Kochi, Jan 16 (PTI) India earned an income of USD 27 billion from Foreign Tourist Arrivals in the year 2017, Union Tourism Minister Alphons Kannanthanam said here today.

Stating that tourism sector was doing “extremely well”, he said in 2017 alone, there was an increase of 15.2 per cent in the foreign tourist arrivals to the country.

“And the foreign exchange earnings went up by 20.2 per cent. So my income from tourism from foreign tourists’ arrival alone last year has been 27 billion dollars and if we convert to rupee terms it would come to approximately Rs 1,75,000 crore,” Kannanthanam told reporters here.

He said the tourism sector is contributing 6.88 per cent to the country’s total GDP, besides 12.36 per cent of the total employment in terms of jobs.

“I think our sector is doing very well. But am I happy with the numbers? No. I want these numbers to increase dramatically because India is an incredible place and we have everything for everybody. So we are trying to bring in lot more people,” he said.

Responding to a query on tourist arrivals from Israel, he referred to Israeli Prime Minister’s India visit and said both the nations are now having a close relationship.

“So we are hoping that much large number of tourists will come to India in future,” Kannanthanam said.

He also said Israel is one of the favourite tourist destinations for Indians and very large number of people were going there.

The Minister was here to chair a review meeting between officials of Railway Board and Kerala government on the development of railways in the state.

He said doubling of railway lines via Kottayam will be completed by March, 2020.

Kannanthanam also said he would request Union Railway Minister Piyush Goel to execute the Sabari Railway project completely with the Central government fund.

“Sabarimala is a very important pilgrim centre. Five crore people visit the hill shrine from various states every year. So central fund should be sanctioned for building the Angamaly-Erumely line,” he said.

The Minister said Rs 2,815 crore was required for building the Sabari railway line adding Rs 1,000 crore was needed for land acquisition alone.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.