Budget 2024: India an attractive destination for biz, conference tourism, says FM Nirmala Sitharaman
FM Nirmala Sitharaman highlighted the government’s intentions to promote Indian islands and spiritual tourism, and urged states to develop iconic tourist centres.
While the interim Budget for FY2024-25 presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on February 1, 2024 was unlikely to accommodate any major announcements, the hospitality and tourism industry had high hopes considering the recent developments in the sector.
The promotion of Indian islands including Lakshwadeep, hosting global events (G20 Summit and ICC World Cup), and the recent focus on spiritual tourism with the inauguration of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya were indicative of the government's focus on making tourism an integral part of the Union Budget 2024.
While presenting the interim budget in the Lok Sabha, FM Nirmala Sitharaman highlighted the comprehensive development of tourist centres.
“The success of organising G20 meetings in 60 places presented the diversity of India to a global audience. Our economic strength has made the country an attractive destination for business and conference tourism,” she said.
The FM further highlighted how the Indian middle class is equally aspirational about travelling and exploring. In line with that, she announced that 40,000 normal rail bogies will be converted to Vande Bharat standards to enhance the safety, convenience and comfort of passengers.
Additionally, the FM said that the number of airports has doubled to 149 in the last 10 years. Under the UDAN scheme, the government has rolled out air connectivity to Tier II and III cities, establishing 517 new routes carrying 1.3 crore passengers. She also added that Indian carriers have placed orders for over 1,000 new aircraft, and that the expansion of existing airports, along with the development of new airports, shall continue expeditiously.
With the inauguration and consecration of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, and the subsequent $10 billion investment-based transformation plan of the city, the FM mentioned that spiritual tourism will be a gateway for opportunities for local entrepreneurship.
Going forward, the government will also encourage Indian states to take up comprehensive development of its iconic tourist centres—branding and marketing them at a global scale. A framework for rating of the centres based on the quality of facilities and services will be established. “Long-term interest-free loans will be provided to states for financing such developments on a matching basis,” Sitharaman added.
To address the emerging fervour for domestic tourism, projects for port connectivity, tourism infrastructure, and amenities will be taken up in Indian islands–including Lakshadweep. “This will help in generating employment also,” the finance minister said.
The vote-on-account Budget, announced on February 1, 2024 will serve as a guideline for the full Budget to be presented by the newly elected government after the Lok Sabha polls are concluded in the coming months.
Edited by Kanishk Singh