Centre plans to rope in ex-servicemen as tourist police

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Kochi, Mar 21 (UNI) The Union Tourism Ministry, in consultation with the Defence and Home Ministries, has drawn up draft guidelines to deploy ex-servicemen as tourist police, Tourism Secretary Shilabhadra Banerjee said today.

Talking to reporters on the sidelines of the 'Second International Conference on Responsible Tourism in Destinations' here, Mr Banerjee said the draft guidelines had been circulated to the state governments and their response was awaited.

The basic objective was to use the expertise and experience of ex-servicemen for security-related jobs in tourist destinations.

Providing adequate security and safety for tourists was a major concern for the Centre even before the Scarlett Keeling rape and murder case in Goa, he said.

''We have been advising the state governments to set up tourist police and several of them have done so already,'' he added.

While stating that the Centre was not apprehending any negative fallout from the Scarlett Keeling episode on international tourist arrivals in India, Mr Banerjee said ''we want to reiterate that India is an absolutely safe destination.'' Stating that the tourism season was going on well, Mr Banerjee said the country had witnessed an 11 per cent increase in foreign tourist arrivals in January and February, 2008, compared to the corresponding months in the previous year.

During 2007, the country had received five million foreign tourists, a 12 per cent increase over 2006.

In revenue terms, the country had earned 12 billion US Dollars from tourism in 2007, a 34 per cent increase over 2006, he said.

Identifying 'rural tourism' as a new area of focus of the 'Incredible India' campaign, Mr Banerjee said there was great interest in rural tourism all over the world.

The Centre had identified 126 sites all over the country to promote rural tourism. Projects, aided by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), had already been initiated in 36 sites, he added.

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