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Launch of Mahatma Gandhi Special Tour Train

On the occasion of Centenary of the foundation of Sabarmati Ashram and to connect with the centenary year of Champaran Satyagrah in Bihar, Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), in collaboration with Gujarat Tourism, is running Mahatma Gandhi Special Tourist Train Ex. Sabarmati on 17th June, 2017. The train will connect some significant tourist attractions mirroring Gandhiji’s freedom movement such as Sevagram Ashram (Wardha), Chaparan Satyagraha Monument in Bettiah and Motihari. This 09 nights/ 10 days tour will also take tourists to some popular religious destinations like Varanasi, Allahabad and Gaya.

India Secures 40th Rank in WEF's Global Travel & Tourism Ranking

In the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index (TTCI) 2017, India was ranked 40th among the 136 economies across the world in the index. India, being one of the most improved nations, has jumped 12th places to reach this position. The country has seen continued growth in international arrivals over the past 15 years, reaching the 8 million mark in 2015. International tourists are tempted by India’s cultural and natural attractions, which add to its competitiveness in the world of tourism. Another factor that contributed to India’s rise is its stronger visa policies.

India’ first Medical and Wellness Policy

Dr Mahesh Sharma, Union Minister – Tourism and Culture, Govt. of India, made the announcement of the launch of India’s first Medical and Wellness Policy during a press conference in New Delhi. The policy will be launched on June 21, 2017 and will structure the process for making the country a preferred medical and wellness destination. The number of foreign tourist arrivals in India on Medical Visa has increased from 1,34,344 FTAs in 2015 to 201,333 FTAs in 2016. The policy can further add to these numbers in the coming years.

Tourists Arriving in India on E-visa Can Now Get Pre-loaded Sim Card

Dr. Mahesh Sharma, Minister of State Tourism and Culture, rolled out the initiative of the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India for offering pre-loaded Sim Card to foreign travelers landing in India on e-Visa. On this new launch, Sharma said that this initiative will help foreign tourists in staying connected with their near and dear ones as soon as they arrive in India.

This newly launched facility will be initially available in the Indira Gandhi International Airport (T3 Terminal), New Delhi and will later cover rest of the 15 international airports, where e-Visa facility is currently available.

In order to get a pre-loaded Sim Card, BSNL will take a copy of e-Visa and the first page of passport from foreign travelers as they land at the airport. The Sim card will be activated immediately with a value of Rs. 50 talk time and 50 MB data.

Revised Indian E-Visa Policy to Benefit Foreign Tourists

The Union cabinet has announced that e-tourist visa (eTV), now termed as e-visa, will now have a validity of 60 days, as opposed to the earlier duration of 30 days. The decision has been taken with an endeavour to boost medical tourism and draw more influx of business visitors to the country.

As per the revised e-visa policy, foreign nationals can apply for e-visa up to four months ahead of the visit. In addition, they are also allowed a double-entry for tourism and business, along with three entries for medical reasons.

The new e-visa service has been extended to eight countries, including Angola, Rwanda, Niger, Cyprus, Cameroon, Sierra Leone, Mali and Burundi.

India Welcomed Over 1.5 lakh Medical Tourists in 2016

Medical Tourism in India is growing by leaps and bounds. The country greeted 1,76,683 medical tourists in 2016, as compared to 1,34,344 in 2015, and 76,680 in 2014. It is anticipated that the newly launched e-medical visa will further boost Media Tourism in India.

Ministry of Tourism’s Endeavour to Expand UP’s Spiritual Circuit

Mahesh Sharma, Minister of State (I/C) for Tourism and Culture introduced six development projects under Spiritual Circuit of Swadesh Darshan Scheme in Baghpat, Uttar Pradesh. These projects include Trilokteerth Dham, Badagaon; Maa Manasa Devi Mandir, Badagaon; Pura Mahadev Mandir, Pura; Parashuram Bhagwan Mandir, Pura; Laakshagrah, Barnawa; and Shri Chandraprabhu Digambar Jain Atishay Mandir, Barnawa.

Air India Targets More Destinations in Europe, Africa

Air India, the flag carrier airline of India, started off its direct, non-stop, thrice-a-week flights from Delhi to Madrid on December 1. The airline has deployed its high-tech aircraft Boeing 787, with 18 seats in Business Class and 238 seats in Economy Class for this new service.

Speaking at the inaugural launch of the Delhi-Madrid flight, Pankaj Srivastava, Commercial Director, Air India, said, “Air India is seeking to initiate operations to the Scandinavian region where the airline will either roll out flights to Copenhagen or Stockholm.”

Airline also has plans to connect India to Israel and Tanzania and Kenya in Africa, Srivastava revealed.

Madrid is the 42 international destinations that Air India operates to.

Indian Railways Waives off Service tax for E- ticket Booking till Dec 31

Travellers planning to travel by Indian Railways can now book their tickets through the IRCTC website to get rid of the service tax till December 31, 2016. The Government has rolled out the decision to waive off service tax for e-ticket bookers to encourage passengers to make cashless transactions to keep the demonetisation exercise smooth.

Service tax will not be charged on tickets booked through the IRCTC website from November 23 to December 31. Indian Railways charge Rs 20 as service tax on Sleeper and Rs 40 on AC classes for bookings made through IRCTC website.

Mr. Bharat Bhushan Atree hosts Caper Group’s success party

TRAVELTV recently covered the success party of Caper Group, held at ‘Kitty Su’, The Lalit Hotel in New Delhi on September 1st 2016.

Mr. Bharat Bhushan Atree, Chairman & Managing Director, Caper Group, hosted this grand event that underlined continued success of Caper Group over the years. The who’s who of the Indian Travel and Hospitality fraternity, celebrities and dignitaries graced the occasion, and were profuse in congratulating Mr. Atree on his outstanding business acumen and strategic strokes to achieve excellence in realm of his operations.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Atree said, “While we have set a benchmark in the traditional inbound business, we are also making strides in the outbound travel industry. With each year, we see a promising growth in the number of travelers being catered by the verticals of Caper Group.” See coverage Video.

Indigo Introduces Port Blair as its 41st destination

Celebrating the 10 years of success in India, IndiGo has made the announcement of the addition of Port Blair as its 41st overall and 36th domestic destination in its schedule.

As per the new schedule, the low cost airline has initiated daily non-stop flights to Port Blair from Kolkata and Chennai which will be effective from September 28 and September 30, 2016 respectively. The airline will also connect Port Blair with major metropolises like Delhi (via Kolkata) and Hyderabad (via Chennai). In addition to this, IndiGo will also increase the frequency of daily non-stop flights between Delhi and Kolkata, Delhi and Chennai and Hyderabad and Varanasi.

With this major step, IndiGo is eager to cater all the segments of fliers including both corporate and leisure travelers traveling to Port Blair. These new services will further strengthen the position of IndiGo in the Indian aviation industry.

The airline will continue to ensure a hassle free travel to its fliers with a wide range of food and beverage items and attractive in-flight merchandise available at knock down prices.

Government of India to Strengthen India – Japan Tourism Links

Dr. Mahesh Sharma, Minister of State (Independent Charge), Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, inaugurated the first-ever 'India Japan Tourism Meet' organized by FICCI in partnership with the Embassy of Japan.

Dr. Sharma said that the link between India and Japan has been very prominent since sixth century when Buddhism was introduced in Japan. While Japanese have always had a deep interest in India, a lot of Indians also visit Japan.

He added that India still needs 290000 hotel rooms and there was huge scope of investment in infrastructure development for tourism. He urged Japanese business community to study this area for investment and ensured them of generous support from Indian Government.

Kenji Hiramatsu, Ambassador of Japan to India, said that with the structure of 'Indo-Japan Tourism Council' and 'Indo-Japan Tourism Summit' organized first time in India, the participants aim for action-oriented results to advance travel and tourism relationship between Japan and India.

He further added that tourism between the two countries has not been as robust as we expected. The data states that 100,000 people from India visited Japan in 2015, which includes 40,000 tourists. Thus, there is still scope of growth in travel and tourism between Japan and India.

SpiceJet to Kick Start 8 New flights from November 15

SpiceJet, the low-cost airline headquartered in Gurgaon, has announced commencement of new additional flights, which will be effective from November 15, 2016. With these new flights, the airline will now operate 334 flights a day. Apart from targeting northeast, the new flights will also connect major cities with special focus on Bengaluru and Hyderabad to cater to the ever increasing seasonal demand.

Apart from this, SpiceJet has also raised the frequency of flights for Ahmedabad to key cities besides Goa. The airline has inducted three Boeing 737-800s to expand its network.

Cruise tourism - The next big thing in India

There is great news for travellers seeking cruise vacation in India. The country is planning to avail the benefit of its 7,500 km-long coastline to step into cruise tourism in the near future.

Mahesh Sharma, Culture and Tourism Minister, made the announcement at the official launch of the 10-week festival Confluence: Festival of India in Melbourne. According to him, this move will improve the country's image in global tourism market.

Earlier, Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi raised the issue of developing cruise tourism with Australia during his first official visit in 2014.

Railways, Kerala Government sign JV agreement

The Union Railways Ministry has signed a joint venture agreement with the Kerala Government for the development of railway infrastructure in the state. Railway Minister, Mr. Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu was present during the signing of the agreement.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Suresh talked about the efforts required to boost Kerala's railway infrastructure. He mentioned that Railways is working on the re-development of Kochi and Ernakulam Stations of the state.

Kerala is an extremely popular destination engraved on the tourism map of India. The state receives a good number of travelers from all over the world. Strengthening the railways of the state can fetch positive results for Kerala Tourism as Indian Railways play a major role in national integration by offering great connectivity.

Caper Travel conferred with the National Tourism Award 2014-15

Caper Travel bagged the National Tourism awards for 2014-15. Caper Travel has been felicitated with this prestigious award for extending outstanding contribution to the tourism sector by delivering unique travel experiences throughout the subcontinent.

Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan presented the award to Mr. Bharat Bhushan Atree, Managing Director - Caper Travel Company, in the presence of Union Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma during the annual National Tourism Awards of the Ministry of Tourism (MOT), Government of India, held at the Vigyan Bhavan, New Delhi, on 30th July, 2016.

National Tourism Awards
The annual National Tourism Awards felicitate various segments of the travel, tourism and hospitality industry. The awards are presented to State Governments / Union Territories, classified hotels, heritage hotels, approved travel agents, tour operators and tourist transport operators, individuals and other private organizations to recognize their exceptional contribution in their respective fields, and also to promote healthy competition to endorse the tourism of India.

National Tourism Awards 2014-15 Rejoicing Incredible India’s Diverse Facades

National Tourism Awards are special set of annual awards rolled out by the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India to recognize various segments of the travel and tourism industry. The awards underline the splendors of Incredible India while honoring the organizations, both Government and Private, doing their bit towards the growth of the tourism in our country.

National Tourism Awards 2014-15 for the Best State/Union Territory for Comprehensive Development of Tourism has been presented to Madhya Pradesh followed by Gujarat and Karnataka.

God’s Own Country, Kerala bagged six awards in the 2014-2015 edition with three awards in the Tourism Promotion and Publishing category including the ‘Most Innovative use of Information Technology-Social Media/Mobile App’ and ‘Responsible Tourism’ and ‘Rural Tourism Project’.

The award for the ‘Best Tourist-Friendly Railway Station’ has been given to Sawai Madhopur Railway Station in eastern Rajasthan, known as the gateway to the beautiful Ranthambore National Park.

In addition to this, Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Mumbai received the Best Airport award; Warangal, Telangana won under the Best Heritage City category and Taj Exotica, Salcette, Goa won Best Hotel award under the Five Star category.

For complete list of awards, click here.

IRCTC to Offer 10 Lakh Insurance Cover for Passengers

Travelers booking train tickets from IRCTC website will be able to avail travel accident cover of Rs 10 lakh for a premium as low as Re 1. The cover will be provided by insurers including Shriram General, Royal Sundaram and ICICI Lombard General Insurance.

AK Manocha, IRCTC Chairman-cum-Managing Director said, “This accidental insurance will be an additional cover besides the compensation that Railways provide to valid ticket holders in case of accidents.”

This new cover is under integration process and can be made operational in the month of September. Just like travelers purchase travel insurance online while booking their flight tickets, IRCTC will also offer facility to purchase insurance policy on their official website. 

Caper Group Wins National Tourism Award

Caper Group won the prestigious “National Tourism Award” yet again for the fifth time and now for the fourth consecutive year for being one of the top three Inbound Tour Operators in India for financial year 2013-14. Mr. Bharat Atree, CMD Caper Group, received the award from Hon’ble President of India, Mr. Pranab Mukherjee on 18th-September, 2015 in New Delhi.

The Ministry of Tourism, Government of India presents National Tourism Awards to various segments of the travel and tourism industry every year. These awards are presented to State Governments / Union Territories, classified hotels, heritage hotels, approved travel agents, tour operators and tourist transport operators, individuals and other private organizations in recognition of their performance in their respective fields and also to encourage healthy competition with an aim to promoting tourism.

70% Indian women travellers prefer to travel alone

A recent survey, commissioned by a leading global travel search engine Skyscanner, has revealed that 70% of Indian women travellers have either gone on a solo trip or are planning one. The survey, which studied the travel habits of Indian travellers, highlighted that 37% of Indian women have done a solo trip while 33% are open to the idea of travelling solo.

The month-long survey, which was done on 1,000 women travellers, found that the most favourable domestic destination for solo-travellers was the capital city of Delhi. The amalgamations of various cultures and traditions as well as the historic value were its attractions. Delhi is followed by Mumbai, Goa, Bengaluru and Kolkata. While major Indian cities remain the domestic hotspots for solo-travellers, London with its blend of Roman history and modern culture emerges as their favourite international destination. London is followed by Toronto, Bangkok, New York and Dubai.

Government to Invest Rs 8.5 lakh crore in Railways

Sharpening focus on infrastructure development to boost growth, government will invest Rs 8.5 lakh crore in Indian Railways to change the face of the sector, Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha said.

Speaking at the 55th Annual convention of Automotive Component Manufacturers of India in New Delhi, Sinha said that after a decade of chronic under investment in Indian Railways, Government has decided to invest 8.5 lakh crore rupees in Indian railways and added that investment in roads has been doubled this year.

Sinha stated that it was unfortunate that the Constitution amendment Bill GST was not passed in the Monsoon session and added that GST would be hugely beneficial for the automobile and automotive component industry.

Nepal, Sri Lanka Plan Direct Flights

Travellers could soon be able to fly direct between Nepal and Sri Lanka, with airlines in both countries revealing plans to launch new routes.

Nepal Airlines and Mihin Lanka Airlines are both planning to commence direct services between Kathmandu and Colombo, as part of their governments’ plans to boost connectivity across the South Asian region.

Nepal Airlines’ Managing Director, Sugat Ratna Kansakar, was reported saying that his airline has already applied for permission to launch the new Kathmandu-Colombo flights, and is awaiting the green light. Mihin Lanka has already obtained permission to launch flights.

Rs 100 Crore Spiritual Tourism Circuit for Kerala

The Centre proposed a Rs 100 crore spiritual tourism circuit for Kerala and assured steps to declare Sabarimala as a National Pilgrimage Centre.

Speaking at the inaugural function of famous Aranmula Boat Race in Pampa River in the district, Union Minister of State for Tourism and Culture Mahesh Sharma said that along with the state government, the Centre was determined to take Kerala’s spiritual potential to new heights.

“Government of India proposes to bring Rs 100 crore for the spirituality circuit of Kerala,” he said adding the Centre would also “upgrade” the famous Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple at Thiruvananthapuram.

He said steps would be taken to declare the Lord Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala as a National pilgrimage Centre under the ‘Prasadam Scheme’ of the Union Tourism Ministry.

Special Cleaning Campaign at Assi Ghat in Varanasi

Dr. Mahesh Sharma, Union Minister of State (MoS) for Culture and Tourism (Independent Charge) and MoS for Civil Aviation, launched a special cleaning campaign at the recently renovated historic Assi Ghat in Varanasi. Launching a cleaning drive at the excavated and restored historic Assi Ghat, the Union Minister inaugurated a world class Sulabh public toilet on the occasion.

Dr. Sharma while lauding the effort of Sulabh called upon other organisations to come forward to adopt and clean other ghats as well. He said a plan is being drafted to clean garbage by using boats as garbage disposal is a major problem in the historic city due to narrow lanes. Now boats will ferry garbage to dump at certain points.

The minister says that a comprehensive plan for the all round development and beautification of the ghats of Varanasi and cleaning of River Ganga is underway to fulfill the wishes of Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. He announced introduction of a special project for restoration and beautification of the Ghats and says a plan has already been finalised to hold light and sound shows at Assi Ghat soon.

Dubai launches cruise tourism in India

To promote Cruise Tourism in India, the United Arab Emirate has launched “Cruise Tourism Roadshow India-2015” which was presided by UAE Prime Minister Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and Dubai Cruise Tourism Director Jamal Humaid Al Falasi.

The CTRI 2015 started in Bengaluru, followed by Chennai, Mumbai, and concluded in Delhi. This is the second tourism promotion convoy to India, the first one being in 2012. The CTRI has been organised to provide both countries opportunities, tailored to meet the market needs. It comprises of tourism representatives from national airline companies, travel and tourism groups and hotels.

Eco-tourism Policy for Uttarakhand

Uttarakhand is shortly coming up with a policy on eco-tourism that will ensure adequate promotion to eco-tourism activities in the state.

Presiding over a meeting of eco-tourism advisory meeting in Dehradun, Forest Minister Dinesh Aggarwal said the State Government would shortly come up with a policy on eco-tourism. He said the draft for the proposed eco-tourism policy was already in the last stages. He reiterated the state government’s commitment of marketing for eco-tourism destinations.

Uttarakhand has six national parks and six wildlife sanctuaries, which attract a large number of tourists to the state. After pilgrimage tourism, eco-tourism attracts visitors in large numbers. The state government has been laying much emphasis on eco-tourism in the recent years as the sector keeps vast potential for revenue earnings. Further, it has the capacity to generate employment for locals and create livelihood opportunities for them, particularly in hill areas that are without industries.

Kochi to Become WTCF Member

Kochi will soon become a member of Beijing-headquartered World Tourism Cities Federation (WTCF) Council. The Kerala government has accepted the invitation extended by WTCF to Kochi to be a member of the Council.
The acceptance letter in this regard will be handed over to the Chinese Ambassador to India Le Yucheng in the presence of chief minister Oommen Chandy, tomorrow at Kochi, a release said.
“We expect that joining the league will be a great step towards strengthening the association between Beijing and Kerala. The Government of Kerala is honoured by this invitation and has decided to accept the invitation,” Kerala Tourism Minister AP Anil Kumar said.

Domestic tourism up 23.5%

Due to the low tariffs and discounts offered by the travel industry, domestic tourism has grown 23.5 per cent this monsoon, compared to 18.5 per cent last year, a study by Assocham said.

There has been a surge in travel within the country in the last three years during monsoon, which was earlier considered a lean period. The demand is driven by the growing middle class and rising incomes and discounts by hotels, airlines and tour operators, the survey added.

Travel packages are cheaper by 20-25 per cent, DS Rawat, Secretary General of Assocham, said. Goa, Kerala, Ladakh, Jaipur, Agra and Udaipur are among the most popular places for monsoon travel, it found.

Goa Hires Consultants for Tourism

Goa’s Government has appointed project management consultants for identification of sites and development of tourism infrastructure in hinterland talukas.

“Project Management Consultants have been appointed for identification of sites and development of tourism infrastructure in the hinterland talukas of Goa, such as Sattari, Bicholim, Dharbandora, Quepem, Sanguem, Ponda and Canacona,” State Tourism Minister Dilip Parulekar said in a written reply.

The Minister said facilities such as parking, public amenities, lighting, boating and children’s play area and amphitheatre are being created at Mayem Lake in Bicholim taluka at a cost of Rs 8.93 crore and work has been awarded to M/s Bagkiya Constructions.

Goa Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC) has also decided to undertake repairs and renovation of Budbude Lake, Savari Waterfalls, Neturlim, Mainapee Waterfalls, Dattagufa Mandir.

Kerala Expects 15% Growth in Tourism

Kerala is expecting 15 per cent increase in the number of tourist arrivals in 2015 as it plans a slew of activities to promote the state as a perfect tourist destination.

“We are looking at around 15 per cent rise in the total number of tourists visiting the state in 2015 on back of multiple initiatives being undertaken,” Kerala Tourism Director P I Sheikh Pareeth said.

In 2014, foreign tourist arrivals into Kerala stood at 9, 23,366, up 7.60 per cent from 2013, while domestic tourist arrivals for the year were at about 1.17 crore, up 7.71 per cent from 2013.

“Kerala Tourism has declared the ‘Visit Kerala Year’ and an array of activities are planned for it in India and overseas,” Pareeth said.

To attract foreign visitors, campaigns will be conducted in traditional markets such as the United Kingdom, France and Germany through trade fairs and road shows. It will also explore new markets like China and Sri Lanka among others, Kerala Tourism said in a statement.

MoUs Signed for Cooperation in Tourism

The Ministry of Tourism has signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU’s)/Agreements/Letter of Intent (LoI) with various countries for bilateral and multilateral cooperation in the field of Tourism.

The main objectives of such MoUs/Agreements/LoI signed on an ongoing basis include exchange of information and data related to tourism as well as cooperation between tourism stakeholders including hotels and tour operators.

The Ministry has entered into MoU’s/Agreements/LoI with Mauritius, Japan, Australia, Nepal, France, China, Tanzania, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan during the last two years i.e. 2013 and 2014 and the current year (to date).

Charter flights May Skip Goa

Adding to last year’s slump in the number of Russian tourists due to weak Rouble, Goa’s travel companies fear arrivals could decline this year too. But the reason would be different. It would be the sudden hike in deposit amount collected from charter companies that would have a negative repercussion.

“Is the Indian government trying to promote tourism or discourage it? Russian charter operator Nordwind has requested permission to operate only 36 flights to Goa while last year it flew over 250 flights. Monarch Airlines from UK is not flying to Goa this year. The increase in deposits has increased costs for these companies and now they even have to bear the risks for cancellation of flights,” said Bharat Atree, Managing Director of Caper Travel which handles charter flights in Goa.

According to Atree and other travel companies from Goa, number of Russian tourists declined by about 40 percent last winter compared to 2013-14 seasons with many cancellations between the January-May.

In 2013-14 Goa airport handled 1141 charter flight movements and that number declined to 889 during last season till May 2015. Charter companies have to pay a minimum of Rs 25 lakh for upto 25 movements and Rs 1 crore for more than 75 movements. Further for every cancellation or non utilisation of slot, company has to pay a penalty of rupee one lakh which is adjustable against the deposit.

E-visa Facility for Chinese Tourists

India launched its e-Tourist visa facility for Chinese nationals for the first time, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying that the move would deepen connectivity between the neighbours. Along with the citizens of China, the e-tourist visa facility will also be offered to the nationals of Hong Kong and Macao.

Starting from July 30, Chinese nationals will be able to arrive at nine Indian airports after applying for tourist visas online. The e-Tourist visa application, which will cost US$ 60, would be processed within four days.

In a statement, the Indian embassy said, “The implementation of e-tourist visa will enable Chinese nationals to visit India with ease for recreation, sight-seeing, casual visit to meet friends or relatives, short-duration medical treatment or casual business visit”.

Mandatory Training for Tourist Guides

The District Tourism Promotion Council (DTPC) of Kerala has decided to regulate the services of tourist guides with a view to improve their quality In this regard; training has been made mandatory for tourist guides.

Trained guides would be given badges and those without badges would be restrained from offering services from January 1 next year. A programme to provide necessary training to 118 tourist guides is under way.

“The candidates are being given 10-day training in batches. The training would comprise subjects such as behavioural attitudes, coordination with the police, hospitality traits, and basics on the law of the land. The initiative, being taken under the leadership of District Collector N. Padmakumar, will be a trendsetter,” DTPC secretary C. Pradeep said.

The DTPC wants to widen the perspectives on tourism and a package to attract tourists to different locations apart from water cruises is being planned.

‘Monastery Boulevard’ in Andhra Pradesh

Andhra Pradesh government is mulling to set up a ‘Monastery Boulevard’ where Buddhist monasteries can be built, like in Bihar’s Bodh Gaya.

Around 13 heritage tourism spots have been identified for being developed as tourist destinations. As a part of it, the Kakinada-Hope Island-Coringa Sanctuary-Konaseema would be developed as tourist circuit. The focus of the circuit will be Godavari backwaters, house boats, mangrove forest, beaches and local cuisine, arts and culture in the East and West Godavari districts.

As part of this circuit, the 2,000 hectare mangrove forest of Coringa will be developed into an eco-sanctuary zone. The mangrove forest, the only one on the East Coast, is the second largest in India after the Sunderbans.

This circuit will boast of a passenger terminal with jetty, water sports, marine or Water Park, maritime museum, sea-plane rides, home-stay facility and convention centre. There is a possibility of setting up five to six passenger terminals with jetty across the state. And, e-rickshaws will be introduced to ferry passengers around the tourism spots.

Promotion of Yoga to Boost Tourism

The Ministry of Tourism is drawing out a roadmap to use yoga as a product in a bid to attract more tourists to the country. The 2015 draft policy of tourism, awaiting cabinet clearance, also stressed on the need to promote yoga to boost tourism.

The Ministry of Tourism under its various schemes including Swadesh Darshan Scheme would extend Central Financial Assistance (CFA) for development of infrastructure related to Spiritual tourism such as Yoga Centres, Meditation Centres, and facilities/amenities at Pilgrim Centres etc.

According to sources, the ministry will first identify yoga centres across the country and then link them to tour operators. It is also planning to tap the overseas market to help promote yoga among tourists. Social media and public platforms will be used aggressively to sell yoga.

Tax Benefits to Tourism Industry

The tourism industry has requested the Government of India for some fiscal benefits, including tax rebates and relaxations. The industry wants the inclusion of tourism infrastructure like hotels/resorts/tourist lodges/banquet halls/convention and exhibition centres, etc., for benefits of Section 32 AC of Income Tax Act 1961 by lowering the minimum threshold investment limit to INR 5 crore.

It has also sought extension of benefits under Section 35 AD of Income Tax Act 1961 to business concerns, who are making capital investment in setting up smaller category of hotels/guest houses/dharamsalas/tourist hostels/motels/wellness facilities/medical facilities and other associated infrastructure like installation of house boats/adventure and leisure tourism facilities.

Further, on the request list is weighted deduction of 200 per cent in line with Research & Development sectors in India for expenditure incurred towards marketing and promotional activities of the country as inbound tourism destination.

In order to ascertain the incidence of high taxations on tourism sector and its impact in making Indian tourism industry products un-compatible, a study on Taxes levied on tourism sector vis-à-vis Export sector has been conducted, and the findings of the study have been shared with the stakeholders.

Bengaluru to host mega tourism summit

Bengaluru would be hosting a mega tourism summit in September and the world’s top tour and travel operators are expected to attend it, Minister for Higher Education and Tourism R.V. Deshpande said.

The three-day summit would be inaugurated by PM Narendra Modi, starting from September 6.

“I have requested Chief Minister Siddaramaiah to invite the Prime Minister to the conference that showcases opportunities and strengths of Karnataka tourism,” he said

More than 60 tour and travel operators from across the country and abroad, and about 1,000 delegates from the tourism industry are expected to attend the conference.

In addition, a new tourism policy would be unveiled in Bengaluru on July 16. It would aim at the promotion of wellness or medical tourism, wildlife tourism, yoga tourism, heritage tourism and many such concepts.

Gujarat: Emerging Medical Tourism Destination

With the purpose of enhancing Gujarat as a medical tourism destination, the state government is all set to introduce a new medical policy.

“Gujarat government is in the final stages of framing a new policy to develop the state into a medical hub, which will increase medical tourism. Our aim is to increase various medical facilities, such as hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, medical colleges and super-speciality hospitals. We will announce the policy in near future,” State Health Minister Nitin Patel said.

In addition to it, subsidy for construction facilities would be required in Gujarat to boost medical tourism.

Currently, the Health Department is in talks with State Finance Department to finalise the amount of subsidy and other financial benefits to be given to hospitals and colleges.

India, Myanmar to boost tourism ties

With the opening up of Myanmar’s tourism industry, neighbours like India are interested to boost the tourism ties across bilateral lines. After all, India shares a 1643-km-long border with Myanmar and there is a cultural connection between people on both sides.

In 2014, 3.08 million tourists visited Myanmar and 2.04 million visited it in 2013. However, India is in the 13th position on the list of tourists visiting Myanmar. Thailand and China occupy the two top spots.

“The tourism industry in Myanmar is booming. Both Myanmar and India need to improve this sector. Every Myanmarese wants to visit Gaya in Bihar once in their lifetime,” Cho Cho Myint, a visiting professor in the tourism department of Mandalar College in Mandalay said.

Chairing a technical session at the International Tourism Conference on South East Asian Countries Tourism & India’s Act East Policy at Mandalay, Daw Kyi Kyi Aye of Myanmar Tourism Federation said the tourism sector is moving forward with the new government in Myanmar. She called for improving connectivity between Myanmar and Manipur.

With such progress in the pipeline, tourism between India and Myanmar definitely shows hopeful signs.

IRCTC announces tourist package to Dubai

The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) has announced an attractive travel package to Dubai. The itinerary includes dhow cruise with unlimited buffet dinner as well as barbecue dinner with desert safari.

The package is for a 3 nights/4 days travel schedule for Dubai from New Delhi, beginning September 24.

“The trip has been chalked out keeping in view an extended weekend during that period. It is a long weekend and a good time to visit Dubai. The itinerary has been designed in such a manner that our patrons will be able to visit all the landmarks in Dubai, known for luxury shopping and amazing architecture,” Sandip Dutta, Manager of public relations in IRCTC said.

The most attractive feature of the package is that the tourists will be taken to the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa, and will be a given an opportunity to have the city’s view from the 124th floor of the building. Besides, the tourists will visit the famous shopping malls of Dubai which are considered as shoppers’ paradise.

Earlier, IRCTC had announced three packages from Chennai for ‘Asian Extravaganza’ for visits to Thailand, Singapore-Malaysia and Sri Lanka. These packages are scheduled for July-September.

Entertainment Wagons in Holiday Trains: A Possibility for Goa?

Interestingly, the stake-holders in Goa Tourism have innovative demands. For example, they have recently asked for fully air-conditioned holiday trains to the beach destination, complete with plush dining cars and ‘entertainment wagons’. If turned into reality, it’s definitely going to make Goa even more irresistible.

“The trains, if possible, should only have AC compartments and with a well-appointed dining car. It could also have an entertainment wagon so that the holiday experience can start from the departure point itself,” Mr de Souza, the Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG) spokesperson said in his memorandum to Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu.

Quite clearly, after the dramatic downfall in tourists from Europe and Russia, the Goa Tourism body needs to look out for innovative solutions and other catchy deals. Currently, Goa attracts nearly three million tourists annually, out of which half a million are foreigners.

Greece, No Impact on Indian Outbound Tourism

There is some good news, at least, for the Greek economy. With the debt crisis scaling at dramatic proportions and impacting different sectors, tourism is one segment which experts feel won’t be affected so badly in Greece.

It receives a considerable number of travellers from India, still growing year on year. The Greece economy debacle will majorly depreciate the value of Euro, which in turn will play a major role in the tourism industry as it may increase the outbound tourism from India to Europe.

“We will have to wait and watch in this situation. It is not that the entire Greece will close down due to the financial crisis. There will be a certain impact on tourism, but Greece will definitely do its best to revive those products which are of a major part of their tourism. Tourism will definitely play a major role for them in resolving some part of the crisis. Hence, I foresee a temporary slump, but not a long term one,’’ Guldeep Singh Sahni, President, Outbound Tour Operators Association of India (OTOAI) said.

Even major tour operators like Cox & Kings have not witnessed any cancellations so far.

“There is no impact as the number of people travelling from India to Greece is very small and Indians today have a choice of over 150 countries to travel. Decision to travel depends on the individual and no advisory has been issued. Currently, there have been no cancellations,” Karan Anand, head- relationships, Cox & Kings said.

IndiGo, 4 Other Airlines Under CCI Scanner

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) would soon take a final decision on allegations made against five air carriers over fuel surcharge for cargo transportation.

IndiGo, Jet Airways, SpiceJet, GoAir and Air India have been probed by the CCI on the allegations made way back in 2013.

The complainant—Express Industry Council of India—alleged that these five carriers acted as a cartel in introducing fuel surcharge for transport of cargo and CCI had ordered an investigation by the Director General (DG) after finding prima-facie evidence of competition norm violations.

“The DG has submitted his investigation report dated February 4, 2015 with the CCI wherein it was concluded that there is no sufficient evidence to conclude the existence of a cartel,” certain sections of the Competition Act, IndiGo said.

Among others, the complainant had also alleged that these five carriers were not reducing the fuel surcharge on cargo transportation even when there was a decline in fuel prices.

Pokhara to be promoted in China and India

In a bid to promote tourism in Nepal, Pokhara Tourism entrepreneurs have come up with innovative campaign ideas. These entrepreneurs are planning to conduct two campaigns—“Chaliye Pokhara” (Let’s Go to Pokhara) in India and “China Sales Mission” in China.

The Pokhara Tourism Revitalisation Committee is also supporting this endeavour. This committee was formed soon after the devastating April 25 earthquake that jeopardised several lives in Nepal.

“This initiative aims at raising awareness about Nepal and Nepali cities for increasing the flow of tourists,” Bharat Raj Parajuli, the President of the committee said.

The campaign will soon start in Indian cities like Gorakhpur, Lucknow, Benaras and Kanpur, among others. It would begin in Chinese cities like Guangzhou, Shanghai, Beijing, Kunming, Hong Kong and Chengdu, among eight other cities.

Tourism circuit connecting Bakkhali and Jambu Dweep in WB

The West Bengal government would introduce a tourism circuit connecting Bakkhali—a seaside resort in Southern Bengal—with Jambu Dweep, an isolated island in the Bay of Bengal. The issue would be discussed at the first meeting of the newly-formed eco-tourism board in July.

“Since Jambu Dweep is an isolated forest island, we have to take permission from forest department for nature trials. We have requested the forest department to take up the matter for consideration in the first meeting of the eco-tourism board” State Urban Development Secretary Debashis Sen said. Officials said that no tourist is allowed to step into Jambu Dweep now.

The State Urban Development Department has proposed to introduce proper river transport by developing a route between Bakkhali and Jambu Dweep, somewhere near the fishing harbour point at Edward Creek. A jetty is also likely to be constructed at the north-eastern shore of Jambu Dweep along with a nature interpretation centre.

Extra bucks for Check-in luggage, seriously?

Domestic passengers, beware! The domestic flights might soon have to shell out extra to carry check-in baggage. Yes, seriously!

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is considering a proposal to allow airlines to charge for cabin baggage. Consumers who choose not to carry such baggage will be rewarded for travelling light in the form of an incentive scheme, or ‘zero baggage fare’, according to broad guidelines being firmed up by airlines in consultation with the regulatory body.

The DGCA, which received an application to introduce ‘zero baggage fare’ from no-frills carriers such as IndiGo, SpiceJet and AirAsia India, has held a round of consultation with the airlines.

The proposal is in contrast to the regulator’s stand in June 2014, when it directed AirAsia India against charging passengers for check-in baggage.

Kerala All Set to Woo China

Kerala is all set to woo Chinese tourists as India’s e-visa scheme for China is set to get implemented quite soon. In fact, even Andhra Pradesh is following the footsteps. Few of the tourist temptations that would be flaunted by Kerala Tourism include lucrative packages and their age-old spice, martial arts links besides natural beauty steeped in local culture.

Kerala Tourism also organised a special evening for Chinese media and travel writers in Beijing by hosting a fusion performance combining its ancient martial art ‘Kalaripayattu’ with China’s Shaolin temple, whose early roots stretches to the South Indian state.

The state still has China’s imprints like the Chinese fishing nets dotting the coast line of Kochi, a major landmark for tourists.

It is also hoped that Kerala could become a new centre for Chinese film shooting as some of the Chinese film personalities are visiting several locations of the state.

Sheetal Munshaw is India Director for Atout France

Atout France, France’s tourism agency, announced its new director for India - Sheetal Wadhwa Munshaw. She is the first non-French National Director of Atout France globally, and succeeds Catherine Oden, who will now head Greater China (responsible for Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, and Macau) and will be based in Beijing in her new assignment.

Munshaw has over a decade of experience in the travel and tourism industry and was the Deputy Director of Atout France in India (2004-05) prior to starting her own representation company.

“I am overwhelmed and honoured. I express my sincere gratitude to H.E. Ambassador of France to India; Christian Maneti, Managing Director, Atout France; and to the French Government for vesting their trust in me and giving me the honour of promoting the most beautiful country and one that is close to my heart,” Munshaw said.

The announcement of the new India Director and the formal handing over of charge was done recently at the French Ambassador’s Travel Awards Soiree in Mumbai. The Awards is an initiative launched by H.E. Francois Richier, Ambassador of France to India, to appreciate the efforts of travel agencies who incorporated France in their published travel itineraries. Five awards were given out in two broad categories.

Get SMS alert for cancelled trains

Another instance of how technology can make travel simpler!

Ministry of Railways has started yet another passenger-friendly measure on pilot basis, under which SMS messages would be sent to passengers informing about train cancellation in case the train in which they have booked their tickets for is cancelled due to unavoidable circumstances.

Under this pilot project, the SMS messages are being sent to those passengers who are boarding at originating station. At a later stage, this will be extended to cover enroute station also. This exclusive SMS based service has been commenced on all India basis. The SMS will be sent to their respective mobile numbers entered by them in reservation slips while buying tickets from PRS counters or while purchasing online e-tickets.

The cancellation information would be sent quite in advance to the passengers for their convenience so that it may help them plan alternative arrangement in time. To avail this facility, passengers are advised to invariably mention their mobile numbers on the reservation slips.

The software for this service has been developed by Centre for Railway information systems (CRIS), the information technological (IT) wing of the Indian Railways.

The Pitfalls of Kerala Tourism

Though, Kerala earns Rs.22, 000 Crore annually from tourism and is acclaimed as India’s only super brand in tourism, it has its own trajectory of highs and lows.

There are few concerns which Kerala Tourism must keep in mind, in spite of the burgeoning development of its revenue earning potential. For example, a boom in the construction of resorts is affecting the local ecology. Responsible tourism does not look a feasible prospective.

In fact, it’s quite sad to see the famous Chinese fishing nets at Fort Kochi surrounded by garbage, and a walk down the pathway along the beach, once a pleasant tryst with history, is today a stench-filled experience.

The same story repeats in Kovalam, once a sleepy-village and now a prominent tourist attraction. The coast line is literally exploding with shops, eateries and resorts, many violating the coastal zone regulation guidelines that state that construction should be allowed only at a certain distance from the sea.

To know more about it, do read http://bit.ly/1RKpSYH

AirAsia India ‘Big Sale’ Offer

Budget carrier AirAsia has announced another round of sale, offering all-in-fare air tickets at Rs 799 for flights from Bengaluru to Goa, Kochi, Pune, Jaipur, Chandigarh, New Delhi and many more destinations

Starting from Tuesday, tickets can be booked till June 28, 2015 for travel period between Feb 15, 2016 – August 31, 2016.

The offer includes Pune – Jaipur ticket at Rs 2,990, Pune – Bangalore ticket at Rs 1,890, Bangalore – Visakhapatnam ticket at Rs 1,990 among others.

However, AirAsia offer doesn’t include any offer on Delhi to Mumbai or Mumbai to Delhi air-tickets.

Kerala Tourism gearing up for Sea Planes

The Kerala Government has allowed the State Tourism department to go ahead with the sea-plane service.

An initiative of the Tourism Department in association with private-aviation companies, the seaplane service was designed in 2013 to link major tourist locations in the State. It would also provide the last-mile linkage to backwater destinations from airports in Kerala. The proposal involved the construction of waterdromes with floating jetties in the backwaters.

But it was kept on hold due to the strong opposition from the fishing community who feared that their livelihood would be detrimentally affected. “It has been decided to go ahead with seaplane operations which will boost tourism activities in the state,” Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said.

“Yes, there were issues. At certain places we have been able to convince those who had fears, while at some other places our talks are continuing. Hence, we have decided to begin operations where there will be no resistance,” Chandy said.

New TV Advertisement Campaign launched by Tourism Ministry

A new TV advertisement campaign featuring Bollywood actor Aamir Khan has been recently launched by the Tourism Ministry. It tries to make the ‘Incredible India brand’ more irresistible to the foreign tourists but also motivate people in creating a friendlier environment for the visitors.

The four films, made on the theme of “Atithi Devo Bhava”, aim to spread awareness about ways to extend hospitality to tourists visiting India by adopting an honest and helpful attitude, as well as maintaining cleanliness and hygiene.

Actor Aamir Khan is the brand ambassador for these films, while these have been directed by the eminent ad-maker Prasoon Joshi.  Khan has been brand ambassador for the “Atithi Devo Bhava” since 2009.

‘Tourist Facilitation Centre’ in Delhi’s Connaught Place

Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) will soon launch a unique ‘Tourist Facilitation Centre’ in the heart of the capital, seeking to make it a ‘one-stop-shop’ for all tourism-related services.

Located in Connaught Place, it will offer a string of rail, land and air tour packages for domestic and international travellers, taking care of their itineraries as well as their air-ticket details to visa facilitation and insurance, from special train packages to customised tours, food to accommodation, and cab and concierge services to sightseeing.

The facilitation centre will handle all special train packages of IRCTC such as Bharat Darshan, pilgrim trains (Tirupati, Shirdi, and Buddhist circuits), the north-east, Kerala and Goa. In addition, there are air packages for Jammu and Kashmir, Shirdi and Tirupati.

Free Wi-Fi in Taj Mahal complex

In a major development, the Union Minister for Communications Ravi Shankar Prasad launched half-an-hour free Wi-Fi Internet facility in the Taj Mahal complex. Anyone wishing to remain logged in for more than half-an-hour can do so by paying Rs.30 an hour.

Now tourists visiting the Taj Mahal would be able to upload selfies or photographs clicked with their loved ones directly from the 17th century monument of love.

While tourism industry leaders have generally welcomed the new facility, some conservationists feel the Internet would prevent many tourists from appreciating the beauty of the monument, and soaking in the romance of the ambience of the surroundings.

Goa Airport to Issue E-Tourist Visas to 31 New Countries

The Goa International airport would issue E-Tourist Visas (ETVs) to 31 new countries enlisted for this facility granted by the Centre, a move that will boost tourism during monsoon season.

The existing policy had provided this benefit to 45 countries and with the inclusion of 31 more countries, the facility is now available for citizens from nearly 75 countries, while the Centre plans to extend this to 150 by next year, a press release issued by state tourism department revealed.

The airport at Dabolim has already made adequate arrangements for catering to citizens from 75 countries, availing of ETV facility. As on June 8, as many as 16,875 ETVs were issued at the Dabolim airport, it said.

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