14 loss-making ITDC hotels to be sold off

NEW DELHI: Fourteen out of 16 perennially loss making hotels owned by state-run ITDC will be sold off and the process to privatise them has already started, Tourism and Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma said on Sunday.

The Minister said the Finance Ministry is taking forward the disinvestment plan to totally offload government’s stakes in all the ITDC-run hotels except the Ashoka and Samrat hotels in the national capital.

He said the government decided to privatise the hotels to improve the financial health of India Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC), a public sector undertaking that currently runs 16 hotels in Delhi, Patna, Jammu, Ranchi, Bhubaneswar, Puri, Bhopal, Bharatpur, Jaipur, Guwahati, Mysore, Puducherry and Itanagar.

“The process to privatise the 14 hotels has already been started. There are certain issues with the states and we are trying to address them,” he told PTI.

During NDA’s first stint in power between 1999 and 2004, the then Vajpayee government had divested its stakes in 18 ITDC hotels, bringing down the number of state-run hotels from 34 to 16. Asked about the amount of money the government was eyeing to raise from the sale of the hotels, he refused to give any figure.

The Minister also said the issue of appointing a brand ambassador of Incredible India campaign was “not pending” before the government.

He was asked whether Tourism Ministry has put on hold appointment of Amitabh Bachchan as face of the Incredible India campaign after his name appeared in the Panama Papers controversy. “The issue of appointing a brand ambassador is not pending before our government,” he said.

On the new tourism policy, Sharma said the government has put it on hold for the time being as it was trying to make certain provisions more concrete and effective.

The policy will lay out a roadmap for the tourism sector. India’s share in the global tourists flow is around 0.68 per cent and government plans to raise it to one per cent by 2020 and two per cent by 2025.

Sharma said the government is considering setting up a National Tourism University as part of a series of measures to boost the tourism sector.

“Our first target is India gets a major chunk of world tourism market. We want to make India a tourism friendly country. We are putting in all efforts to make tourist places clean and safe. Growth of tourism will spur overall economic growth and generate employment,” he said.

He said government’s priority is to showcase the rich Indian heritage and culture to the world.

On reports of cracks in the 12th century Sri Jagannath temple in Puri, he said the government has initiated the process of repair.

“The director general of ASI and the Culture Secretary have visited the temple along with a team from IIT Madras. They said there is no risk to the temple. Our Prime Minister has also directed us to do it at the earliest,” said Sharma.