Tourism in India is the largest service industry, with a contribution of 6.23% to the national GDP and 8.78% of the total employment in India. The tourism industry in India generated about 100 billion US dollars in 2008 and that is expected to increase to US $ 275.5 billion by 2018 at a 9.4% annual growth rate. In 2010, 17.9 million foreign tourists visited India. The majority of foreign tourists come from the USA and the UK. Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan are the top five states to receive inbound tourists. Domestic tourism in the same year was 740 million. Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra received the big share of these visitors. Ministry of Tourism is the nodal agency to formulate national policies and programmes for the development and promotion of tourism. In the process, the Ministry consults and collaborates with other stakeholders in the sector including various Central Ministries/Agencies, the state governments and union territories and the representatives of the private sector. Concerted efforts are being made to promote new forms of tourism such as rural, cruise, medical and eco-tourism. The Ministry of Tourism also maintains the Incredible India campaign.
According to World Travel and Tourism Council, India will be a tourism hot-spot from 2009-2018, having the highest 10 year growth potential. The Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2007 ranked tourism in India sixth in terms of price competitiveness and 39th in terms of safety and security. Despite short and medium-term setbacks, such as shortage of hotel rooms, tourism revenues are expected to surge by 42% from 2007 to 2017, India’s thousands of years of history, its length, diversity and the variety of geographic features make its tourism basket large and varied. It presents heritage and cultural tourism along with medical, business and sports tourism. India has one of the largest and fastest growing medical tourism sectors.
To promote tourism as a flourishing business the government has to initiate several measures to facilitate the tourists coming to India be it an Indian or a foreigner, care must be taken to see that the time spent by the tourists at a place must be joyful, safe, comfortable and they must cherish the sweet memories of the place, of the people. The journey enjoyed by rail, bus, or by air must be comfortable. Tourists also like safe short haul destinations, cheap and comfortable accommodation and hygienic condition in hotels and restaurant. Separate windows are provided to cater the needs of the tourists at all Railway/Bus/ Air platforms. We can see many foreign tourists wandering here and there to know the tit-bit details and finding none to answer their queries, except the tourist guide they are having with them, that too, is generally from the foreign publishing house about a country renowned for hospitality. When one comes across touts, the fleeing rickshaw pullers, the beggars and vagrants pacing up and down the aisles in the rail coaches they are not good experiences. The non-cooperative railway/bus clerks, unwholesome food at catering corners at too much higher rate, all the presumptions soon become sour and bitter. They feel themselves surrounded by cheats. The incidents of rape and sexual torture of the foreigners at the hands of miscreants, also causes a fear among the visitors. Such cases put multifold adverse effects on all our efforts to attract the tourists.
We can remove all such obstacles for promoting tourism. The people, the government and all those involved in the tourism industry work together honestly and whole-heartedly. Everyone should realize that tourism not only helps us earn money and foreign exchange but also generates employment and thus enhance the living standard of the people. It also promotes national integration and international understanding and boosts indigenous handicraft industry and local cultural activities.
Some of the agencies at central and state level are assigned the tasks for promoting the tourism in our country. The Department of Tourism, Indian Institute of Tourism and Travel Management, National Council for Hotel Management and Catering Technology and Indian Tourism Development Corporation Ltd, Indian Institute of Skiing and Mountaineering, The National Institute of Water Sports are some of the institutes, working in the field of tourism development at central level.
The Department of Tourism, under a separate ministry at Centre, formulates various policies and programmes for the development of domestic as well as international tourism. It is also responsible for implementation of all the policies and for the development of required infrastructure and making necessary publicity.
It is an eye opening fact that in spite of various departments and agencies engaged in the promotion of tourism in India, we are just getting peanuts in terms of revenue. Such a small country like Singapore with population of just 35 lacks attracts more than one crore tourists each year. Cambodia’s only attraction for tourists is Angkorvat attracts as many tourists as India. Several other countries having less attraction for tourists comparing to India are earning much more. The facilities provided to the tourists, the welcome extended by the common people, the reasonable charges and most important the safety and tranquility in the country are some of the factors responsible for the more or less inflow of tourists in that country.
The Government has set up a task force on tourism and taken some important steps for its promotion in India. The peace efforts, improving the relations with neighbouring countries may have a positive effect in this direction. The government has allowed investment of foreign equity up to 74% in infrastructure development. Government is considering to setting up hotels on joint venture basis are also a positive step in the right direction. Recently, the government has sold some hotels to the private parties that will also boost the tourism in India.
Though promotion of tourism avenues can indeed help in the generation of employment and earning foreign exchange, yet a cautious and reasonable approach needs to be taken, to avoid adverse effect on eco-balance of the forests and natural resources of the country. The government and private agencies should pay due attention on preserving the ecological balance while promoting the tourism sector to earn more revenue and let’s not kill the very ‘Hen’ that lays ‘Golden Eggs’. We should also coordinate and supervise the activities of governmental, semi governmental and private agencies like hotels, travel agencies and tour operators. The various sub-offices of the department should maintain constant touch with tourist agencies and travel intermediaries within the country and abroad. To attract the tourist the department of tourism along with Air India and other agencies should make joint promotional efforts in various countries and continents through its various offices located abroad.
Since 1966, the ITDC has been engaged in developing necessary infrastructure for the development of tourism avenues in India. ITDC is looking for constructing new hotels and restaurants, lodges for tourists including marketing of hotels making available transport facilities, distribution of publicity material for necessary advertisement. ITDC also provides necessary consultation and managerial services in India and abroad.
The Indian Institute of Tourism and Travel Management is an autonomous body established to impart education in tourism and travel management to meet the demands of professionally trained personnel for the industry.
One of the most important segments of tourism industry is the hotel sector, which has vast potential for employment generation and earning foreign exchange. The recently announced Industrial Policy has accorded priority to the hotel industry. Several tax benefits are also given. A new classification of heritage hotels has been introduced which covers the functioning of hotels in historical havelis, castles, forts and residents, built prior to 1950. These old structures where one finds the splendour of yesteryears are extremely popular with the tourists.
Most of the State Governments have their own State Tourism Development Corporations. These corporations initiate several attractive schemes for the tourists, in a bid to promote tourism in the State. Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation offers attractive package for the conferences organized by the corporate sector, government departments at selected tourist spots. Likewise, the governments of MP, Odisha, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu offer several schemes to attract and promote the tourism in their respective states.
Medical tourism was poised for rapid development in the future and India is busy in developing first-class facilities to attract this multi-billion dollar niche market. The government has already relaxed the criteria to receive a visa for medical tourism.
It is also considering other incentives such as offering air travel and accommodation for foreign tourists who visit India for the third time. It may also pick up the bill for tour operators promoting domestic and medical tourism and is mulling income tax exemption for hoteliers if they invest 50% of profits into infrastructure.
The Government of India has extended the benefits of Section 10 (23G) of the Income Tax Act, 1961 to institutions financing hotels of three-star category and above.
The divestment of government’s stake in government run hotels is another step in the right direction. Professionals are increasingly stepping in to take over this service-oriented industry. Global best practices, cost cuts and service with a smile are fast turning a norm.
India is now chalking up one of its strongest growth charts in a long time As the Indian economy continues to open up in an effort to integrate with the world economy, benefits of doing business with in India are increasing. With the results, hundreds of thousands of jobs are moving to the Indian shores from the West. This brings in its wake transit travelers, business travelers, business meets and holiday seekers.
The terrorist activities in the Kashmir Valley have had an adverse affect on the inflow of tourists in India. The peace, tranquility and safety are the foremost requirement for generating more inflow of tourists in India.