Tourist “Tourism is the world’s largest and fastest growing industry. It is an invisible export, which earns valuable foreign exchange without any significant or tangible loss of internal resources. Tourism in India has immense potential of developing into a high profit making industry. India is a popular tourist destination and has been successful in attracting domestic and international tourists. The picturesque landscape, hill stations, historical sites, architecture and monuments, beaches and enchanting backwaters, places of religious interests make India a preferred destination for the tourists from all over the world.
Growth of Tourism in India
The growth of tourism in India is evident from the fact that India has moved up six places to rank 34th on World Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index 2019, driven by rich natural and cultural resources and strong price competitiveness. India showed the greatest percentage improvement to its overall Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index (TTCI) score, which has helped it become the only lower-middle income country in the top 35.
Better connectivity of transport and communication, improved standard of living and value for money to the foreign tourists have led to the increase in the domestic as well as international tourists.
Tourism Policies of India
The first Tourism Policy was announced by the Government of India in November, 1982. The aim of first tourism policy was to promote sustainable tourism as a means of economic growth and social integration. It was also to promote the image of India abroad as a country with glorious past, a vibrant present and a bright future. This policy revolved around six broad areas such as Swagat (welcome), Suchana (information), Suvidha (facilitation), Suraksha (safety), Sahyog (cooperation) and Samrachana (infrastructure development).
The next major tourism policy was announced by the Government of India on 2002. The policy took into consideration one more key area, that is Safai (cleanliness) apart from other six areas mentioned in the first Tourism Policy, 1982. The government proposed to diversify the Indian tourism products and sustainability, improve the quality of tourism infrastructure, marketing, visa arrangements and air travel. Along with the policy, Incredible India Campaign was also launched to promote India as an attractive tourist destination by showcasing different aspects of Indian culture and history.
Steps Taken by the Government to Promote Tourism
The Government of India is taking keen interest in promoting the different forms of tourism such as, ‘rural tourism’, eco tourism’, and ‘spiritual tourism’, ‘spa tourism’, and ‘adventure tourism’ etc. However, India still needs to enhance its enabling environment, tourist service infrastructure and environmental sustainability. Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his Independence Day speech on 15th August, 2019, made a strong pitch for domestic tourism and urged citizens to visit atleast 15 destinations by 2022.
The Government of India launched ‘Swadesh Darshan’ and ‘National Mission’ on Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual Augmentation Drive (PRASAD) in order to boost tourism. The Swadesh Darshan focused on theme based tourist circuits and integrated infrastructure development
There are twelve circuits which have been indentified under this scheme for the development. These are Buddhist, Coastal, Desert, Eco, Himalayan, Krishna, North-East India, Ramayana, Rural, Spiritual, Tribal and Wildlife circuit. Under the PRASAD programme, 41 cities in 25 states have been identified for development of infrastructure . These cities are important pilgrimage sites and enjoy domestic as well as international tourists throughout the year.
The ‘Incredible India’ campaign by the Government of India is instrumental in promoting India as a holistic tourist destination in the domestic and international markets. There are specialised international media campaigns under ‘Incredible India’. Celebrities have been roped in to make ‘Incredible India’ a success even in foreign lands.
Besides, the “Clean India’ campaign under which cleanliness has become an indispensible norm at all the tourist destinations is also utilised to promote tourism. Swachh Iconic Place awards further promotes the culture of cleanliness in archaeologically important tourist sites. Regular studies are being undertaken to analyse the market, identify the key factors, income figures, holiday habits and psyche of people in order to identify the key drivers in the tourism industry.
The government has made the facility of e-Tourist Visa available to the citizens of 150 countries arriving at 16 designated international airports in India. The visa has a validity of 60 days and the procedures are much easier.
The government has gone a step further to permit foreigners to visit India on an e-Tourist Visa for attending short term yoga programmes. This visa will be for the purpose of short duration medical treatment under Indian systems of medicine. This visa allows holders of Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) to enter and stay anywhere in India for 30 days.
Initiatives Taken by the Tourism Ministry and Other Ministries
The Tourism Ministry has played an important role in the development of the tourism. The different functions of Ministry of Tourism are carried out by ‘India Tourism Development Corporation’ (ITDC).
The Department of Tourism, Indian Institute of Tourism and Travel Management, National Council for Hotel Management and Catering Technology work towards the development of tourism in the country. ITDC hotels are situated at prime locations of important tourist destinations and provide comfortable and affordable boarding and lodging.
The Ministry of Tourism provides central financial assistance to the states, union territories and other Central agencies for the overall development of tourism in their area. The aim is to promote the culture and natural beauty of different regions and pilgrimage sites. The states at their level have been deploying measures to promote tourism. The Tourism Advisory Board recommends important measures for promotion of tourism. It reviews the tourist trends and suggests appropriate measures.
Railway Ministry has also taken initiatives to promote tourism in India. Indian Railway, Catering and Tourism Cooperation (IRCTC) is a wing of railway to promote tourism in India. The railways have offered many luxury tourist trains, semi-luxury tourist trains, Buddhist special trains, Bharat Darshan trains, Astha circuit trains, Palace on wheels and toy trains of Shimla and Darjeeling to attract domestic and international tourists. Many private companies like Make My Trip, Sterling Holidays, Club Mahindra etc., arrange domestic as well as foreign trips.
Benefits of Tourism Industry for India
The tourism industry has become one of the major contributors to the GDP of the country. It has the potential to generate mass employment and raise the income levels thereby contribute significantly to the economic development of the country. In the era of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation, the tourism industry in India has grown into a multibillion industry. It has led to significant improvement in the transportation and infrastructure facilities across the country.
The allied sectors such as aviation, transport, horticulture and handicraft have been benefitted. The hotel industry is another allied industry of tourism which ha a vast potential to generate employment and help in earning foreign exchange.
Medical tourism has become an important source of revenue for the healthcare sector. Most of the foreigners from the Western countries such as United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and neighbouring countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan etc. are turning towards India for the affordable and world class healthcare services and treatment.
Domestic tourism is growing and air connectivity has improved with regional connectivity scheme, but the government needs to adopt more holistic approach to support this sector. The concept of heritage hotels has gained popularity in India as the tourists get the experience of the exotic life style of a bygone era. Many historical havelis, castles, and forts built during the ancient times have been converted into heritage hotels. As expected, they have turned out to be major tourist attractions which also earns significant foreign incomes and raise the statu of India as an excellent tourist destination.
Tourism has played an important role in the revival of India’s art and culture. The foreigners are fascinated by the rich culture and heritage of India. Seeing the keen interest of tourists in the rich culture and heritage of India, the government is taking steps to preserve it. The works of craftsmen and artisans are greatly appreciated and bought by the foreigners. This boosts their morale and adds to novelty. Regional tourism helps to maintain the cultural identity of the minority groups.
Issues and Challenges in the Tourism Sector
Lack of proper infrastructure like roads, hotels and hospitals is one of the main challenges faced by tourism industry in India. There is scarcity of skilled manpower in hospitality and tourism sector.
The COVID-19 pandemic has placed the tourism industry under immense financial strain due to most of the border closure, travel restrictions and lockdowns. Airlines cruise operators and hotels are seeing instant effects of the pandemic. Apart from this, there are certain challenges/barriers in tourism in India. These are
• Infrastructure and Connectivity There are still certain deficiencies in infrastructure like sanitation, living facilities, hotels etc and inadequate connectivity which becomes a barrier for tourist visits to heritage sites.
• Cumbersome Process for Visa Facility Many visitors in India find the e-visa facility, the process of applying for a visa as a cumbersome or difficult one. Low awareness of the e-visa facility makes the entry process quite difficult for tourists.
• Safety Tourists have frequently been cheated and robbed in India. Women safety becomes another challenge for government as many cities in India have low levels of safety for the women tourists.
• Sanitation and Health There are still many places in India where lack of sanitation facilities turn off foreign tourists. It causes negative impact on Indian tourists places.
• Accessibility Majority of the tourist sector in the country are not accessible to poor, women and elderly. This is because of high costs of travelling, poor connectivity and a series of permission required. It is a fact that Divyangs, who constitutes more than 2 per cent of the population, cannot access many of the tourist spots in the country.
Tourism industry for India is a beautifully prospering field. Taking sufficient measures and further enhancing the prospects can guarantee unlimited chances and development of the nation. Tourism sector not only creates jobs in the tertiary sector, it also encourages growth in the primary and secondary sectors of economy. Hence, it is high time, the government should encourage the participation of the private sector in a big way for the all round development of the tourism sector that has the potential to act as the key driver of inclusive growth.
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