HIGH GROWTH POTENTIAL IN TOURISM

The development of tourism as an industry is being given emphasis by most countries of the world. Tourism has been playing its due role in India and has made a record growth. A recent study by the National Council for Applied Economic Research (NCAER) has revealed that tourism’s contribution towards GDP is 5.9 per cent and towards employment (both direct and indirect) 8.78 per cent.

There is an imperative need to promote tourism in a big way. India’s success could attract more and more tourists for eco-tourism, religious tourism, historical tourism, medical tourism etc. Every single State has some unique characteristics, which could interest tourists in one way or the other.

The ‘Incredible India’ campaign has been quite successful and driven the growth of tourism in the country. It captures the underlying spirit of the country, its culture, tradition and spirituality.

As a result tourist arrivals have increased dramatically. During the Tenth Plan period, tourist arrivals grew by a phenomenal 78 per cent while foreign exchange earnings increased by around 120 per cent. According to the Tourism Ministry, a whopping 420 million domestic tourists were recorded in 2006.

The opening up of air transport and emergence of low-cost carriers has greatly helped boost up tourist arrivals to this country.

A study conducted by FICCI on development perspective of eco and rural tourism revealed that it had the highest employment and investment ratio. Every additional investment of Rs 10 crore has the potential to generate 47.5 jobs. Further, every direct job created in tourism leads to a creation of 77 jobs in other related sectors of the industry, the study stated. Besides the multiplier effect of tourism generates high revenue-capital ratio in the Indian context. Indirect employment generated in the form of revival of traditional arts and crafts, development of communication, hotels etc.

Another study by McKinsey has revealed that medical tourism could generate as much as Rs 100 billion of revenue for India by 2012. The success of medical tourism will build bigger capacities and draw more investment for the health sector.

Attracting foreign tourists has become a priority and there are expectations of reaching the 10 million mark by the end of the 11th Plan period. There is presently one lakh approved quality accommodation which should be increased to two lakh by 2011, according to report by a working group on tourism for the Eleventh Plan. According to Subhash Goyal, President of the Indian Association of Tour Operators, “if we implement the suggestions by the Ministry of Tourism, it will not be difficult to attract 10 million (foreign) tourists”.



Infrastructure Development

The need for creating adequate infrastructure to attract more tourists, specially those from foreign countries, has been a long felt need. The Tourism Ministry has earmarked Rs 650 crore budget allocation for this fiscal to develop sites within the country. The Ministry has decided to give a maximum of Rs 50 crore (and Rs 25 crore) to State Governments to develop each circuit and destination.

Accordingly it has been planned to set up 100 heritage circuits by the end of the 11th Plan of which 25 are expected to be of International standard. The government also plans to build world-class infrastructure at Hampi, Agra, Konark, Khajuraho, Orccha and Datia along with Buddhist and Jain centres. To develop cultural tourism, the government has identified six museums at Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Bangalore and Cochin which would be upgraded to compete with global standards.

As religious tourism has been gaining ground for quite some time, the Buddhist area of Raghir, Nalanda and Bodh Gaya have also been chosen for development. A special train has been introduced for the Buddhist pilgrimage from India and abroad particularly from the South Asian countries to promote tourism.

However challenges still remain. The challenge is to create around 100,000 additional star category hotel rooms or good quality resorts in the next three years. The Tourism Ministry has decided to create ‘land banks’ by acquiring land for building hotels through public-private partnerships on a built-operate basis.

There is also need to improve roadways, transportation, ensure clean and hygienic environment and ensure safety and security conditions in the areas and give these places a modern look. Improvement of surroundings of tourist spots, specially in rural areas and ensuring cleanliness needs to be given due attention. It needs to mentioned here that tourists should not feel any inadequacy of anything and enjoy their travel in India.

The working group suggestions, if implemented, can definitely boost tourism in the country. However, there is need to concentrate on countries such as South Africa, Israel, Spain, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, Brazil and Argentina which would help in attracting tourists to India. Fewer tourists come to India from these countries, so they offer high growth potential, the report said. Promotion of business-related travel by building convention centres of international standards in major cities and new tourist centres has also been envisaged in the report. Moreover, the country needs to prepare strategies to increase per capita expenditure on shopping.

India has emerged as the 4th favoured destination for holidays above South Africa and Switzerland, as per a survey undertaken by Conde Nast Traveller magazine for their 2006 Readers Travel Awards. It is indeed a big country with various types of unique destinations and natural locales. It is also a region of the world’s greatest biodiversity while, on the other hand, a place where history is found embedded in palaces, monuments and conservation sites. As such, the average duration of stay of a tourist in Singapore is about 5 days as against 26 days in India because of the latter’s vast tourist potential.

It would thus not be difficult to transform the country into a 365 days-a-year destination where tourists would find themselves comfortable at each and every place, whether the visit is intended for historical, religious, ecological or health reasons.

By PIB - Dhurjati Mukherjee (Freelance Journalist, Kolkata)

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