India needs to take several steps if it wants to achieve the ambitious target of getting 20 million tourists by 2020.
This sound advise and other suggestions have been given by the Indian Association of Tour Operators to the powers that be in hopes that they will be accepted.
One of the major suggestion is to reduce or waive the visa fees, so that the destination becomes competitive, especially since several countries in the area have gone for a visa free regime.
IATO president Pronab Sarkar told the first interactive meet of the association in the new year that the validity of the visa should be increased to 180 days from 120 days.
IATO feels that occupancy in hotels can be enhanced in the lean months if the visa issue is handled well.
Payment gateways must be improved and the biometric system should be streamlined.
Sarkar noted that the charter traffic to Goa had shown a decline and steps must be taken to stem this.
Development of cruise tourism should be taken up.
A suggestion was made by Mukesh Goel, of Oriental Travels, that IATO take steps to have its own database, rather than relying on government figures and claims.
Sarkar noted that several States were now active in tourism promotion. He asked the members to send feeedback, which will strenghten the association.
Ashwani Lohani, who retired recently as Railway Board chairman, was also felicitated on the occasion. Lohani has spent over 25 years in tourism in various capacities. He headed the ITDC, Rali Museum, Madhya Pradesh Tourism Corporation and was Director in the Ministry of Tourism.