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Indian Minister Alphons presides over the Program and Budget Committee meeting of UNWTO

MANAMA, Oct 31: Tourism minister KJ Alphons along with a delegation of senior officials attended the 109th session of United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Executive Council in Manama, Bahrain. The three day Session of UNWTO Executive Council began on October 30.

The Executive Council discussed several topics on the agenda that are related to the development of global Tourism sector.

During the opening day of the Executive Council meeting, Alphons chaired the ‘Programme and Budget Committee’ meeting of UNWTO.

In his opening remarks, the Minister highlighted the role of tourism in socio-economic development through job creation, enterprise and environment development and foreign exchange earnings. As the chair of the Committee, the Minister informed the session that for the first time, UNWTO had a surplus budget and most of the arrears due have been paid. India will be the chair of Programme and Budget Committee of Executive Council till 2021.

At the sidelines, the Tourism Minister also met the Secretary-General of UNWTO, Zurab Pololikashvili and spoke about involving UNWTO in developing tourism as a strong agent for the better future of the world and for establishing the Global Public Private Partnerships.

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is the United Nations agency responsible for the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism.

The UNWTO Executive Council represents the Organization’s governing body whose task is to take all necessary measures in consultation with the secretary-general, for implementation of its own decisions and recommendations of the assembly and report thereupon to the assembly.

The council consists of 35 full members elected by the assembly in proportion of one member for every five full members, in accordance with the rules of procedure laid down by the assembly with a view to achieving fair and equitable geographical distribution.

Target 20 million inbound tourists by 2020: Alphons

Alphons KJNEW DELHI, Oct 27: India should target 20 million inbound tourists by 2020, said Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Tourism KJ Alphons during The Indian Express Round Table Conference (RTC) in New Delhi on Thursday.

“Last year, we crossed the 10 million mark in inbound tourists but that’s really nothing. India needs to do so much better and reach the target of 20 million by 2020,” Alphons said. He added that “tourism is contributing over 6.8 per cent to India’s GDP and the sector employs 84 million people”. The theme of RTC was “20 Million inbound travellers by 2020”.

However, the minister admitted that there are some areas we need to work on to reach the ambitious target. “Our monuments need to be better maintained, so we came up with this idea of Adopt A Heritage.” He added that even though big protests happened, the ministry held their ground. “It’s all about all Indians feeling that this is my heritage, and not some babu sitting in some dusty office saying no one should touch the monument,” said Alphons, adding that he hopes the “protests are now behind us”.

As per the Adopt A Heritage scheme, while Delhi’s Purana Qila has undergone a facelift in collaboration with NBCC, the minister said that Red Fort complex is being redone along with the Dalmias. However, “the only thing I won’t give for adoption at the moment, till elections are over, is the Taj Mahal,” he said.

The minister also touched upon other problems hampering tourism such as cleanliness issues. “India fundamentally has a lot of problems. Swachh Bharat has dramatically changed things in the last four years. And that’s where tourism is going to benefit greatly. Cleanliness just got to get into our DNA otherwise tourism just won’t work.” Alphons also spoke about some of “our habits that need to change”. “Why can’t we leave people alone? When we see a white woman, people want to get closer. Why is this a national sickness?” he remarked. But he added that the number of such cases in India are few compared with many other countries. The minister also extolled the states to invest more in tourism.

“We have an incredible opportunity for adventure tourism since 70 per cent Himalayas are in India. Guidelines for adventure tourism have also been put in place but enforcement depends on states. But for the states, tourism not a priority at all. That’s hugely shocking because tourism has biggest multiplier effect,” he said.

Talking about his ministry’s focus areas in the coming days, Alphons said they are going to focus on getting tourists from China and also on cruise tourism. In that context, he said he has sought a five-year tax holiday for the nascent cruise tourism industry.

An hour-long insightful panel discussion on the subject followed the minister’s address. Moderated by Reema Lokesh, Editor, Express TravelWorld & Express Hospitality, the panel comprised Suman Billa, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Tourism; EM Najeeb, Chairman & Managing Director, Airtravel Enterprises Group; Dipak Deva, MD, Travel Corporation of India; and Kamal Hingorani, Chief Customer Officer, SpiceJet.

Czech Tourism conducts roadshows in India

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Oct 16: Czech Tourism, in cooperation with the Czech embassy, organised four-day roadshows in New Delhi, Ahmedabad and Mumbai from October 8 to attract more Indians to visit their country.

The roadshow was organised as part of the realization of the Project for Promotion of Economic Diplomacy (PROPED) and to present the destination Czech Republic – Land of Stories.

During the four days, CzechTourism, Czech Tourist Authority, conducted seminars which were attended by over 400 Indian travel agencies. The Indian agents had the opportunity to establish direct business cooperation with eight participating Czech representatives.

Experts from CzechTourism, who undertook the roadshow to India, were this year accompanied by representatives of eight Czech companies from tourism sector and their Indian representatives - Prague Airport a.s., RegioJet a.s. andr travel agency Serendipity Travel.

Roadshow also attended representatives of hotels from the Czech Corinthia Hotel Prague and the hotel chain Accor Hotels. DMC's Destination Management Company was represented by Vizit Europe, Eastern Europe Tours and Europamundo Vacations.

The roadshow took place in three Indian cities - Delhi, Ahmedabad and Mumbai - from where the majority of Indian tourists visit the Czech Republic.

India is one of the most dynamically growing markets with above-average number of overnight stays and amount of money spent. Taking into account the rapidly growing Indian middle class and the internal potential of the Czech Republic with numerous historical monuments, it is no wonder that inbound tourism is growing at almost 30% a year.

The Czech Republic attracts Indian tourists who usually plan their travels together with the visit of other countries in Central Europe, especially on historical monuments and architecture or spa tourism.

One of the main characteristics of inbound tourism is the high concentration of tourists visiting Prague, where 90% of Indian tourists arrive. The aim of the roadshow was to bring the Czech Republic closer not only as a "Prague" destination, but also to support tourism in other regions of Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia.

The program, made up of presentations, workshops and B2B meetings, was designed for tourism professionals who co-build products and arrange tours to the Czech Republic. A separate block dedicated to visa issues, networking social evening and a press conference was also included.

In addition to the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Delhi, program was attended also by Visa Outsourcing Company VFS Global, whose services can be used by Indian visa applicants already at 16 Visa Collection centres.

The series of seminars co-financed by the financial instrument for the promotion of economic diplomacy PROPED, financed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic and the Ministry of Regional Development of the Czech Republic, undoubtedly further strengthened the awareness of the Czech Republic - the Land of Stories "and stimulated further growth in the years to come.

Sikkim shines; receives FAO award for becoming world's first organic state

ROME, Oct 16: Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan K Chamling received the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation's (FAO) prestigious Future Policy Gold Award from its Deputy Director Maria Helena Semedo, who commended the Himalayan state for setting an example to the world by becoming the first totally organic state.

Accepting the award at the FAO headquarters in Rome, the soft-spoken Chamling extended an invitation to the world, “Let us build an organic world together.”

“An organic world is definitely achievable,” he said. “I also appeal to the world community that we do not carry out any kid of development work and business at the cost of the environment.”

Nicknamed the “Oscar for best policies,” the award is co-organised with the FAO by The World Future Council (WFC) and IFOAM – Organics International, and recognises “the world’s best laws and policies promoting agroecology.”

Presenting the award, Semeda said, “Sikkim is an outstanding example on how to successfully transform the food system and ensure respect for people and planet” and the award recognises the state's leadership and political will.

Sikkim's transition to organic farming “has benefited over 66,000 family farmers, reaching beyond just organic production to include socioeconomic aspects such as consumption and market expansion, rural development and sustainable tourism with its comprehensive and inclusive approach,” she said.

At the ceremony, a film was shown highlighting how the state achieved the transformation through research, marketing and education for farmers.

Semedo said, “My message is a chemical-free world.”

“If we want to protect the planet we have to go for chemical-free farming,” she said.

The award recognises the policies adopted by the state starting with a political commitment to support organic farming in 2003 that led to the 2010 Sikkim Organic Mission. The state's policies and commitment led to it becoming the first 100 percent organic state.

Sikkim beat out 51 other nominees from around the world for the award.

Vandana Shiva, the environment activist and president of the Navdanya International, presented the silver award.

Earlier on Monday at a news conference held at the Chamber of Deputies in the Italian Parliament, Chamling - in power for a record 25 years with his Sikkim Democratic Front party winning election after election in the northeastern state - said that organic farming was a form of action of non-violence.

When his government embarked on the organic farming mission in 2003, it was confronted by opposition parties and vested interests of the chemical sector, but through hard work backed by a strong political commitment Sikkim was able to overcome the odds and become totally organic by 2015.

Now several Indian states like Kerala and others in the Northeast were trying to follow the example of Sikkim, he said.

It was important to involve the youth in the organic mission and many educated young farmers in the state have developed marketing strategies that take the state's produces to places as far away as Delhi and Bangalore, he said.

The news conference was hosted by the leaders of the Italy's Agriculture Commission and Environment Committee, who praised Sikkims achievement as a trendsetter for the world. Italian MP Rossella Muroni, the Free and Equal Party leader on the Environment Committee, congratulated Chamling and Sikkim for their pioneering work and showing how organic farming is possible.

Maria Chiara Gadda, the Democratic Party leader at the Agriculture Commission, said Sikkim was an inspiration for striving towards sustainable organic farming.

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