INDIA is on the verge of becoming the world's fastest-growing tourism destination under its Government's liberalisation policy, and Hong Kong is being wooed to invest in new hotels and other infrastructure. The country's Minister for Tourism, Mrs Sukhbuns Kaur, arrived in the territory last weekend on a whistle-stop mission to drum up support from local businessmen. And she left yesterday saying she was confident India's share of the world tourism market would more than double within the next five years. In an exclusive interview, Mrs Kaur said Hong Kong is being asked to invest in four areas of India which have been earmarked for a tourism boom which has already started with the introduction of new domestic airlines to rival the much-criticised Indian Airlines. And she said talks are being held with Cathay Pacific to try to persuade the airline to increase flights to India. ''Since the new government took over in 1991, tourism has been given high priority. We have realised its potential, and a national action plan has been launched,'' she said. ''Under our liberalisation policies we are offering 51 per cent equity to foreign investors.'' She admitted that though India has unlimited potential for the development of tourism, it does not have the money for the infrastructure, and foreign investment was essential. ''Already, some US$2.5 billion (about HK$19.5 billion) has been invested in joint ventures, mainly for hotels and resorts. We now have 0.4 per cent of the world's tourism trade, and we are aiming at one per cent within five years.'' Investment was coming in from all over the world, and wealthy Asian countries were beginning to show an interest. But apart from investment, Mrs Kaur said India was looking to wealthy Asian neighbours, in particular Hong Kong, Japan and Korea, as major sources of tourism growth. ''Last year we had 1.87 million visitors to India, and this figure could multiply. Most of our tourism has come from Europe and America and now we are looking at the Asian market.'' Only around 10,000 Hong Kongers visit India each year, but Mrs Kaur said there was great potential for growth. During her visit, she met with the Hong Kong Tourist Association and leading travel agents and said she had been encouraged by their support. Mrs Kaur was accompanied by Dr Geetha Reddy, Minister for Tourism for the state of Andhra Pradesh. The two ministers arrived in Hong Kong from Korea. Dr Reddy is trying to promote tours of the numerous Buddhist sites in the state for groups from Hong Kong and Korea. The four areas pinpointed for development and investment in India are the Bekal area in Kerala, Tigra Dam in Madhya Pradesh, Puri Konark in Orissa and Solang Nullah in the Manali Hills. Manali already offers adventure holidays such as heli-skiing, rafting and trekking, and there are plans to develop it into a major skiing resort. New hotels were needed in Orissa which would be developed into a centre for water sports and golf, said Mrs Kaur. The domestic air service, once woefully inadequate under the monopoly of Indian Airlines, has been opened up to private airlines. ''Five airlines are now operating within India, and 14 have applied,'' said Mrs Kaur. ''We now have many more air connections.'' However, more international links had to be made, and Air India had recently increased its passenger load from Hong Kong. Air India, Swissair, Air France and Air India now service India direct from Kai Tak. More talks were planned with Cathay Pacific to discuss extra services. Indirect services from Hong Kong are operated by Thai, Singapore and Malaysian Airlines. Mrs Kaur said Indians were being encouraged to study languages, including Cantonese, to cope with the growing number of visitors from Hong Kong and other Asian countries, including Korea, Taiwan and mainland China. Guided tours were even being conducted in Russian now as residents of CIS countries were visiting India in increasing numbers. Most of India's hotel chains had training programmes and 4,000-5,000 more personnel were coming into the industry annually, so investors in hotels and resorts would not face staffing problems. Mrs Kaur said more palaces were being turned into hotels under a Heritage Hotel scheme, retaining their old world charm. Their owners were being offered incentives to convert them. And hills stations and trekking centres were also to be promoted to increase the numbers of tourists during the monsoon. There were now direct flights to Leh in the Himalayas from Delhi, so there was no need to fly to Srinagar in the sensitive Kashmir. India's regional tourism office is in Tokyo, but Air India is handling travel enquiries in Hong Kong.