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Saturday, 28 February, 2015, 13 : 15 PM [IST]

Union Budget 2015-16: Facilities at cultural World Heritage Sites to be restored

Arun Jaitley, Minister for Finance, Corporate Affairs, and Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, has said that the facilities at India’s 25 cultural World Heritage Sites are deficient and require restorations. Presenting the Union Budget 2015-16 today, he proposed development of heritage sites such as churches and convents of Old Goa; Hampi, Karnataka; Kumbhalgarh and other hill forts of Rajasthan; Rani Ki Vav, Patan, Gujarat; Leh Palace, Ladakh, Jammu & Kashmir; Varanasi Temple town, Uttar Pradesh; Jallianwala Bagh, Amritsar, Punjab; and Qutub Shahi Tombs, Hyderabad, Telangana, and inclusion of them among the Heritage Sites of the country.

“The facilities like landscaping restoration, signage and interpretation centres, parking, access for differently-abled, and amenities for visitors, including security, toilets, illumination, and plans for benefiting communities around the sites would be restored in due course of time,” Jaitley added.

Manav Thadani, Chairman, WTTC, India Initiative, said, "The Union Budget 2015-16 envisages expanding the Visa on Arrival from the present 43 countries to 150 countries. WTTCII welcomes this move, but with immediate priority, the Government of India must ensure that China, France, Italy, Spain, and United Kingdom are included in the list as these countries are primary source markets and contributors to foreign tourist arrivals to India. The government must plan in advance and take adequate steps to guarantee seamless implementation and experience at the international airports with manpower and technology augmentation at immigration facilities at the existing international airports. Equally important is the immediate roll-out of a revamped Incredible India campaign and a proper marketing plan to generate consumer interest in these countries."

Subhash Goyal, President, Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO), appreciated the government's decision to develop World Heritage Sites and make them more tourist-friendly. He expressed happiness on the decision to look after security of women and provide for the Nirbhaya Fund, which will create confidence amongst women travellers.   

Neelu Singh, COO, Ezeego1.com, commented, "We are happy with the thrust on domestic and inbound tourism by developing key tourist destinations and sites and making them more tourist-friendly, such as World Heritage Sites of old Goa, Hampi, Elephanta Caves, Leh Palace and Varanasi temple town. It will help draw a lot of heritage and religious tourists. The government has highlighted the desire to incentivise cashless transactions which is a positive development for online sites such as Ezeego1.com. with individual tax payers getting tax benefit up to income of Rs 4.44 lakh, disposable income will increase, which is likely to indirectly induce leisure tourism. The Budget also pays heed to positioning India as a safe country for single female travellers by increasing contribution to the Nirbhaya Fund."

Madhavan Menon, Managing Director, Thomas Cook (India) Ltd., said "Focus on developing World Heritage Sites is of huge value given that many are in a bad shape and have received scant attention in the past. In addition to this, the investment of Rs. 2 lakh crore towards sanitation is critical for Incredible India’s image, overall. The rail and road infra thrust too will aid domestic and inbound tourism."

The announcement relating to upgradation of certain world heritage sites signals continued focus on tourism, said Hari Nair, Founder & CEO, HolidayIQ.com. "The question is, does the Indian tourism industry have the intrinsic capability to identify and quickly act on the opportunities thrown up by Budget 2015. The opportunities are certainly there," he added.

Sajid Khan, Country Manager – India, South African Airways, said that the Finance Minister's announcements to restore and preserve the 25 Cultural World Heritage Sites in the country by building visitor amenities is likely to aid tourism to historical locations.

Rakshit Desai, Managing Director India, FCm Travel Solutions and Flight Shop,  said, “The identification of nine Cultural World Heritage Sites in the country for time-bound improvement and development highlights the government’s focus on building India as a heritage tourism destination. Further, ease of doing business initiatives like a single-clearance window will foster an environment of business growth and encourage inflow of investments. We appreciate the vision behind the budgetary reforms but the industry needs more robust confidence-building measures.”

Announcements on conservation and promotion of World Heritage Sites are welcome, however this needs to be done as per international standards, Jaideep Ghosh, Head of Tourism and Hospitality sector, KPMG in India, opined. "Other initiatives such as Swacch Bharat, Clean Ganga, smart city, women safety, and tax benefits to yoga need to be widely communicated to create a positive tourism environment. Overall the tourism, travel and hospitality sector would benefit within the positive economic outlook facilitated by enhanced investment in infrastructure, ease of doing business, Make in India-related impetus and more predictable tax environment assured by the Finance Minister," Ghosh added.

Swaminathan Vedaranyam, CEO, Via.com, said, "The proposal to invest in heritage sites was a much awaited and extremely beneficial move as there was an urgent need for well-defined policies and clear commitments to ensure that all cultural heritage points are given more attention with improved infrastructural facilities. There is a recent spurt in domestic travel as well as a higher influx of foreign tourists in India and with dedicated upkeep of the tourist hotspots, we can ensure higher growth for the travel industry. The reduction on the Corporate tax is another major move that will help companies put aside more cash which can be be ploughed back into the business."
 
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