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Indian yoga is new mantra among young Pakistani tourists

Written by: Staff

New Delhi, Apr 25 (UNI) The "Incredible India" campaign with a focus on yoga will soon spread its wings in neighbouring Pakistan, a potential tourism market that remains untapped due to a long strained relationship.

With a new bonhomie emerging between the hostile neighbours and a new interest catching up with the Pakistani youth for yoga, India Tourism has started eyeing tourists from Pakistan as part of its aggressive marketing to take its enviable growth further. ''We hope to attract at least half-a-million tourists from across the western border by 2007,'' Tourism Joint Secretary Rajiv Talwar told UNI. The figure is ambitious considering a low 100,000 Pakistani tourists visited Indian destinations in 2005.

The people-to-people contact under the new Confidence Building Measures(CBMs) has played a major role in attracting more tourists from Pakistan last year as evident from the fact that 2004 recorded an inflow of only 64,000 tourists.

The visit of Tourism Minister Ambika Sonia to Pakistan tomorrow will give a shot in the arm to the Pakistani Tour Operators who had been motivated by the India Tourism under its new marketing strategy to hardsell its destinations in neighbouring countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

Mr Talwar, who had conducted a tourism ''road show'' in Lahore on April 20, said the response was ''very good'' and most of the Pakistanis seemed to have been attracted by the efficacy of yoga.

''We hope to promote golf, medical tourism, pilgrimage, shopping, jewellery and history in Pakistan,'' said Tourism Joint Secretary Amitabh Kant.

A majority of the Pakistani tourists want to visit North India for sight seeing, but preferred a visit to the South for medical tourism. ''They are more interested in North Indian destinations because of a common heritage, food habits and language,'' said Mr Kant.

He said it would not be difficult to attract 500,000 Pakistani tourists by 2007 in the context of a new Indian consulate being opened in Karachi. The proposed consulate would be able to issue more visas making it easy for the Pakistani tourists to visit India.

''If the half-a-million target is achieved, Pakistan will be on par with India's best tourist markets like the United Kingdom and the United States,'' Mr Talwar said.

More UNI SH RP RK1725

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