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Total revamp needed to boost India’s inbound tourism

Aug 01, 2017

The Ministry of Tourism and the Travel Trade Associations have been working on this subject ever since our independence 70 years ago. However there is not much done, for which India can boast. India’s inbound tourism has been crawling at such a slow speed that in 70 years of existence of Ministry of Tourism at Central Government and supported by all State Tourism Ministries. India’s annual inbound arrivals are around five to six million tourists. There are many smaller countries, which can boast of much higher inbound tourists than India. A small European country like France has achieved 80 million tourists annually. Any comparison with India? Absolutely no!

Our such poor performance compels us to think in a broader prospective as to what are the detrimental factors that are blocking our way to increase inbound tourism such as:

  • Infrastructure: Despite continuous efforts, our infrastructure has not improved that can be compared even with neighbouring countries like Dubai, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and China. Beyond our metro cities, the facilities are not up to the mark.
  • Is India competitive?: Indian inbound tourist budget is much higher than our neighbouring countries, which make India as an expensive destination. The hotels and transportation cost are higher. To increase inbound India has to compete with neighbouring countries.
  • GST will create a negative impact: It is being announced that the implementation of GST will further hike the inbound cost. This will have a negative impact on the inbound arrivals. The travel industry has already sounded about this in advance. We cannot understand the logic of our Tourism Ministry that instead of enlarging the base by reducing the taxation and to multiply the inbound tourism, thereby can collect higher tax revenue in total, Tourism Ministry has chosen to put extra pressure to the existing ailing tourism industry, which may increase a bit extra per tourist but overall will not broad-base the revenue.
  • Foreign exchange earning industry: Our Ministry should take into account that due to tremendous scope and potential to increase inbound tourism, this can become a major contributor to increase our foreign exchange reserves. Such benefits can be passed to many other industries in India.
  • Can the Tourism Ministry accept a challenge that their aim should be to achieve 20 million inbound tourists in a time bound limit? Can they not calculate, how much revenue can India generate? Can they not calculate as to how much benefits can be achieved in terms of revenues from hotels, transportation, shopping and domestic travel? Similarly, a massive jump in the employment can be achieved.
  • Inbound tourism is a smokeless industry thereby increase in its numbers will not create any pollution. However the increase in volume can create massive opportunities for urban and rural employment. We should not underestimate that travel and tourism industry is ranked as third largest employment generating industry.
  • GDP: The latest news is the fall in GDP. By increasing the inbound tourism and by all above contributing factors, India’s GDP can increase substantially.

Other countries attracting higher number of Indian visitors. I read in Plaza Times a publication for MICE & Travel Trade are as under:

  • Ras AL Khaimah (UAE) to attract India’s MICE tourism
  • Visitors from India to Emirate grew by 35 per cent while the number of nights by Indians grew to 49.4 per cent
  • Mauritius records 15 per cent growth in Indian arrivals
  • Las Vegas eyeing VFR travellers from India
  • Indigo adds Doha as its seventh international destination
  • Israel records 49 per cent increase in Indian travellers
  • Jordan announces India arrival figures are unprecedented growth of 18.40 per cent

If all other countries are increasing their share of Indian inbound travellers, can India claim its great jump in inbound from all countries put together? The inbound tourism needs a total revamp to improve infrastructure, encouragement to hospitality segments by lower taxation, creating more of international type of entertainment projects.

The author, Om Prakash is Ex-Chairman TAAI (WR), and Director of InORBIT Tours. He can be contacted at: 022-24229281/24389271 or omprakash@inorbittours.com.

- Om Prakash of InOrbit Tours Pvt Ltd