New Delhi, Oct 18 (IANS) Tourists visiting India would now be able to stay with families in the capital as the government Wednesday launched a novel scheme that offers them cheaper accommodation along with a chance to experience the Indian culture from close quarters.
Launching the Incredible India Bed & Breakfast scheme, Tourism Minister Ambika Soni said the government would recognise spare rooms available with house-owners in the national capital and make them available at an 'affordable cost for the common tourists who wish to experience the Indian culture'.
'This will be a unique opportunity for the house-owners, especially the housewives, because once their spare rooms are recognised under the scheme they will get an opportunity to earn that extra income while being at home,' Soni told reporters here.
The scheme is expected to provide 10,000 budget rooms in the country in four years - just in time for the Commonwealth Games to be hosted here in 2010.
Pointing out that the capital would require about 40,000-50,000 rooms in the budget category for the tourists visiting Delhi during the 2010 games, Soni said the rooms would be categorised as 'gold' and 'silver'.
Under the scheme, which will also be introduced at other tourist destinations, the house-owners can offer up to five rooms or 10 beds with working space, air-conditioning facilities as well as attached western toilets.
The house-owners will also be required to provide Indian or continental breakfast to the guests and display the rates to be charged for rooms as well as breakfast.
'The interested house-owners can apply in a prescribed form to India tourism offices. They may also need a clearance certificate from the local police station,' the minister said.
Soni, who also launched an integrated publicity campaign to facilitate and motivate house-owners to take benefit of the scheme, said the drive would support the ministry's effort to convert India into a 365-day destination.
Soni explained the ministry's new programmes to promote India as a tourist destination for MICE (Meeting, incentives, conventions and events), wellness, health, food and adventures.
Tourism Joint Secretary Amitabh Kant said: 'The Incredible India campaign that was launched in 2004 has led to a 45 percent growth in terms of tourist arrivals and 60 percent growth in terms of business. We are continuing the campaign with more zeal targeting $5.8 billion from the tourism industry in two-and-a-half years.'
Soni said the ministry was also working hard to ensure that visitors are provided visas on arrival.
She said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had held a meeting last month with her and other ministers and it was decided to give long-term, five-ten-year tourist visas with multiple entries for the tourists.
'To make availability of visa easier, it has been decided that the external affairs ministry and our embassies will outsource staff during peak tourist seasons so that those wanting visas need not have to wait for more than 36 to 48 hours,' Soni said.
India witnessed a boom year for tourism in 2005 with a double-digit growth in foreign arrivals that hit a record 3.92 million tourists, compared 3,46 million the previous year.