Delhi hosts Kazakhstan-India Travel and Tourism Fair

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New Delhi, Nov.21 (ANI): India and Kazakhstan have both been affected by the global recession, but this has not prevented them from striving to keep bilateral business ties alive since January of this year, when the meltdown was at its devastating peak.

The business end of this strategic relationship has covered cooperation in several areas, including energy, civil nuclear activity, science and technology, space, pharmaceuticals and information technology. Travel and tourism has also emerged as a potential area for cooperation, and in this context, the Indian capital, New Delhi, played host to the four-day IVth Kazakhstan-India Travel and Tourism Fair, which concludes today.

Addressing honchos of the Indian travel and tourism trade at the Le Meridian Hotel here on Friday evening, Kairat Akhmetalim, Charge D' Affaire of the Embassy of Kazakhstan in India said it was a good tradition to regularly hold tourism and travel gatherings. He said this event reflected the high level of cooperation that has existed between his country and India in these two sectors since 2006.

"Both Kazakhstan and India are witness to outward and inward tourist flows. Today's event provides another opportunity to promote Kazakhstan as a tourism-friendly destination. The Government of Kazakhstan has identified the tourism sector for priority promotion," Akhmetalim said.

He also gave an overview of developments taking place in Kazakhstan, both in the Eurasian and global context.

J.P. Shaw, Deputy Director-General in the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, said there were a lot of similarities between the two countries vis-à-vis tourism products and potential. The Indian Government, he said, was using its existing infrastructure to develop and promote tourism products through its 14 offices abroad and 18 inndia.

With "Incredible India" as the Ministry of Tourism's signature theme, Mr. Shaw said that despite the recession, the GOI is quite optimistic about achieving its goals in the tourism sector, both domestically and externally.

He also acknowledged the drop in tourist arrivals in 2009 (-7 percent), the drop in foreign exchange earnings (FEE) from 507 billion rupees in 2008 to 424 billion rupees in 2009.

However, he said, the impact of tourism on the Indian economy can never be underestimated, as it provides nine percent of employment; 49.8 million direct and indirect jobs and contributes six percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Insofar as the action taken to counter the global meltdown, Mr. Shaw said the GOI has initiated a liberalization of market development assistance schemes, launched aggressive marketing campaigns and road shows in key source markets, organized familiarization tours and declared 2009 as the Visit India Year. As a result, he said FEE's were presently at 18percent.

Shaw also said emphasis was also being placed on promoting rural tourism through 150 designated sites, and made a mention of the initiatives that are being taken to make the Commonwealth Games in Delhi as the signature tourism event of 2010.

Shakira Adibekova, Deputy Director of the Kazakhstan Tourist Association (KTA), spoke about the high level of cooperation between Kazakhstan and India in the tourism sector, and how over the last decade, the KTA has been actively promoting the hotel and tourism industry.She also gave a round-up of Kazakhstan's tourism potential.

A particular focus of her presentation was the fact that Indian inbound tourist arrivals to Kazakhstan has dropped by almost half since 2007,while outward tourist flows from Kazakhstan to India were on the rise. She said that in 2009, Indian tourist arrivals were a little over 700, while more than 1200 Kazakh tourists had visitedIndia in the January-October 2009 period.

Richard Ledger, Director (Sales) Air Astana and Virender Teotia, General Sales Agent for Air Astana in India also spoke on the occasion and revealed their intention to build brand awareness of the airline in India with a focus on leisure tourism.

The evening ended with a video presentation on the many aspects of Kazakhstan, reflecting its image as a tourism friendly destination. By Ashok Dixit (ANI)

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