The Ministry of Tourism has decided to shut down its seven overseas offices tasked with promotional activities by March 31 next year.
At present, the ministry runs tourism offices in London, Tokyo, Beijing, Dubai, Singapore, New York and Frankfurt.
An office memorandum, issued by under secretary Rajesh Kumar, reads, “The undersigned is directed to intimate that as per the approval of the competent authority, Ministry of Tourism has decided to wind up all the overseas Indian Tourism offices before March 31, 2023.” “Accordingly, all the officers posted in the ITOs (Indian Tourism Offices) overseas are requested to take necessary action in pursuance of this decision and submit an action taken report,” it further said.
Though the memorandum has not assigned any reason for shutting down overseas offices, government sources say the decision has been taken by the Prime Minister’s Office.
“The government somewhere feels that the expenses incurred on the functioning of these offices are not worth the promotions that the Indian tourism sector gets abroad,” a government officer associated with the sector said.
He added the government feels that digital medium and existing embassies can be good alternatives.
Some experts have called it a wrong move which, they believe, will impact the sector badly.
They say that the first tourism office was opened in 1952 in New York with a purpose to promote Indian culture, heritage and monuments and in the later years, 25 such centres were opened in different countries.
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Satyajeet Rajan, former Director General in the Tourism Ministry, said it is not a good decision and it will hamper the sector. According to him, if the government wants to close down offices then it should support other promotional activities as an alternative measure.
Rajan, who is at present Additional CEO of the Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board, said, “If overseas offices fail to live up to the expectations, then closing down is an option but there should be an alternative planning in terms of aggressive promotional activities and campaigns in more and more countries.” Ronjon Lahiri, who retired from the Ministry of Tourism in 2020, said that in the last two decades, administrative steps were taken only to curtail the activities of the overseas tourist offices and make them listless.
“The closure of overseas offices eventually spells the death knell for Indian tourism. I think the government thinks that digitalization is the answer to marketing and promotion of India as a tourist destination. I will call it a blinkered vision,” Lahiri said.
“Even when India was not financially strong, it kept on opening new offices in 1950s, 60s and 70s because the government then understood the importance of these offices for the promotion of Indian tourism,” he added.
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Lahiri alleged that these offices under-performed because crucial positions remained vacant for years and no efforts were made to fill these posts. “Even when these posts were filled, people of calibre were not posted who could have boosted promotional efforts,” he claimed.
Subhash Goyal, president of the Confederation of Tourism Professionals of India, echoed the concern and said he believes inbound tourism will be hit badly.
“The government believes that its embassies will do the promotional work. I don’t agree with it. Travel agents and tourists don’t feel comfortable visiting embassies as there are security concerns,” Goyal said, adding that he had suggested the government to appoint alternative marketing agents in case they have no option but to close the offices.
(This story is published as part of the auto-generated syndicate wire feed. No editing has been done in the headline or the body by ABP Live.)