The civil aviation ministry has given its nod to a proposal to provide leave travel concession (LTC) for government employees to Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives and Sri Lanka to boost tourism in the region.
A senior official in the ministry confirming the development said, “The move is intended to boost tourism within SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) countries. Pakistan and Bangladesh has been left out for now because of security issues.”
The approval from the ministry of civil aviation was required so that the LTC can be availed of on national carrier Air India while flying to these countries.
Interestingly, latest available official data shows that there has been a decline in foreign tourist arrivals from Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives and Sri Lanka in 2013.
Sri Lanka does feature among the top five countries accounting for 3.77 per cent of foreign tourist arrivals in India. However, tourist arrivals from Sri Lanka to India dropped by 11 per cent in 2013.
Similarly, arrivals from Nepal declined by 9 per cent, Bhutan by 1 per cent. Foreign tourist arrivals from Maldives went down by 10 per cent in the same period.
The LTC scheme extended to the four identified countries will be designed akin to those for travel to Jammu & Kashmir and to the North-East.
The measure, government official say, will enhance tourism and subsequently economic development in the South Asian region.
“There are around two million government employees. With the extension of the LTC scheme there is bound to be greater tourist inflow and outflow with these countries”, added the official.
In the 18th SAARC Summit held in Nepal in November last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had emphasised the need for enhancing connectivity in the region, saying it was easier to travel to Bangkok and Singapore than to countries in the neighbourhood.
There is a significant population of Buddhists in the SAARC region and India has lately being making attempts to boost tourism such places of religious significance like Bodh Gaya, Sarnath and Kapilavastu.
At the summit, Modi had in fact flagged off a bus service connecting Kathmandu with New Delhi.
BOOST FOR REGIONAL TOURISM
* DUE TO security issues, Pakistan and Bangladesh have been excluded from the scheme
* THE NOD from the civil aviation ministry is required for the proposal so that employees can avail the LTC scheme when flying on Air India to these countries
* THE SCHEME will be similar to that for travel to Jammu & Kashmir and to the North-East