ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
India targets Asean for tourism growthSubhead: India looks to Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, Asean countries with Buddhist populations to boost its tourism arrivals.
The Ministry of Tourism of India kicked off its 2011 tourism campaign, “Incredible India” in the Asean region with an event at the Shangri-La Hotel in Bangkok. Similar events were also held in Cambodia and Vietnam.
Current tourism figures show a great disparity between the number of Indian tourists visiting Thailand in 2010-800,000-and the number of Thais visiting India, by comparison, is a scant 50,000.
To reduce that disparity, India’s Tourism Ministry has targeted countries with large Buddhist populations to increase the numbers of tourists to India, the birthplace of Lord Buddha, to visit sites that are landmarks of the Buddhist beliefs.
Anand Kumar, the Joint Secretary of the Ministry, outlined the positive growth of the Indian tourist industry. He noted that Indian tourism in 2010 had increased 12 percent but the tourism earnings had risen 24 percent. Most tourists to India are repeat visitors with an average length of stay in the country of 21 days. In the tourism sector is doing a lot to cater to tourists by improving the infrastructure.
At present, most of the Asean countries can enter India without visas. The list includes Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Philippines and Vietnam with Thailand soon to be added.
Kumar noted the close connections between India and Thailand with 140 air flights between the two countries each day, the increasing two-way trade and commercial developments involving companies from both countries. He noted that a Thai firm, Ital-Thai, is building the new Calcutta Airport.
He noted that most Thai tourists elect railroad tours that visit sites that played a part in the life of Lord Buddha.
Continuing with the Buddhist theme, Buddhist scholar, Shantum Seth, took the audience on a slide tour of Buddhist sites in India and urged that “anyone who is a Buddhist” should at one time in their their lives visit india.
The evening concluded with a performance from a group from a Himalayan monastery and a sumptuous Indian dinner for the several hundred that attended the event.
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