Manila, Philippines (BBN)- The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is extending up to US$250 million to help India develop its tourism sector into a driver of sustainable and inclusive economic growth.

ADB’s Board of Directors approved a multitranche financing facility for the Infrastructure Development Investment Program for Tourism, which will upgrade tourist infrastructure and services, and support policy reforms in the states of Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, and Uttarakhand, an ADB announcement said on Wednesday.

The investment program is part of a broad tourism development plan for the four states, drawn up previously by the Government of India and ADB, which will cost almost $1.7 billion to implement.

India is, potentially, one of the most promising tourist destinations in the world with rich and varied attractions ranging from cultural, religious, ecological, medical, adventure and relaxation.

Visitor numbers, both foreign and domestic, have been booming in recent years but the sector still makes only modest contributions to gross domestic product and employment, with variable quality in infrastructure and services undermining further development.

The first tranche loan of $43.4 million, for initial sub-project activities in Himachal Pradesh and Punjab, has a 25-year term, with a grace period of five-years, and an annual interest determined in accordance with ADB’s LIBOR-based lending facility.

BBN/SSR/ANS-29Sept10-2:05 pm (BST)