Kochi: With rupee's exchange value falling steadily, India has become a cheaper destination for tourists and central and state governments should capitalise on the opportunity and give incentives to the industry, tour operators demanded Saturday.
The Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO) asked governments to exempt the industry from service tax and provide tax incentives for five years.
"If the government wants to capitalise on weakening of the rupee against the dollar, this is an opportunity to make use of it and compete with countries like Thailand and Malaysia," IATO President Subash Goyal told reporters here.
With global slowdown impacting growth, Indian tour operators have begun eyeing newer markets like China, Japan and Saudi Arabia, he said.
"It will be wrong to say that there is no impact of slowdown. We were expecting a 20 percent growth. But due to recession in major markets like Russia and US, this growth has been only 5-6 percent. So, tour operators have started looking at other markets like China, Japan and Saudi Arabia."
IATO also demanded Visa on Arrival facility from all major markets like the UK, the US, France and Germany, which are tourism generating countries and e-visas to be issued in India.
The recent Uttarakhand disaster and the brutal rape in Delhi on December 16 had given wrong publicity to the country. IATO along with tourism ministry plans to have a 24-hour helpline which will be monitored in 6-7 languages. The toll numbers would be given in the embarkation cards, he said.
Tourism alone can solve India's problems of foreign exchange balance of payment, current account deficit (CAD), employment and poverty eradication, he said.
The three-day 29th annual convention of IATO will be formally inaugurated by Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy here tomorrow.
About 1500 delegates are expected to participate in the convention, the theme of which is 'Tourism-Partnership and Innovation'. Union ministers K Chiranjeevi, K V Thomas, K C Venugopal are among those participating.
Pointing that the port fees at Kochi was 'very high', he said there is need for world class cruise facilities in Kerala. Lots of cruise ships are now going to Colombo and there is need to attract them here, he said adding there was opportunity which needs to be tapped.
Innovations with help of online maps, digital camera, online check in, GPS navigation, Internet access have changed tourism travel scene in the last few years, Goyal said.