Shoeb Samad is the director of Indiatourism Beijing. He has a rich and varied experience from 24 years in the Ministry of Tourism in India and abroad.
How long have you been in Beijing?
We opened our Beijing office about nine months ago. It's been pretty hectic but I can say I am proud of what we have achieved in that time.
Mumbai has been in the news because of the recent terrorist attacks there. Following the attacks on the Bombay Taj and Oberoi hotels what is the situation now?
The Ministry of Home Affairs is still keeping the security services on a high state of alert but Mumbai is a very resilient city and its citizens were determined to get back to normal as quickly as possible. New laws are being made to cater for such a situation in future. The safety of lives is paramount and during the sieges everything possible was done to keep the casualties to a minimum. That's the reason the sieges took so long to resolve.
What is the situation with the Bombai Taj and Oberoi hotels?
Both hotels are closed while they are repaired and refurbished, however the owners have stated their intention to reopen the hotels as soon as possible.
What impact have these events had on visitor numbers to India?
There have been a few cancellations but most people are still traveling as planned. The other day I was speaking to a Chinese travel agent who had organized a group of 200 visitors to India. There were no cancellations, all 200 visitors traveled to India as planned.
How significant is the tourist industry to India?
In social terms it is very important, it makes a larger contribution to employment than any other industry. Certain Indian states such as Rajasthan and Kerala are very focused on tourism.
Can Chinese people feel safe when traveling to India?
Absolutely. No Chinese nationals were injured in the Mumbai sieges. The relations between China and India are getting much friendlier. Since the bilateral agreements in 2002 / 2003 granted ADS status we see more and more Chinese visitors coming to India, both for business and pleasure.
What is India doing to attract Chinese visitors?
India is a vast and diverse and fascinating country, there is so much to see and do. We are looking very carefully at what Chinese visitors expect. For example we are recruiting more tour guides with Chinese language skills and hotels are being briefed on what Chinese visitors expect. Then we are putting together a number of themed tour products, for example wedding packages. With so much to see and do India is a honeymooners' paradise. Couples can marry with many different ceremonies — Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, and Muslim — and in many different ways.
We have visitors coming on pilgrimages, for example Buddhists coming to visit the sacred sites; and visitors on business to our IT centers in Bangalore and Hydrabad, or to commercial centers such as Mumbai, also take the opportunity to see some of the sights.
If you had to sum up in a few words why Chinese people should visit India what would you say?
Come to Incredible India where our motto is "Treat the guest as God."