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National meet on tourism in Kochi from today

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Mr Subhash Goyal (centre), President, Indian Association of Tour Operators, addressing the press meet in Kochi. He is flanked by Mr Vijay Thakur (left), Vice-President, IATO, and Mr E.M. Najeeb, Chairman, IATO Kerala Chapter. - Vipin Chandran

Kochi , Aug. 25

AS many as 1,000 delegates are expected to participate in the 21st National Convention of Indian Association of Tour Operators to be held here from Friday. The theme for this year's convention is `Incredible Boom - Incredible Challenges'.

This is for the first time that Kerala is hosting an IATO convention, which will be inaugurated by the Chief Minister, Mr Oommen Chandy.

The four-day convention will deliberate on various topics such as building infrastructure, open skies, tourism of the future, health tourism, rural tourism etc.

Addressing a press meet here on Thursday, Mr Subhash Goyal, IATO President, said India needs to examine the challenges and threats that lie ahead for the tourism industry so as to sustain the boom in the sector as well as to achieve the anticipated growth of 10 million tourists by 2010.

The arrival of foreign tourists to the country has registered a growth of 18.6 per cent during 2004-05, thereby touching 3.54 million against 2.88 million registered in 2003-04. The foreign exchange earnings have also registered $5.02 billion as compared to $4.12 billion in the previous year, he said.

According to Mr Goyal, the boom has highlighted the problems relating to infrastructure such as lack of good airports, hotel rooms, roads, which are needed to make the foreign guests comfortable during their stay in India.

"If we fail to provide them with these basic requirements, all our publicity and marketing campaigns on `Incredible India' will become counter productive and result in the wastage of huge sums of amount which we are spending on them," he said.

Mr Goyal said some of the demands of the Association such as abolition of service tax on inbound tourism, rationalisation of taxes, further reduction in ATF prices and their uniformity in all the States, better connectivity, greater number of air seats, etc have not been met by the UPA Government. He also called upon the authorities to treat the tourism industry on a par with the software industry considering the huge job potential involved in the sector.

The Union Tourism Minister, Ms Renuka Choudhury; the Union Minister for State for External Affairs, Mr E. Ahamed; the Tourism Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Dr Geeta Reddy; the Tourism Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Mr Kawkab Hameed; the Tourism Minister of Orissa, Mr Surjya Narayan Patro; and the Tourism Minister of Kerala, Mr K.C. Venugopal, will attend the function.

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