New Delhi: For the first time, annual foreign tourist arrivals in the country have crossed the 10- million mark in 2017, Tourism Minister K J Alphons said.

Speaking at a function organised by the National Council for Hotel Management and Catering Technology (NCHMCT) in Noida, the minister said that foreign tourist arrivals saw a growth of 15.6 per cent in 2017 over 2016. Tourism in India alone earned USD 27.7 billion (approximately Rs 1,80,379 crore) in 2017 and contributed 6.88 per cent in the country's GDP, he said. The sector also contributes 12.36 per cent in terms of total employment.

"Foreign tourist arrivals have crossed the 10-million mark for the first time with an annual growth of 15.6 per cent in 2017. This sector is poised for phenomenal growth in the coming years owing to new holistic policies of the government, especially grants of e-visa and visa on arrival for specified countries," the minister said.

Foreign tourist arrivals (FTAs) in 2017 were 10.18 millions with a growth of 15.6 per cent over 2016, when the figure stood at 8.80 millions. Alphons said that a greater number of foreign tourists are now attracted towards India because of its incredible cultural vibe, scenic natural locations, wildlife and religious circuits.

He said that Indian cuisine was also a great draw for foreign tourists who now enjoyed "hot and spicy curries". NCHMCT, the apex body under the ministry, organised an essay competition to promote hospitality education as a career and Alphons gave away the awards to the winners. Celebrated chef and alumnus of NCHMCT Sanjeev Kapoor was also present.

PTI