PANAJI: Vice President Venkaiah Naidu on Tuesday said the country's tourism sector will get a boost in the post-pandemic phase as most of the Indians would prefer to "travel local".
Addressing an event at the Institute of Hotel Management at Porvorim near here, Naidu said India has almost 2.6 crore outbound tourists.
"I assume that in the immediate post-COVID-19 phase, most of them would prefer to travel local. This presents a huge opportunity for the Indian hospitality industry," he said.
India has over 200 beaches, 38 UNESCO world heritage sites and 668 protected areas which can attract significant tourism activities, he said.
Naidu said the COVID-19 pandemic has definitely caused a big setback to the global tourism sector.
"However, I am confident that the slow down caused by the pandemic will be temporary and the tourism and hospitality industry will bounce back," he said.
"After remaining confined to their homes for a long time, people will naturally be eager to travel for pleasure once the situation returns to normalcy," Naidu said.
It will naturally provide a huge opportunity to put the Indian tourism industry back on track and all the stakeholders, including institutes of hotel management, will have a major role in contributing towards the revival of the tourism and hospitality industry, he said.
"India has a robust domestic tourism market which could certainly help soften the impact, as compared to nations that rely solely on international tourists. The government is paying the highest level attention to promoting domestic tourism," he said.
Naidu said Prime Minister Narendra Modi has time and again appealed to fellow citizens to travel and explore the country.
"In his Independence Day address to the nation in 2019, he suggested to citizens in the country to travel to at least 15 destinations by the year 2022," he said.
Naidu said the Union Ministry of Tourism has created the National Integrated Database of Hospitality Industry (NIDHI) to get a clear picture of geographical spread of the hospitality sector, its size, structure and existing capacity.
"It will serve as a common repository of data from the Ministry of Tourism, state departments of tourism and industry and enable the central and state governments to deliver better support and services including policies and strategies.
"I am told that 32,624 units have registered under this portal," he said.
Naidu said that as India seeks to restart tourism, it is important to build confidence and trust of tourists.
In this connection, the health and tourism ministries have already notified COVID-19 safety and hygiene protocols.
"The ministry has put in place a System for Assessment, Awareness and Training in Hospitality Industry (SAATHI) to ensure compliance with COVID-19 safety and hygiene guidelines and to ensure safety and health of employees/ customers,"the vice president said.
"TheSAATHI initiative aims to assist in the preparedness of hotels to continue operations safely and also restore the confidence of guests and enhance the image of the hotel as a responsible hotel," he said.
As on date, 6,352 accommodation units have registered under SAATHI,he added.
Addressing the hotel management students, Naidu also said he is the son of a farmer and never dreamt of becoming the country's vice president, "but I had an ambition that I must excel somewhere".
Naidu credited his values of discipline and concern for society to what he learnt in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
"I am fortunate that I became something. Everyone must aim high, dream high and work hard," he said.
Naidu advised students to take their profession as a "mission".
"Even a politician, journalist, they should treat what they do as mission. Everyone must have a passion," he said.
Responding to a student's question, Naidu said the hardest decision he made in life was to leave a public life and take over the constitutional responsibility (as vice President).