Lights, camera, action- the PM of India took centrestage at the Madison Square Garden addressing an audience who were primarily and presumably ‘Desh Premees’, a part of the fabric that makes up the Indian diaspora in Uncle Sam’s land. From rejection to reverence, PM Modi has surely come a long way to make an impact in America, which was rather unique. Apart from the US, the PM’s recent visits to countries such as Japan and Nepal with a clear objective to strengthen economic and diplomatic ties and bilateral trade relations did mean a lot for the tourism sector. In his inspirational speech in the US, Modi highlighted a few tourism friendly initiatives, namely the easing of travel and visa norms, offering lifetime visas for Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) and also the visa-on-arrival scheme for tourists from the US. These announcements have given the Indian travel and tourism fraternity, especially those in the domestic and inbound space, some reason to cheer as the business in this space was rather down in recent times. Though the visa-on-arrival scheme was clearly spelt out in the Union Budget 2014, the fraternity seemed glad to learn that USA has also been included in the scheme.
The dialogue between Modi and China’s president Xi Jinping also sparked off new hopes for the tourism industry of the country. The ministry of tourism (MoT), Government of India, is upbeat about the Indo China relationship with the announcement of the ‘Visit India Year’ 2015 in China. According to the MoT, India is looking at China to be the leading source market over the next five years. For the same, the tourism ministry will be focusing on training guides and will also be opening a website in Chinese.
All these notwithstanding, the most vital part of Modi’s plans is to simultaneously get our house in order. I have always been vocal about the need for effective hygiene and sanitation facilities with an aim to aid a better tourism experience and this basic requirement has finally been taken up at the highest level for implementation. India’s tourism growth story can be a real success only if our infrastructure at home is solid and ready to receive the world with respect and dignity.