New Delhi: Government today refused to comment on whether the Sethusamudram project site could be developed into a tourist spot, pointing out that the matter is currently pending before a court.
Replying to supplementaries in Rajya Sabha, Union Minister for Tourism and Culture Ambika Soni said, “I would not like comment on it as the matter is sub-judice.” The supplementary question was asked by BJP MP Shreegopal Vyas.
The minister said the foreign tourist arrivals (FTAs) in India has taken a hit due to the global financial turmoil.
“The growth rate in FTAs during January-November 2008 over the corresponding period of 2007 is only 8% as compared to growth rate of 14.8% in FTAs during January-November 2007 over the corresponding period of 2006”.
She added that “the lower growth rate in 2008 may be due to various reasons including the global financial meltdown and terrorist activities”.
Soni said the ministry has undertaken new schemes and is identifying fresh tourist spots to lift tourist arrivals in the country. “After Mumbai attacks, a committee under the chairmanship of Cabinet Secretary has been formed which is charting out steps to ensure safety for tourists and is coordinating with state governments to plan out 22 mega projects to boost tourism in the country,” she said.
She informed the House that the government has taken pro-active measures to give long-term visas on arrival for five years with multiple entry provision on a trial basis.
“This facility is available for 16 countries and more would be included later,” Soni said.
The minister said the government is on a “high alert” to check the entry of terrorists into the country.