The infrastructure in gateway cities such as Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai needs to be strengthened

Our Bureau

Chennai, Aug. 4

India requires 2.4 lakh hotel rooms across categories in the next few years to cater to growth in arrivals, according to Mr Ashwini Kakkar, Chairman, World Travel and Tourism Council, India Initiative.

He said that this was a tremendous opportunity for public private partnerships (PPP) to create the necessary infrastructure for tourism in the country.

He said that Government should make land available at a competitive price, which would enable the industry to make the investments in the tourism sector. Mr Kakkar said that earlier, investment in the tourism sector would take between nine and 11 years to break even. But now, the project will break even in 4-5 years, he said.

Financial institutions could come out with innovative products to fund tourism projects. For example, bonds were issued by New York City to fund various infrastructure projects.

Speaking at a session on Tourism Infrastructure at a seminar organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry, Mr Kakkar said that most of the existing infrastructure in the country like the railways, ports and even airports were built in colonial times. Nothing has been added in the recent times, he said.

He pointed out that in 1947, India had the world's second largest railway network covering 66,000 km. But after independence, the railway network is yet to touch the 70,000 km mark, he said.

Another example, he gave was how twenty years ago, Egypt received one million tourists while 1.8 million tourists visited India. Egypt, today, has about 10 million visitors mainly because of the improvements made in infrastructure in the PPP mode.

Mr Kakkar said that not only was it important to set up the necessary infrastructure to promote tourism, but also equally necessary to protect and maintain the 14,000 listed monuments in the country. The total budget allocation to maintain these monuments, would work out to just Rs 7,000 per year per monument. More PPPs are also required in this area, he said.He said that the infrastructure in gateway cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai should be strengthened. For instance, the citizens of Mumbai city pay Rs 70,000 crore as tax but large majorities of them spend more than two hours commuting to work. These man-hours could be spent more profitably. The suburban railway in Mumbai, for instance, transports over six million people every day is over 100 years old. Upgrading infrastructure is not only necessary for growth in the tourism sector but also to enhance the quality of life of people around, he said. Mr M Narayanan, Chairman and Managing Director, Tourism Finance Corporation of India said that by 2010, 20 million jobs are likely to be created in the tourism sector and by 2007 the industry would be a $80 billion one.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated August 5, 2006)
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