The Telegraph
Saturday , November 10 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ask govt for holiday plans

New Delhi, Nov. 9: The tourism ministry has realised that the first step towards attracting tourists is to tell them where to go, how to go there and what to see.

So, it has taken upon itself the job of planning domestic and foreign travellers’ itineraries, at least for a select “top 150 destinations” in the country.

The ministry will be upgrading its website to map these places in detail, showing the places to see, points and means of entry and exit, and even the food destinations.

“If you have 11 days to spend, it will give you three or four options on the way you can possibly spend your holidays,” a senior ministry official said.

For instance, for tourists to Goa, the website will offer different travel plans depending on whether they plan mainly to visit the beaches or old churches.

“We now receive only 0.6 per cent of the world’s tourists. The reason primarily is that we are not out there wooing them,” tourism secretary Parvez Dewan said.

“We have to put up as much information as possible to attract them. And that is what we plan to do by converting the tourism website into the best.”

India now gets a little over 55 lakh tourists a year, a fifth of whom come from the US or Canada.

Ministry officials have been holding discussions with Google and other leading Internet companies on how to prepare such a website. Tenders will be floated later.

Most Indian travel websites now provide information about air connectivity or about how to reach a place by car but carry little about bus or train schedules. The ministry website intends to correct this. For each of these destinations, a walking tour will also be mapped.

Links to all hotels and tour guides accredited by the ministry will be uploaded too. “What we want is that anyone coming to our country should have access to enough information to make an intelligent decision,” the official said.

The ministry plans to launch its own app to make the website friendly for iPhones and other smart phones.

“We shall provide the software to the state governments so that they can do the same for their websites,” the official said.

The ministry also plans to steal an idea from London, which installs a blue plaque in front of important buildings or houses. The plaque gives snippets of information about who lived there, the year of construction and any important events associated with the place.

New tourism ad

Tourism minister K. Chiranjeevi launched a new ad campaign at the November 5-8 World Travel Market in London, his first stop since taking charge.

The last international campaign, “Incredible India”, was launched in 2002. The new ad comes with the tag “Find What You Seek”.

“Till now, we had been promoting India internationally from the point of view of only the well-known destinations like the Taj Mahal. Now we are attracting tourists to less-known destinations and offering them a range of choices,” Chiranjeevi said.