Centre asks states to fasttrack crimes against foreign tourists

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New Delhi, Jan 24 (UNI) The Union Tourism Ministry today asked states to galvanise the state law enforcement agencies to take effective, exemplary and deterrent measures to prevent violence against foreign tourists, especially against women, and make use of ex-servicemen in the task of ensuring the safety and security of tourists.

Addressing a day-long Conference of State Tourism Secretaries, Tourism Minister Ambika Soni suggested that the states recruit more ex-servicemen in the state tourism police to provide security to the visitors to tourism spots.

Tourism Secretary S Banerjee told mediapersons that the states have been asked to make better use of the ex-servicemen in the tourism sector. "The ex-servicemen are trained and disciplined manpower," he said, adding that "more than 60,000 men were retiring from India's armed forces every year." He said Ms Soni asked the states to fasttrack the cases relating to heinous crimes against tourists.

Ms Soni also asked the states to sensitise people about the safety and security of tourists and link it up with the economic progress of their respective states and the country as a whole.

She said the country had lived through incidents of terrorism and epidemics such as bird flu and chikungunya, and it would definitely check the menace of crime against tourists, especially women.

Mr Banerjee said the conference agreed that safety and security was a important pre-condition for growth of both international and domestic tourism.

The Director General of Resettlement suggested involvement of the ex-servicemen who could work as tourist warden/buddy in each state after proper training.

The conference discussed in detail the shortage of hotel rooms for tourists, whose arrival has been increasing every year.

The conference estimated the shortage of tourist accommodation in the country at 150,000 rooms by 2010. Out of this 100,000 rooms are required in the budget category.

In this context, the Tourism Secretary advised the states to create land banks and adopt friendly land and taxation policies.

He advised the states to allot land on priority at preferential terms for budget hotels.

Adoption of single window clearance system by the state governments was also suggested as an effective measure to expedite clearance of hotel projects in the states.

Replying to a question, Mr Banerjee said the Bed and Breakfast Scheme had been successfully implemented in Delhi and that the other states should replicate the scheme to tackle the shortage of hotel rooms in the country.

Referring to the shortage of trained manpower in the tourism sector, he said there was a demand for 200,000 trained personnel every year, but the availability was only 12,000.

Mr Banerjee had promised all help from the Centre to set up hospitality institutes in public partnerships and give thrust to capacity building for service providers in the unorganised sector.

The state governments were also requested to make efforts at state level for promotion of hospitality education and training on a priority basis.

The Conference decided to improve connectivity to world heritage sites and other tourist destinations.

UNI SH SB AS2004

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