New Delhi: India on Tuesday announced that it would set up a multi- lingual helpline for international tourists by March next year, a move aimed at sprucing up the country's tourism sector which has the potential to play a major role as a foreign exchange earner and create millions of jobs every year.
"In order to provide information services to incoming tourists, action has been initiated to set up a telephonic contact centre through competent, qualified and experienced partners. We are making all efforts to ensure that the infoline commences by March 31, 2015," Indian Tourism Minister Shripad Naik told Parliament.
According to the minister, the multi- lingual helpline will primarily serve those calling from abroad and those who have reached India but do not understand Indian systems and languages, not even English.
"The languages to be handled by the contact centres will include 10 international languages, including Arabic and French, besides English and Hindi." The plan seems to in sync with the ruling BJP's pre-election manifesto which identified tourism as one of the five "T's" to revive 'Brand India'.
Keeping a promise
"Tourism plays a key role in socio-economic progress through creation of jobs, enterprise, infrastructure development and foreign exchange earnings," the party said in its manifesto which also spoke of a project to create 50 tourist circuits that are affordable and built around themes like archaeology, heritage, Himalayas, and deserts. According to the World Economic Forum's Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2013, India ranks 11th in the Asia Pacific region and 65th globally out of 140 economies ranked on travel and tourism Competitiveness Index.
One of the issues which has affected India's tourism industry in the recent past is the safety of women tourists. While a Swiss woman tourist was gangraped while she was on a cycling tour of of Madhya Pradesh with her husband last year, a Danish woman was gangraped by eight men in capital in January this year.