National helpline for safety of tourists in offing

Panaji, March 6 (IANS) A national helpline is on the anvil to address the safety and security concerns of tourists in the country, central Tourism Minister Kumari Selja announced here Saturday.

Speaking at the inauguration of a regional conference of tourism ministers of western states and union territories here, Selja said that a slew of measures are needed to ‘ensure safety and security of tourists’.

‘I urge the distinguished participants present here to take all necessary steps to provide protection to tourists against crime and provide them with aid when in distress. We are working towards establishing a national tourist helpline. This will work in close cooperation with the states,’ Selja said.

The conference was attended by tourism ministers and officials from Goa, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat and a few union territories.

Expressing concern over the ‘safety and security’ of tourists visiting India, the minister said: ‘News of any untoward incident travels quickly endangering the reputation of the country as a safe destination.’

‘The inflow of domestic and foreign tourists could be ensured only in a safe and secure environment. Guidelines have been formulated for raising a tourist security organisation. However, we feel that a specialised agency to handle tourist safety should be in place,’ she said.

Selja, while advocating the concept of eco-tourism, also stressed on the importance of afforestation and better forest and environment management practices.

She was referring to the Rs.200 crore allocated to the Goa government by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee in his latest budget speech ‘to preserve its natural resources by restoring its beaches that are prone to erosion and to increase its green cover through sustainable forestry’.

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