NEW DELHI, SEPTEMBER 26: The Centre is mulling over a proposal to appoint ‘tourism officers’ in all Embassies and High Commissions to promote Indian tourism destinations. Around 2 years ago, the Government made a decision to shut overseas tourism offices in Missions abroad. Instead, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) appointed tourism officers in 20 countries, which are top source markets, to carry out activities with stakeholders to attract foreign tourists.
In its latest report tabled in both Houses of Parliament during the recently concluded special session, the parliamentary standing committee on transport, tourism and culture has noted that the closure of the overseas tourist offices has adversely impacted Indian tourism.
“The Committee has been informed by the stakeholders that after the closure of the Overseas Tourist Officers, India did not figure in the brochures of the overseas tourism agents, adversely impacting the prospects of Indian tourism”, the report read.
The parliamentary panel headed by V Vijayasai Reddy of YSR Congress was also informed that in the last 2 years, the tourism officers had only one meeting with the Indian stakeholders following it had desired to know how many meetings have been held with them as also the foreign tourism agents and business-to-business (B2B) players since their appointment.
Subsequently, the Committee comprising 31 MPs expressed a desire to explore the possibilities of posting well-trained and experienced officers from the Ministry of Tourism for awareness and publicity activities in Missions. The panel also inquired about the background of tourism officers appointed in 20 countries and the training given to them in tourism promotion.
However, the Ministry, in its response, stated that the officers were already dealing with the subject of promotion of Indian culture and commerce and hence having some domain understanding and the MEA is considering a proposal to designate tourism officers in all Missions.
The closure of the overseas tourism offices began in 2018 and the last 7 functional overseas tourism offices were shut in March this year. However, some Indian Missions had sought the reopening of overseas tourism offices.
Following the decision taken to close all overseas tourism offices, the responsibility of promoting Indian tourism destinations was entrusted to the tourism officers, a first or second-Secretary-rank official already serving in the Indian diplomatic office in foreign countries.
In the report, the Committee further observed that discussions on separate budgets for tourism at the disposal of MEA for promotional campaigns are still ongoing even after 2 years and suggested resolving the issue soon.
“The Committee recommends that the Ministry of Tourism may settle the matters expeditiously so that the MEA would have both the funds and the programme to go ahead with the work relating to tourism promotion. Exclusion of India from the tourism brochure is a major issue in the absence of which the visibility of Indian tourism places would be difficult to maintain”, the panel report stated.