London: India stole the limelight at the World Tourism Mart 2011 here by winning two global awards - World's Leading Destination and World's Leading Tourist Board, Incredible India.

Tourism Minister Subodh Kant Sahai received the awards from Graham E Cooke, President and founder of World Travel Awards, at the Excel Exhibition Centre where he said India planned to have another five million tourists in the next 2-3 years in addition to the five million recorded this year.

"We have recorded five million tourist arrivals this year and we want to add another five million within the next two to three years which will help create 25 million additional jobs in the country," Sahai said on Monday evening.

Answering a question on Visa restrictions on Tourists which prohibits a tourist from revisiting the country within two months of the first visit, he said the issue would be "resolved" soon. "We are going to remove this barrier."

Sahai said, "our aim in the Ministry now is to increase India's share in the International Tourist Arrivals from the present 0.6 percent to 1 percent (of 1 billion travellers) by the end of 2016."

He said, "In India Tourism sector is going to be recognised as the Infrastructure sector. We need two million hotel rooms if we are going to add five million tourists. The infrastructure will be developed by the Central and State Governments on the Private-Public Participation model."

Sahai said, "We feel Tourism is the only industry which will help eradicate poverty from the masses. A traveller to India is contributing to the upliftment of the poorest of the poor in the country. We have started late (in developing the tourism industry) but we are on the job to make it a success." Sahai said India is planning to host the Global Tourism Mart in New Delhi next year.

Answering a question on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, he said 1.6 million people had visited the valley this year.
Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Minister Nawang Rigzin Jora, who was also present, said, "we are suffering from perception problem. Even a minor stone throwing incident is being exaggerated as law and order problem. So far 1.6 million tourists have visited the state this year and before the season ends it will touch 2 million."

India's acting High Commissioner to the UK Rajesh Prasad and several state tourism ministers including Chagan Bhujbal of Maharashtra, P Rajavelu of Puducherry, Gokula Indira of Tamil Nadu, A P Anil Kumar of Kerala were present.
Prasad said tourism was a "significant contributor" to the GDP in India.

"Tourism sector contributed 6 percent to the GDP growth and 9 percent to employment generation," he said.

He said the High Commission in London on an average issue 2,500 Visas daily and efforts were on to provide Visas within three days of submitting the application.

(Agencies)