17 Sep :PATA TRAVEL MART 2008 began in Hyderabad today. It was formally inaugurated by the union tourism and culture minister Smt. Ambika Soni and Minister of Tourism, Government of Andhra Pradesh Shri Anam Ramnarayan Reddy. The chairman PATA Ms. Janice Antonson and President and CEO PATA Shri. Peter DE Jong were also present on the occasion.
Earlier the Tourism and Culture Minister Smt. Ambika Soni had called upon the member states of Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) to come together against cross border terrorism and networks of criminals activities. She was speaking at a dinner reception organized in honour of the PATA delegates on the eve of the inauguration of the Pacific Asia Travel Mart (PATA), 2008. The Andhra Pradesh chief minister Dr. Y.S.R Reddy was also present on the occasion. Smt. Soni said terrorism is causing concerns globally. Terrorism has no boundaries and no religion. It affects life and property of people belonging to all religions. The issue is how to tackle and defeat terrorism and called upon all the member states of PATA that in a spirit of cooperation, they must come together against cross border terrorism and networks of criminal activities. Smt. Soni said despite criminal activities of terrorists, tourism will grow in India and worldwide.
Smt. Soni said we have been campaigning to bring PATA to India since 2005. Through this event we not only wanted to showcase our important tourist destinations and products but also convey to the world the importance that Government of India, all the State Governments and the travel trade fraternity attach to realizing the true potential of tourism for the good of the country and its people. Therefore the selection of India as a venue for PATA, from our point of view, is an indication of the changing global perception of Incredible India. Today, the State of Andhra Pradesh under the Chief Ministership of Dr. Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy is making great strides on all fronts. The State of Andhra Pradesh has developed its tourism destinations and products in a professional manner so much so that it is being emulated as a model State.
The union minister said the Asia Pacific region is endowed with enormous diversity in terms of its natural beauty, culture, heritage and cuisine to name just a few. Worldwide travelers find this region to be most welcoming and hospitable as people here genuinely treat their guest as God which we in India, since time immemorial call ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’. Tourism in this region is highly developed: its enchanting destinations and its diverse tourism products always beckon travelers to revisit and rediscover its attractions.
Smt. Ambika Soni said, with increasing realization of tourism potential for employment generation and economic growth, we in India too are developing tourism infrastructure in a big way in partnership with State Governments and travel trade industry: Work has already begun at our 22 mega tourism destinations which have been identified in the first phase; connectivity to tourism destinations by air, rail and road are being tackled in coordination with various Ministries and Departments; we have incentivized construction of all category of hotels across the country especially Budget hotels; Bed and Breakfast Scheme and camping sites are other novel ways of addressing accommodation shortage. We are promoting India internationally as a spiritual and healing destination, besides, other niche tourism products such as rural tourism, eco tourism, wildlife tourism and medical tourism are being developed. I would like to take a moment here to thank all the State Governments and travel trade industry for their support and cooperation to all our initiatives.
The minister briefly mentioned about the common challenges that tourism industry in Asia Pacific region is facing today. She said Every now and then natural disasters have become a common occurrence in our region: tsunamis, earthquakes, floods, bird flu have all made this region extremely vulnerable. We should not let disasters derail our tourism industry upon which millions of poor are dependent upon. I urge all the Member countries of PATA to strategise to establish an Early Warning System for the region in a frame of cooperation.
The minister said the rapid changes in technology especially the use of Internet is challenging the traditional way of conducting tourism: E-ticketing, online booking of accommodation and services are all eliminating middle-man and margins. Adaptation is the best way to cope with this challenge. The tourism industry should become internet savvy and make services available and affordable. Similarly, nations that facilitate seamless travel will attract greater tourist traffic as was evident in some Asia Pacific countries that introduced ‘Visa on Arrival Scheme’. We in India have introduced long duration visa of five years to citizens of 18 countries and are expanding this list further. We are also hopeful that with modernization of our airports we should be able to put in place ‘visa on arrival’ facility.
She said, we all have witnessed the adverse impact of high fuel costs on tourism. Thankfully the situation is improving with fuel costs coming down. We need to strategise to make tourism sustainable and less dependent on conventional forms of energy. I was indeed happy to hear from some of my Indian colleagues of the travel trade industry that they are already taking measures to promote carbon neutral activity in their enterprises by way of conserving energy, water and introduce renewable energy practices. May I urge PATA to take a lead in helping countries in the region receive clean development technologies and assistance. We should collectively strengthen the UNWTO system to work diligently in this regard.
Similarly we should not let the ongoing debate on climate change dampen the potential of the tourism sector. I would like to reiterate that tourism and environment are indeed compatible and sustainable. The responsible manner in which tourism is pursued in our Asia Pacific region has proved this point time and again. Pursuit of Rural, Adventure, Eco, Wildlife and Wellness tourism in a responsible manner make the locals natural stakeholders in tourism as it helps in creating employment opportunities and income generation at the local level. This not only helps in preventing migration of people but also instills inclusive growth which from a developing country’s point of view is very crucial.