In 2017, for the first time, foreign tourist arrivals touched 10 million, up from 8.8 million in 2016, when they had grown by 9.7 per cent over the previous year.
"We have crossed 10 million FTAs in 2017 and if we include non-resident Indians visiting the country, the number went up to over 17 million," the minister said.
On the revenue side, without sharing the absolute numbers, the minister said, "In dollar terms our earnings have gone up by 20.2 per cent, which is a very good growth compared to the world tourism that grew by less than 5 per cent."
In 2016, the World Travel and Tourism Council had ranked the country at the seventh slot in terms of its size as a tourism economy with forex earnings of close to $209 billion or Rs 14.1 lakh crore. This was equivalent to 9.6 per cent of the GDP.
Addressing the media on the sidelines of the annual tourism event OTM 2018, he said: "These are very encouraging numbers and government is working towards doubling both the arrivals and forex exchange earnings in the next three years."
Underlining the role of the states in tourism development, Mr Alphons said his ministry is working with the states and with the industry, "as they have a big role to play. So, we are all working together to make this possible." The country is ranked 13th in terms of foreign tourist arrivals globally, and seventh in Asia Pacific, he said.
On the upcoming tourism policy, Mr Alphons said, it should be out in two-three months, as "we are incorporating new ideas".
On his expectation from the Budget for his ministry, he said, "We are hoping to get more than last year...I hope they will be generous in the budget allocation."
Addressing the event, Maharashtra tourism minister Jaykumar Rawal said Mumbai has one of the best airports in the world and is also building a world-class cruise port.
"We are building an international cruise port with an investment of Rs 5,000 crore at Mazagon Dock. It will be operational by 2020 and is fully funded by government," the state minister said.
The three-day OTM is being attended by over 45 countries, 21 states and Union territories and over 1,100 exhibitors.
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