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Information Technology for Sustainable Tourism

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“WiFi facility has been started at the Taj Mahal. The Ministry of Tourism has identified 23 tourist places in 16 states for implementation of the WiFi programme through BSNL and RailTel,” says Dr. Mahesh Sharma, Minister of State for Tourism, Culture (Independent Charge), and Minister of State for Civil Aviation, Government of India. In conversation with Ankush Kumar…

The potential for tourism in India is enormous, but we are unable to attract sufficient numbers of global tourists. In your view what are the reasons for our lack of progress in tourism sector?

India has everything to be a tourist powerhouse, we have all the right ingredients—rich culture, vibrant forests and mountains, rivers, long coastline, many historic monuments and a great amount of diversity. The problem lies in our lack of world-class infrastructure. Access and connectivity to different parts of the country is also an issue. There is no doubt that we need to urgently improve the amenities that are available at various tourist locations. We need to ensure better Internet connectivity. There has to be better security for the tourists. We are working hard to improve the infrastructure and other facilities to ensure that there is healthy growth in the tourism business.


What kind of infrastructure development are you planning to make India attractive for global tourists?

Tourism is a state subject. Much of the infrastructure will have to be developed by the states. At the central level we are having a holistic approach to ensure that there is development of quality tourism infrastructure all over the country. More than fifty percent of the Ministry’s expenditure on plan schemes is incurred for development of quality tourism infrastructure at various tourist destinations and circuits in the states and Union Territories. The Ministry of Tourism has launched two new schemes—National Mission on Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual Augmentation Drive (Prasad)” and “Swadesh Darshan”. Both schemes are being implemented in mission mode. One of the key objectives of these schemes is to develop world-class infrastructure in major tourists centres. Under Prasad scheme, initially, twelve cities namely Amritsar, Ajmer, Amaravati, Dwaraka, Gaya, Kanchipuram, Kedarnath, Kamakhya, Mathura, Puri, Varanasi and Vellankani have been identified for development. Under Swadesh Darshan scheme, the tourist destinations will be developed with the aim of enhancing and harnessing the potential of tourist circuits and encourage investments from the private sector.

Many of our tourist centres lack connectivity. Are steps being taken to ensure that there is adequate WiFi and telephone coverage of these areas?

As you might be knowing, WiFi facility has been started at the Taj Mahal. The Ministry of Tourism has identified 23 tourist places in 16 states for implementation of the WiFi programme through BSNL and RailTel. In addition, the Archaeological Survey of India has identified 25 centrally protected monuments, where we are going to provide the WiFi facility. The WiFi will be free for the first 30 minutes of usage and thereafter charges will have to be paid as per the usage. Security of the tourists is a major area of concern—to address this concern we have started the 1363 helpline. Earlier this helpline was in only two languages, but now we are proposing that it should be in 12 major languages so that people who speak Russian or Japanese can also take advantage of the system for gaining information in their own language.


There has been a significant growth in the tourist figures in India during the last few years. To what do you attribute this growth?

When people gain faith in a country, they are more comfortable travelling there. I believe that during the last one year, there has been a massive improvement in India’s image abroad. The entire global perception of the country has changed. The Prime Minister himself is acting as the country’s global ambassador for tourism. In his speeches at Madison Square Garden, BRICS Summit, Nepal, Tokyo, Sydney and other places, he has never failed to mention tourism as the key driver for socio-economic progress. We are also further improving the e-visa and the visa-on-arrival facility for travellers from certain countries.

In the past two decades we have seen rapid growth in the use of IT for bringing efficiency to different sectors of the economy. How is IT being deployed by the Ministry of Tourism for creation of more benefits for the tourists?

Technology is a powerful lever of growth. We are working on a programme to have major centres of tourism covered by high-speed WiFi. We are also encouraging the development of systems like interactive maps, systems for online bookings, and e-payment and e-booking facilities for tourists. The travel services in the key tourist spots in the country are already fully computerised. People can book their railway or flight tickets, hotel rooms, cabs, and much else through the Internet. They can have all kinds of important information available to them through the Internet. They can manage different aspects of their journey through technology that allows self-service.

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