India to shut down overseas tourism offices by March 31 next year, experts criticise move, India to wind up tourism offices in 7 countries

New Delhi: The Ministry of Tourism has decided to close its seven foreign offices for promotional activities by March 31 next year.

Currently, the ministry has tourism offices in London, Tokyo, Beijing, Dubai, Singapore, New York and Frankfurt.

An office memorandum issued by Deputy Secretary Rajesh Kumar reads, “The undersigned is hereby informed that with the approval of the competent authority, the Ministry of Tourism has decided to close all Indian Tourism offices abroad by March 31, 2023.”

“Accordingly, all officers posted in ITOs (Indian Tourism Offices) abroad are requested to take necessary action to comply with this decision and submit action taken report,” he said.

Although the memorandum did not assign a reason for the closure of foreign offices, government sources say the decision has been taken by the prime minister’s office.

“The government, somewhere, feels that the expenses incurred in running these offices are not worth the promotion that the Indian tourism sector gets abroad,” said a government official associated with the sector.

He added that the government believes that digital support and existing embassies can be good alternatives.

Some experts have called it a wrong move and think it will have a bad effect on the sector.

It is said that the first tourism office was opened in New York in 1952 with the aim of promoting Indian culture, heritage and monuments and in recent years 25 such centers were opened in different countries.

Satyajeet Rajan, former director general of the Ministry of Tourism, said it is not a good decision and will hamper the sector. According to him, if the government wants to close offices, it should support other promotional activities as an alternative measure.

Rajan, who is now the CEO of the Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board, said, “If the foreign offices do not meet expectations, then closure is an option, but there should be an alternative plan in terms of aggressive promotional activities and campaigns in more and more countries.”

Ronjon Lahiri, who retired from the Ministry of Tourism in 2020, said that in the past two decades, administrative steps were taken only to reduce the activities of foreign tourism offices and make them indifferent.

“Closing of foreign offices ultimately means the death knell of Indian tourism. I think the government believes that digitization is the answer to market and promote India as a tourism destination. I will call it a blind vision,” Lahiri said.

“Even when India was not economically strong, new offices continued to open in the 1950s, 60s and 70s because the government then understood the importance of these offices in promoting tourism in India,” he added.

Lahiri complained that these posts were too few because key posts had been vacant for years and no effort had been made to fill them. “Even when these posts were filled, people of the caliber that could have fueled the promotional effort were not posted,” he claimed.

Subhash Goyal, president of the Confederation of Indian Tourism Professionals, echoed the concern and said he believes inbound tourism will be badly hit.

“The government believes that its embassies will do the promotional work. I don’t agree with that. Travel agents and tourists don’t feel comfortable visiting embassies because of security concerns,” Goyal said, adding that he has proposed to the government. appointing alternative marketing agents if they have no choice but to close offices.

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