New Delhi: Blending spiritualism with tourism, the government is preparing a new programme to attract tourists, taking a leaf out of Italy and Saudi Arabia which are flocked by huge number of pilgrims every year.
Under the 'Spiritual Tourism' programme, the government has drawn up plans to develop holy places and heritage monuments in different parts of the country to woo tourists.
"If you look at spiritual tourism throughout the world, it is very big. There is a huge footfall in Rome at Italy and same is the case of Mecca Medina... In a similar fashion we should also explore our rich potential aspects comprising epics and spirituality," Tourism and Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma said here today.
He was launching E-Ticketing for Taj Mahal in Agra and Humayun?s Tomb in New Delhi besides a 24x7 Incredible India Tourist Helpline along with Special Welcome Cards for foreign tourists arriving at 9 International Airports.
Launching the slew of schemes for promoting tourism and cultural sites, he said 50 per cent of the monuments in the world are in India, which is also blessed with Buddhist Centres, Ganges and Himalayas.
"The Prime Minister has earmarked 500 crores for development of five tourist circuits such as Ganga, Krishna, Buddha, northeast and Kerala. This apart, development of seven pilgrimage destinations including Gaya, Amristar, Mathura and Velankanni would be developed," he added.
About Rs 100 crore have been earmarked for Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spirituality Augmentation Drive, besides a scheme for Heritage City Development has also been started, he said.
Speaking about the 'Tourist Visas on Arrival' initiative, Sharma said over 3000 visas were issued for tourists from the USA and 1500 tourists from Australia.
"In the last 11 months, we have 7.1 per cent increase in number of tourists. There is also 12.1 per cent growth in foreign exchange. We have crossed 1.07 lakh crore as foreign exchange in the last 11 months," he noted.