India’s Ministry of Civil Aviation will provide leave travel concessions (LTC) for state employees travelling to the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, and Nepal in an effort to boost regional tourism among SAARC member nations, reports The Financial Express.
State employees will require approval from the ministry in order to utilise the LTC on Air India when flying to the selected countries.
Senior government officials were reported as saying the move is expected to enhance tourism, and subsequently economic development, in the South Asian region.
“There are around two million government employees. With the extension of the LTC scheme there is bound to be greater tourist inflow and outflow with these countries,” an Indian government official is quoted as saying.
Air India currently operates 14 flights to the Maldives per week – between Malé, Trivandrum, and Bangalore – although Indian tourists make up less than four percent of the million-plus visitors to the Indian Ocean archipelago each year.
During the 18th SAARC Summit held in Nepal last November Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi stressed the need for increased regional connectivity noting that “it is still harder to travel within our region than to Bangkok or Singapore, and more expensive to speak to each other”.
The conclusion of the summit saw the signing of the Kathmandu Declaration which called ‘Deeper Integration for Peace and Prosperity’.