He noted that the numbers of foreign tourists visiting the country in 2012 was mere 6.6 million while France, which is geographically smaller than India, attracted 83 million tourists.
    
"As in other fields, we should claim our rightful place in this (tourism) area," Tharoor said, adding India could offer niche tourism in fields such as health, film and culinary considering its diversity and rich cultural heritage.
    
The Minister said safety and security of tourists, especially women, is one of the bottleneck issues while noting that efforts have been made to deal with the problem.

Tharoor said tourism industry has immense potential for generating new employment and is increasingly recognised as a "strategy for poverty alleviation". A rupee invested in tourism sector generates eight times as many jobs as a rupee invested in industry, he said.
    
The Minister said Congress-led UPA government has given a massive boost to the country's tourism by extending 'visa on arrival' scheme to visitors from 180 countries.
    
Tharoor was speaking at function here and presented awards to various stakeholders from the tourism industry, ranging from state governments to private tour and travel operators.

Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh were joint winners for comprehensive development of tourism while Jammu and Kashmir bagged the prize in the category of North East and J&K region.     

Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Minister GA Mir said the state attracted a record 13 lakh tourists in the previous fiscal and was focusing on high-end tourists as well as developing adventure sports in the topographically-rich state.
    
"We are working out details with NRIs and private sector operators to have more starred hotels. We are also developing new facilities for para-gliding and mountaineering," he said.

(Agencies)

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