SAARC meeting in Colombo to promote South Asia tourism

[TamilNet, Monday, 01 August 2005, 10:21 GMT]
Minister of State for Tourism, Government of India, Ms Renuka Chowdry and other heads of delegation of SAARC countries attending a meeting of SAARC Tourism Ministers in Colombo Monday, signed a joint declaration for making joint efforts for promotion of tourism in the region, a press release issued by the Sri Lanka Information Department said.

Full text of the press release follows:

Smt. Renuka Chowdhury, Minister of State for Tourism, Government of India, is currently on a visit to Colombo to participate in the meeting of SAARC Tourism Ministers organized by the SAARC Chamber of Commerce & Industry.

During her address to the inaugural session of the meeting, today, she lauded the resilience of the people of Sri Lanka and India for bouncing back from the effects of tsunami which had taken a heavy toll on human lives, livelihood and industry, particularly the tourism industry. She said that the need of the hour was to collectively address common issues which will bring benefits to the people of the region.

Keeping in view the intrinsic strength and variety of tourist attractions in South Asia, she underscored the need to undertake concerted measures to accelerate pace of regional tourist growth and make South Asia the favourite destination for international travelers. She referred to the view taken during the 12th SAARC summit in Islamabad that development of tourism in South Asia would result in mutual benefit to all the members and assist in eventual realization of the goal for a South Asian Economic Union. In this context, she referred to the working group on tourism set up during the 24th SAARC Ministerial session in Islamabad in January 2004 where it was decided that Government of India will take the lead in preparing a programme for action for collaboration in skill development in tourism sector through exchange of teachers, students, teaching modules and materials. She also mentioned that Government of India will develop a website on behalf of SAARC member countries and assist in web marketing of tourism in South Asia. She requested member States to respond to this initiative expeditiously.

The Minister mentioned that it is ironical that though the region has ashared history of Ramayana, there is no Ramayana tourist circuit. She addedthat cultural linkages of the SAARC region can be developed for jointly marketing tourist attractions. She mentioned that under the SASEC initiative, India along with Bhutan, Bangladesh and Nepal will jointly market the Buddhist circuit and eco- tourism products in the region. She complimented the role of regional fora like SAARC, SASEC and BIMSTEC for stimulating tourism in south Asian region.

Smt. Chowdhury expressed the hope that the tourism Ministers’ Meeting would prove another milestone in the common pursuit of trade promtion, tourism and people to people contact. This would assist in fostering mutual understanding among South Asian nations, which have common elements of a shared civilizational and cultural heritage.

The Indian Minister and other heads of delegation of SAARC countries also signed a Joint Declaration at the end of the meeting for making joint efforts for promotion of tourism in the region.

The Minister thanked the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and the SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry for their initiative to organize this meeting. She also thanked the Government of Sri Lanka for graciously hosting the event which had resulted in exchange of a wealth of ideas and initiatives aimed and meaningful and fruitful cooperation in tourism sector.

India accounted for the largest number of tourist arrivals in Sri Lanka for the first six months of 2005, with the number of Indian tourists amounting to 54,618 followed by UK with 39,303. This accounts for 21% of total tourist arrivals in Sri Lanka. India has recently announced grant of gratis visas for travel by Sri Lankan pilgrims of all religious denominations traveling in groups of 10 and above. Sri Lankan Airlines currently operates 88 flights a week to 11 Indian destinations and has become the largest foreign airline operating to India. There is a Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in the field of tourism between India and Sri Lanka which aims at simplification of procedures for tourists, setting up of representative offices and exchange of information, expertise and experience.

 

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