Recognising that India has so far lagged behind in promoting itself as an ideal destination to attract tourists, she said, tourism as a sector has not been understood and is still not understood, and continues to remain an unexplored area.
The potential of the sector as a major area of attracting foreign exchange earnings has not been leveraged.
Speaking at the Express Travel and Tourism awards function here on Tuesday, she said, Packaging India as a tourist destination is a complex issue. Leave aside international tourists who are familiar with destinations like Goa or Kerala, even domestic travellers do not know destinations in south India or the North East.
This situation, she said, was in the wake of an overall India-centric thinking worldwide. Especially in the wake of Indians contributing to the economies of developed countries around the world, promoting the country as a tourism destination needs to be given priority to avail of this opportunity, she said.
According to Ms Choudhury, in an effort to promote this cause, ministries like tourism, home affairs and civil aviation need to work together to promote India as a tourist destination. However, she said, we have to open cautiously.
Elaborating, she said, we must learn from the lessons of other countries. There have been instances where countries, in an attempt to earn revenues, have indulged in callous development of their tourism sector, endangering their fragile ecosystems. In this perspective, public-private partnership hold key to conserving monuments and maintaining them.
According to Ms Choudhury, tourism has already emerged as the third largest foreign exchange earner for the country, after information technology (IT) and commerce. We simply cant let go off this opportunity. There is a need for a strong domestic campaign to understand the role of tourism.
Mr Choudhury said, tourism ministry is already making efforts to make people, corporates and other associated bodies, aware about the role of tourism. The sector is not only instrumental in generating employment for a large number of people, it will also be instrumental in promoting traditional skills and handicrafts of people here.
The Indian Express Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta said, being in the government domain till now, civil aviation and tourism sectors are vastly unexplored areas in the country. Especially tourism which is the last sleeping sector in the countrys economy. The potential of the sector has far not been leveraged.
However, things are changing and efforts are being made in the right direction to promote India as a tourist destination.