New Delhi: A brand ambassador himself for decades, Telugu superstar K Chiranjeevi today took charge of the tourism ministry and began selling 'Incredible India' by promising to increase the number of tourist arrivals and easing restrictions for film shooting in the country.
It was action from the word 'start' for the 57-year-old actor, who resolved to use his "glamour quotient" and decades of experience in the tinsel world to improve tourism infrastructure and increase to 1 percent the total number of tourists to India worldwide.
After assuming office, Chiranjeevi did some plain speaking when he said the "full capacity" of the tourism industry is not being realised and promised to remove "bottlenecks" which are impeding the growth of the sector after talking to his colleagues in other ministries.
"India has everything, from mountains to backwaters to monuments. How far are we making use of them? Certainly not to the fullest of the capacity. Currently, India receives only 0.65 percent of tourist arrivals in the world. If we make it to 1 percent then it would be a big achievement," he said.
Increasing the figure to 1 percent would mean generation of employment for an additional 2.5 crore people, substantial increase in tourism sector's contribution to the country's the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) from the current 6.5 percent to 10 percent, the new minister said.
He said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told him that he was chosen to head the tourism ministry because he himself was a "brand ambassador" and the "glamour quotient" which is attached to him.
The actor-turned-politician also had some good news in store for the film industry when he said he would work towards easing restrictions on film shooting in the country by talking to his counterparts in other ministries.
Shooting in foreign countries like Bangkok is much cheaper than shooting in India, he noted.
"Shooting in India is much difficult than in other countries. Here we need to pay for everything. Right from immigration to shooting there are a number of regulations. I will talk to other Ministers and try easing the rules," Chiranjeevi said.
He also said he would work out things on how easy access can be given for shooting of films in public places in the country, which would be a "free publicity".
He also said he would have a dialogue with actors like Amitabh Bachchan on how they can contribute to selling 'Incredible India' and rope in some of them if they are willing to participate in campaigns.
The minister said the allocation of Rs 15,190 crore for the ministry during the 12th five-year-plan would be used for building infrastructure and further improving sites of national importance across the country.
The first file he signed after assuming office was that of assistance to a 'Heritage Festival' being held in Warangal district of Telangana region in Andhra Pradesh from 25 November.