With an estimated 1.6 billion international tourists expected to visit the country by 2020, the Centre expects that around 950 million jobs would be created in the tourism sector by 2010, a senior tourism ministry official said on Tuesday.
"Foreign tourist arrivals have increased considerably in the recent years from about 3.46 million in 2004 to 5.08 million in 2007. During January and July 2008, the FTA was around 3.14 million as compared to 2.38 million during the corresponding period of previous year," Prabhakar Dubey, director in the ministry, said at a conference in Shillong.
Along with foreign tourists, the number of domestic tourists have also risen from 366 million in 2004 to 526 million last year.
"Tourism has become an important segment of the economy. around 950 million jobs are expected to be created by 2010 in the sector," Dubey said.
The ministry, he said, has launched rural tourism schemes through community participation and about 130 rural project sites have been identified in 27 states to promote traditional rural arts, crafts and culture to attract visitors and provide them with authentic and traditional experience.
Of these, 36 sites are ready to receive visitors, he added.
Meghalaya Tourism Minister Conrad Sangma said the rich tourism potential of the northeastern states were in need of proper marketing and publicity to attract the tourists.
Stressing on development of infrastructure like air connectivity and roads, he said tourism has to focus on the rural areas by involving the grassroots people and reflecting the diverse culture of the region.
Sangma also rued the negative image of the region projected outside it even though insurgency was limited to only certain pockets.