President Pranab Mukherjee on Monday stressed on the importance of sustainable, "green" tourism, and called upon host communities to be more conscious and proactive with regard to tourist destinations in their respective areas.
"I would also like to stress the importance of sustainable, "green" tourism. To this end, I call upon host communities to be more conscious and proactive with regard to tourist destinations in their respective areas. Hotels, museums and monuments should consciously reduce their use of energy and water. They should consciously try to reduce generation of waste. Transportation, heating, cooling, washing and lighting could be made 'greener'," said President Mukherjee, who presented the National Tourism Awards in various categories at a function at Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi.
"Visitors themselves should be reminded to be more mindful. They should be encouraged and assisted in safeguarding the facilities that they use for future travellers. Co-operation, rather than competition, between organisations in the tourism industry could help to develop socially responsible products. I have no doubt, whatsoever, that we are generally on the right path, but we need to update and upgrade constantly," he added.
President Mukherjee welcomed the institution of the national tourism awards, and said that it would give an impetus and encourage all players in the tourism sector.
"It is indeed a pleasure to join you in recognizing those who have made an outstanding contribution to the promotion of India as a tourist destination. I welcome the institution of these national awards - which will give an impetus and encourage all players in this important sector of our economy," said President Mukherjee.
"Today, our tourism industry has commendably expanded its operations and range of offerings. India has welcomed about 6.65 million foreign tourists last year. This denotes a growth of 5.4 percent in such arrivals over the previous year. Foreign exchange earnings in this segment of our economy are estimated to be about Rs. 94,500 crores for 2012. This, too, is a significant — 21.8% increase over the previous year," he added.
Stating that it is also interesting to see how India's domestic demand for tourism has developed, President Mukherjee said, "The increase in disposable incomes of Indian citizens have given them an increasing capacity for leisure travel.
There is also an abundance of attractive offers, new and improved air and rail connections and a general expansion of the tourism infrastructure in all States of India. Its multiplier effect has been strong and has led to creation of jobs in the primary, secondary and tertiary sectors.
"For this, a great amount of the credit is due to the initiatives of the Union Government and the State Governments to invigorate our tourism infrastructure and improve the facilities offered to the foreign and domestic tourist. The "Incredible India" campaign was, by all standards, a well-conceived and concerted effort in brand promotion," he added.
President Mukherjee said these awards would also encourage States and Union Territories to develop effective mechanisms for maintaining cleanliness and safeguarding heritage spots.
"The diverse and unique aspects of all that is offered by the different States of India have been projected in a single, successful campaign. New categories of awards will promote India as a year-round destination. They will encourage States and Union Territories to develop effective mechanisms for maintaining cleanliness and safeguarding heritage spots," he said.
Stressing on the importance of a highly specialized and motivated work force, President Mukherjee said, "It is important for government and private sector to collectively generate adequate manpower - both in terms of quantity and quality."
President Mukherjee further said one of the most attractive assets that India can offer is its cuisine.
"There is no parallel to the range of local specialties that a traveller can savour as he travels through India. Due attention to safety and quality standards would instill more confidence in the foreign as well as domestic tourists. I am informed that Government will soon open an institute of excellence for culinary specialization and research. I wish them all success in this endeavour," said President Mukherjee.
President Mukherjee also stressed the need to ensure that every aspect of our infrastructure responds to the expectations of the best-travelled tourists.
"A visit to a world renowned heritage site can be marred by poor approach roads or the absence of public facilities en route or by unpleasant sights and odours. The campaign, "Clean India" launched by the Ministry of Tourism to promote cleanliness and hygiene and the "Atithidevo Bhava" campaign are good initiatives," he said.
Speaking on the occasion, President Mukherjee commended those who have succeeded in identifying opportunities and swiftly realizing their tourism potential.
"I congratulate the Ministry of Tourism for instituting the National Tourism Awards, and those who have received these awards. I take this opportunity to wish each of you great success in your daily efforts and your future endeavours," he said.