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Tourist arrivals to India to go up by 25%

By K S R Menon in Dubai
Last updated on: May 07, 2004 13:18 IST
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Buoyed by the revival of tourism in Jammu and Kashmir and a boom in states like Goa and Kerala, foreign tourist arrivals to India are tipped to go up by 25 per cent this year, a top tourism official has said.

"A series of promotions led by the 300th anniversary celebrations of the Taj Mahal -- an all time draw for visitors -- is expected to lift tourist arrivals by 25 per cent this year," Rashmi Verma, additional director general of tourism, said in Dubai on Thursday.

Verma, who was here to attend the 11th Arabian Travel Mart, said that the foreign tourist arrivals in the first three months of this year had already gone up by 16 per cent compared to the same period last year.

This trend is likely to continue with the liberalisation on chartered flights and India emerging as an all-round, year-round destination, she said.

Goa and Kerala led the country as the states attracted the maximum number of foreign tourists while Jammu and Kashmir was regaining its lost glory with the improvement in relations with Pakistan, she said.

She said India was a favoured destination for wedding and honeymoon as people from abroad could choose a wedding in Rajasthani or Kerala style.

"The number of visitors from the Gulf countries have gone up by 30 per cent as the Arab tourists are looking east now," she said, adding India was one of the very few countries where tourism was not hit either by the September 11 terrorist strikes in the United States or the SARS epidemic.

The tourist arrivals from the UAE to India in particular saw a remarkable increase of 43 per cent, she said.

Prakash Jajoria, regional director, India Tourism, said 32,000 of the 81,000 tourists from the Gulf countries who travelled to India were from the UAE, showing the increasing popularity of Indian destinations in the Emirates.

A spurt in medical tourism, which combined both allopathic and ayurvedic treatments also gave a boost to the sector.

India has been voted among the top five destinations by the Lonely Planet magazine and the latest survey by Conde Nast Traveler ranked the country among the top must-see five world destinations.

Verma said the air fare to India was also coming down consistently and the government was also considering visa on arrival scheme though it may take a little time to materialise because of security considerations.

Among the states which have put up a big show at the Travel Mart here are Goa, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir. Goa has been making a concerted effort at all the marts and as a result the large number of chartered flights carrying tourists are heading to that state, she said.

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K S R Menon in Dubai
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