New Delhi: India today underlined the need for jointly exploring ways to promote tourism in SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) countries, whose growth potential have not yet been fully utilised.
"SAARC countries should explore the ways and means for more exchange of tourists amongst them," Tourism Minister Subodh Kant Sahai said while inaugurating the conclave of SAARC tour operators here.
There are about 45 leading tour operators from India, Maldives, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan participating in the conclave.
The conclave is focusing on various strategies to promote tourist destinations and products in the SAARC region.
"We must motivate each SAARC country in such a way that tourism becomes the focus of economic and political agenda," he said.
Acknowledging the potential of the region, Sahai said that SAARC nations have immense growth potential, which till date has not been fully utilised.
"If it could be fully utilised in all possible ways, the SAARC region has the potential to steer the economy of the world. The cultural diversity of the SAARC region is unique, and the combination of scenic landscapes, natural beauty, and ethnic multiplicity ? only add to its international appeal.
"All these facts unite to make the SAARC region a great tourist attraction. In fact, most SAARC nations have already realised this potential at individual level but with a concerted effort, the success culminated would be many folds," he said.
The seven-member countries are an important source market for India as 1,013,516 tourists from SAARC region visited India in 2011 as compared to 9,98,179 in 2010.