In a bid to revive tourism and strengthen the bilateral relationship between India and Saudi Arabia, the Trade Promotion Council of India organised a webinar on Tourism Collaboration between India and Saudi Arabia with the support of embassies of both countries.
Eminent panelists included HE Dr. Ausaf Sayeed, Ambassador of India to Saudi Arabia; G. Kamala Vardhana Rao, IAS, C&MD, ITDC; Augustus Simon, Director Indian Subcontinent – Saudi Tourism Authority; Ashok Sethi, Director, Trade Promotion Council of India; various industry stakeholders and partners.
Speaking on strengthening Tourism Collaboration between India and Saudi Arabia, G. Kamala Vardhana Rao, IAS, C&MD, ITDC, on behalf of Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, said, “India holds 10th position globally as far as Medical Value Tourism is concerned, due to affordability, accessibility, and availability of medical facilities. It is the 7th dominating country in the world and 3rd in the Asia Pacific region in terms of wellness tourism. India has received 4.95 lakh medical tourists in 2017 which has gone up to over 7 lakhs in 2019. With 800 NABH and 36 JCI accredited hospitals, India is a viable destination for medical facilities due to a robust ecosystem that is already well developed. Medical Value Tourism (MVT) is one of the 10 champion sectors identified by the Government of India, and we are perhaps the only country in the world with a dedicated Ministry of alternate healing and traditional medicine, the Ministry of AYUSH, which promotes Ayurveda, Unani and Homeopathy medicine. Ayurveda is taking off in a very big way worldwide, with its proven efficacy in the post-COVID recovery phase.”
In addition to MVT, it was highlighted that India can offer Saudi Arabian tourists a vast sea-coast with pristine beaches and a huge forest cover with 566 wildlife sanctuaries and 104 National Parks which are a great alternative to wildlife tourism offered by Africa, for example. India is also promoting the MICE sector in a big way and while people from Saudi Arabia might find it cheaper to visit Dubai for events, India is definitely a more economical destination.
Referring to the country’s diverse natural heritage, Rao mentioned India’s coastal tourism with 7500 km of coastline as well as the exquisite experience of monsoon tourism in Karnataka and Kerala. He also talked about the renewed thrust on reviving tourism in the wide snow-capped landscape of Kashmir and in scenic Leh and Ladakh as well as on the special focus of developing tourism in nature-rich North East. Also, as a boost to international tourism in India, Rao highlighted that the Indian Government has announced issuing of free tourists visas for the first 5 lakh tourists once visa issuance is restarted.
With HE Dr Ausaf Sayeed, Ambassador of India to Saudi Arabia emphasiSing on the lifting of tourism restrictions for tourists and on tailor-made tourist packages centering around medical tourism, religious tourism, heritage tourism, nature tourism, and ecotourism, both India and Saudi Arabia are looking forward to a strong synergy for the revival of tourism.