three-day annual convention of the Association of Domestic Tour Operators of India (ADTOI) here at Kevadia near the Statue of Unity, he said the current situation is fluid as the viral disease is rampant in the UK, US and Europe which make for the most inbound travel to India.

“On one hand these are the largest market, on the other these are the countries where the disease is still increasing at a very rapid pace. So a very conscious decision will have to be taken matching our urge to reduce the restrictions on travel with the health-related concerns,” Singh said.

However, he added restrictions can be eased early if the vaccination establishes itself abroad, there is absolute confidence and the “lockdown goes down abroad”.

Apart from the flights operating under air bubble arrangement, regular international flights have been shut since last year due to the pandemic.

Talking about domestic tourism, the 1988-batch IAS officer said revival in domestic tourism will send a sense of confidence to international travellers to come to India for travel when the restrictions are lifted.

“It will give a sense of confidence to international travellers that if domestic visitors are travelling in such large numbers to so many tourist spots, then it is safe to travel in India,” said Singh, who in January only took the charge of tourism secretary after over a year-long stint as chairman of the Airports Authority of India (AAI).

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Domestic tourism stands at almost 80 per cent of what it was in the pre-COVID times, with Jammu and Kashmir, Goa and Madhya Pradesh taking the lead, he said.

Singh also mentioned the footfall figures at the Statue of Unity dedicated to Sardar Vallabhai Patel at Kevadia in Gujarat.

“At present daily average (footfall) on weekdays is 8,000-10,000 and on weekends it is 14,000-16,000. Total daily footfalls at all touch points is more than 12,000 on weekdays and around 20,000 on weekends,” the tourism secretary said.

Standing at 182-metre, the Statue of Unity is surrounded by over 30 tourist attractions.

Now called Kevadia Tourism Sector, the landmarks include Valley of Flowers, Butterfly Garden, Ekta Nursery, Jungle Safari and Cactus Garden.

Touted to be the first such physical tourism-industry related event amid the pandemic, the three-day convention aims at building public confidence to travel for the revival of domestic tourism in the country.

Jointly organized by the Ministry of Tourism and ADTOI, with support from Gujarat Tourism, it is attended by around 400 delegates including ADTOI members, hoteliers, airlines representatives and senior government officials.



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