Union Minister of State for Culture and Tourism (IC) Prahlad Singh Patel held a virtual meeting with 15 State Tourism Ministers/Officials today in New Delhi. Tourism Minister of Rajasthan Govind Singh Dotasara, Tourism Minister of Uttar Pradesh Dr Neelkanth Tiwari, Tourism Minister of Uttarakhand SatpalMaharaj, Tourism Minister of Goa Manohar Ajgaonkar, Tourism Minister of Maharashtra Aaditya Thackeray Tourism Minister of Madhya Pradesh ShushriUsha Thakur and Tourism Minister of Gujarat JawaharChavda participated in the virtual meeting and some of the States/UTs were represented by officials. Secretary, Ministry of Tourism, Yogendra Tripathi, DG, Tourism, Ms. Meenakshi Sharma and other senior officials of the Tourism Ministry also attended the meeting.
The agenda of meeting includes:
- Facilitating Ease of Travel between States/UTs for promoting Domestic Tourism
- Incentives being offered by States/UTs to the Tourism and Hospitality Sector
- Working on System for Assessment, Awareness and Training for Hospitality Industry (SAATHI) for the adherence of safety norms.
- Suggestions on Way Forward for revival of Tourism, including working on the National Integrated Database of Hospitality Industry (NIDHI) Scheme of the Ministry of Tourism to create robust database of hospitality units etc.
Speaking on the occasion, Union Tourism Minister said that tourism sector is amongst the worst hit sectors during COVID-19 pandemic but with mutual support we are continuously talking to its stakeholders and have taken some initiatives for revival of the tourism sector and hoped that tourism sector will pick up pace again soon. Patel stressed on the use of SAATHI and NIDHI initiatives of the Tourism Ministry which are becoming very crucial during current situation. He said that earlier we only had 1400 registrations of hotels with us but because of NIDHI initiative now we have 27000 hotels registered with us and the number is growing regularly. It gives us more reliable data of the tourists and hospitality industry. He also said that the use of SAATHI initiative will build confidence in tourists as it helps hospitality industry in preparedness to continue operations safely and mitigate risks arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Patel said that even before the pandemic the Prime Minister already initiated ‘DekhoApnaDesh’ campaign and in the current situation we should focus on domestic tourism under this campaign, it will help to revive the tourism sector of our country. He urged all the Ministers to identify new places of tourism which can attract domestic tourists. He also urged that in order to promote tourism during these times all states should come up with a uniform protocol for interstate movement of tourists so that tourists can travel hassle free.
Patel informed that Tourism Ministry is planning to develop a platform which will have all information regarding state roads, hotels and other facilities of all tourist destinations. It will also have updated information regarding weather and other tourism related information, he added. Patel requested all states to provide such information to Tourism Ministry so that the platform can be started soon.
The Union Minister also stressed on the better connectivity of the tourist attractions. He said that better connectivity will increase tourists flow in remote areas also. Patel said that Tourism Ministry has shared draft Tourism policy with states and states should also formulate their policies in the line of Tourism Ministry’s policy. He also urged all states to give their valuable suggestions to enrich Tourism policy.
The Union Tourism Minister also informed about the Incredible India Tourist Facilitator Certification program (IITF) which is an online program to train guides and is seen as a potential employment generator at the Pan India level. Currently the program has almost 6000 persons enrolled and with the qualified persons eventually coming on the e-marketplace, the program is seen as having a huge potential in transforming the tourist experience in terms of guiding and showcasing India.
The Ministry of Tourism under the leadership of Tourism Minister along with the stakeholders is working tirelessly to support the tourism sector. The Ministry has been in a continuous dialogue with the representatives of Tourism & Hospitality industry stakeholders to discuss solutions and way forward to revive the tourism economy by reviving demand, especially through promotion of Domestic Tourism. The Ministry has held a series of brainstorming meetings over the last six months with different segments of the tourism industry to discuss the difficulties of the industry verticals.
In May 2020,the Minister had virtual meeting with the Tourism Secretaries in States and UTs to discuss the challenges posed by COVID 19 and actions required to deal with the crisis and how states and Ministry can work in synergy was discussed and agreed to work on:
- Holding dialogues with the stakeholders to ensure a perception that the Government, at the Central and State level is empathetic to the needs of the industry.
- The Ministry and State Tourism Departments will work on providing certain facilities to the stakeholders to help them recover the crisis.
- Active promotion of Domestic Tourism as this sector will be first to pick up.
- As the metropolitan cities are most affected, North-eastern states and the Himalayan States which have been least affected would provide more opportunities in terms of Domestic tourism which would help to boost confidence among the public for travelling.
- To develop Short duration intra state itineraries and its promotion by the Ministry and State Governments.
- To work on mechanism to develop a framework for bringing the large part of the presently unorganized workforce as an organized work force in Tourism sector.
Initiatives of the Tourism Ministry during COVID-19 pandemic –
The global COVID 19 pandemic highlighted the urgent need for creation of a comprehensive national database of accommodation units in the country, since availability of data is crucial in framing of policies and strategies such as promotion and development of tourism, assisting tourists to find information on places for accommodation, assessing the carrying capacity of various destinations, assessing requirements for skilled human resources and formulating disaster management plans.
Ministry of Tourism with the help of State Governments and Union Territory Administrations is making efforts to register accommodation units in the country in the Ministry’s portal National Integrated Database of Hospitality Industry (NIDHI). As on 13.10.2020, 25786 accommodation units have been registered on the portal which was activated on 08.06.2020.
To assist the hospitality industry in their preparedness to continue operations safely and mitigate risks arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Tourism has partnered with the Quality Council of India (QCI), to assist the Hospitality industry through an initiative called SAATHI (System for Assessment, Awareness and Training for Hospitality Industry). This initiative is aligned with the Honble Prime Ministers clarion call for Atmanirbhar Bharat. The idea is not only to sensitize the industry on the COVID regulations by the Government but also to instill confidence amongst the staff and guests that the hospitality unit has exhibited intent towards ensuring safety and hygiene at the workplace.
This initiative is in 3 phases:
- Self-Certification: This provides a detailed understanding of the Guidelines/Key-elements to be followed. A Hotel/Unit goes through the SAATHI framework and agrees to follow the requirements wherever applicable to the fullest extent possible. A self-certification is issued.
- Webinars: This phase builds capacities of the Hotels on the SAATHI key elements. Self-certified Hotels/units attend webinars to clarify doubts through live interactions.
- Site-assessment (optional): In this phase on-ground implementation of the SOPs/ Guidelines and identification of gaps is undertaken. If Hotel/Unit desires, they may undertake site-assessment based on SAATHI framework through QCI accredited agencies and an assessment report with opportunities for improvement is shared with the assessed unit.
During the meeting all 15 states gave their updated information regarding SAATHI and NIDHI initiatives of the Ministry and said that these initiatives are really very helpful for the tourism industry. They also told about their different initiatives for Tourism sector during the pandemic and hoped that tourism sector will revive very soon.
The States gave suggestions on promotion of new and lesser known areas like tribal tourism, agri tourism and spiritual tourism. All States assured that they shall be ensuring traveler safety and as much harmonization of recommended protocols as the local conditions permit and being in line with the recommendations of Ministry of Home and Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. The States also shared various actions that they are taking to ease business in hospitality sector and agreed to work closely with the Ministry of Tourism in taking the sector forward. It was appreciated by all that there is a huge opportunity in promotion of the domestic market and aggressive work needs to be done to promote DekhoApnaDesh.
Today was the first day session of the 2 day meeting that the Minister has scheduled with all the States and UTs.