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States get long-term interest-free loans in interim budget to develop iconic tourist spots

New Delhi: Spiritual tourism – the big theme playing out after the opening of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya – is set to get a further boost with measures such as long-term interest-free loans to states for developing key destinations announced in the interim budget.
Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her speech on Thursday said states will be encouraged to take up “comprehensive” development of iconic tourist centres and undertake their branding and marketing at a global scale. Tourism, including spiritual tourism, has tremendous opportunities, she said.

The announcements on spiritual tourism will lead to the creation of job opportunities at the local level, and the decision to provide long-term interest-free loans to states for the development of tourism infrastructure will certainly boost both domestic and inbound tourism, industry body CII said in a statement.

Consumer-facing companies are rushing to cash in on a surge in demand at spiritual tourism sites by setting up new outlets, doubling marketing and branding spends, and ramping up distribution, manufacturing and stocking near such sites.
“The expected increase in sales velocity and coverage area of categories will require robust infrastructure,” said Mayank Shah, senior category head at biscuits maker Parle Products. “We are focusing on setting up manufacturing facilities or stocking hubs closer to tourism spots, since it is more efficient to have production and distribution centres near the sites.” Mohit Malhotra, chief executive officer of Dabur India, said, “The push for religious tourism will have a multiplier effect on demand for branded consumer products from these cities, as demand for daily use essentials and health beverages would surge.” The finance minister said projects for improving port connectivity, tourism infrastructure and other amenities will be taken up on the country’s islands including Lakshadweep, which several Indian tourists are increasingly looking at amid a diplomatic standoff between India and Maldives.

“Expansion of existing airports and development of new airports will continue expeditiously,” Sitharaman said.

Madhavan Menon, executive chairman of Thomas Cook (India), said the interim budget’s “multipronged approach” to tourism will create a multiplier effect across aviation, tourism and allied sectors, boosting growth and employment generation.

Total budgetary allocation to the tourism ministry has been raised to Rs 2,450 crore in 2024-25 from Rs 1,692 crore this fiscal, although expenditure on aspects such as promotion and publicity has been reduced.

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