Context: Central Government at the second G-20 Tourism Working Group meeting in Siliguri, West Bengal has envisioned making India a $1 trillion tourism economy with 100 million international visitors by 2047.
- The vision of the second G-20 TWG meeting was to project domestic tourism in a mission mode to maximise tourism potential in India.
Tourism Sector in India
- The tourism industry in India accounts for roughly 5% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).
- in the financial year 2019-2020, the travel and tourism sector in India employed nearly 80 million people and accounted for about 15.3% of overall jobs in the country.
- In 2021, India has ranked 54th in the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Travel and Tourism Development Index, down from 46th in 2019, but still, India remains at the top within South Asia.
Benefits of development of the Tourism Sector
- Economic growth: Tourism can contribute significantly to the country’s economic growth, as it generates earnings and creates employment opportunities for people in various sectors.
- Increased foreign exchange earnings: Tourism can be a major source of foreign exchange earnings for India, as it attracts a large number of foreign tourists who spend money on accommodations, food, transportation, and other travel-related expenses.
- Infrastructure development: Development of tourism sector can lead to the construction and improvement of infrastructure, such as roads, airports, and other transportation facilities, which can benefit other sectors as well.
- Preservation of culture and heritage: Tourism can help preserve and promote the rich culture and heritage by encouraging the preservation of monuments, art, and traditions.
- Improve standards of living: Lead to the development of local economies and improve the standard of living of the people. Also, it helps to renew the sense of pride and responsibility, especially among the local population.
- Increased awareness and understanding: Help promote understanding and awareness of different cultures, traditions, and ways of life.
- International recognition: Help raise India’s international profile and reputation, which can initiate a cultural exchange, increases soft power, promote cultural diplomacy and have positive effects on various other sectors of the economy.
Types of Tourism in India
- Religious and Cultural tourism: India offers a rich cultural heritage with religious and historical monuments. Prominent sites include- Ajanta & Ellora caves (Maharashtra), Mahabalipuram (TamilNadu), Hampi (Karnataka), Taj Mahal (Uttar Pradesh), Hawa Mahal (Rajasthan), Char Dham (Uttarakhand), Sanchi Stupa (Madhya Pradesh) etc.Various fairs and festivals include Pushkar fair (Rajasthan), Taj Mahotsav (Uttar Pradesh), and Suraj Kund mela (Haryana).
- Adventure tourism: It offers opportunities for exploration of remote areas and exotic locales and engaging in various activities. The activities may include- trekking, Skiing facilities in the Himalayas, Paragliding, Ropeway, etc.
- Beach Tourism: India’s vast coastline and islands provide ample opportunities for beach tourism. E.g., Blue flag beaches of Odisha, the backwaters of Kerala, Water sports in Goa, Scuba-diving in Andaman & Nicobar Islands and coral watching in Lakshadweep islands etc.
- Eco-tourism: India has the potential to become a competitive ecotourism destination due to its abundant natural wealth (vast variety of flora & fauna) and wetlands. E.g., Thenamala (Kerala), Kaziranga National Park (Assam), Sundarbans.
- This would ensure the socio-economic development of local communities while also entails the sustainable preservation of a naturally endowed area and its biodiversity.
- Wildlife tourism: India has a rich forest cover and exotic species of wildlife which can boost wildlife tourism in India. E.g., Sariska Wildlife Sanctuary (Rajasthan), Corbett National Park (Uttarakhand).
- Medical tourism: India avails cost-effective but superior-quality healthcare in terms of surgical procedures, general medication and Ayurvedic treatment and Yoga. E.g., Chennai (Tamil Nadu) attracts around 45% of medical tourists from foreign countries, Rishikesh (Yoga capital of World)
- Rural Tourism: India offers a vast potential for rural tourism that focuses on exploring and experiencing the rural lifestyle and culture and participating in various activities such as farming, handicrafts, farm tourism and village walks etc.
Challenges of the Tourism Sector in India
- Infrastructure: Inadequate infrastructure and connectivity in terms of transportation, accommodation, and tourist facilities is a major challenge for India’s tourism industry, especially for remote destinations and hilly areas. E.g., Absence of basic amenities like clean drinking water, clean toilets, first aid and good public transport facilities.
- Seasonality: India’s tourism sector is highly seasonal, with most tourists visiting the country between October and March. This seasonal nature of tourism creates a challenge for the industry to maintain stable employment throughout the year.
- Lack of skilled workforce: India’s tourism sector faces a shortage of skilled workers, particularly in areas such as hospitality and tourism management which hampers quality service delivery to tourists.
- Safety and security: Tourists may face risks of theft, harassment, and racial attacks in some parts of the country.
- Environmental sustainability: Rapid growth of tourism in India has put significant pressure on the country’s natural resources and environment. Lack of sustainable practices in the tourism industry has led to pollution (like plastic pollution in mountains), overuse of water resources, and damage to natural habitats.
- Cultural sensitivity: India’s diverse cultural heritage is one of its greatest attractions for tourists. However, the lack of sensitivity and understanding of cultural differences among tourists can lead to misunderstandings and conflicts.
- Bureaucratic hurdles: Bureaucratic processes involved in obtaining permits, licenses, and other necessary paperwork can be time-consuming and challenging. E.g., Despite the introduction of the e-visa facility, visitors find the process for application cumbersome.
GOI has taken some critical steps to develop the Indian tourism industry
In the Union Budget 2023, for the promotion of tourism into mission mode, the Ministry of Tourism was allocated Rs 2,400 crore and a slew of measures were announced.
- Focus on promoting domestic tourism: Initiatives like ‘Dekho Apna Desh,’ ‘Swadesh Darshan Scheme,’ and ‘Vibrant Villages Programme – to encourage tourism in border villages’ are launched to promote tourism within the country. These schemes focus on encouraging middle-class citizens to travel within the country instead of going overseas.
Also, under these schemes, the government aims to develop theme-based tourist circuits and better tourism infrastructure in remote parts of India.
- Visit India Year 2023: The government has launched Visit India Year 2023 as India is heading G20 in 2023. It is a programme which invites the world to explore India and gives impetus to the tourism sector. Under the initiative, more than one lakh foreign delegates who will visit India in 2023 will be showcased the entire gamut of India’s Culture, including monuments and festivals.
- Boost to Adventure Tourism: To achieve the target of 1 trillion tourism economy, the focus is being put on various government-led initiatives under Public-Private Partnership (PPP) mode. Major push is being given to make India an ideal destination for sustainable adventure tourism.
Priority is given to green tourism, digitalisation, skilling, tourism MSMEs and destination management. The Ministry is working with States and industries for the development of the two mega-adventure tourism trails that would be launched in the Himalayas and the Ganga in 2023. These trails would be followed by others like the Narmada trail from Amarkantak in Madhya Pradesh to the Arabian sea, the Cauvery river trail, the West Coast trail from Kutch to Kanyakumari, and the East Coast trail from West Bengal to Kanyakumari.
- Develop 50 new tourist destinations: Government would develop 50 new tourist destinations to attract more tourists across India. The new destinations will be selected through ‘challenge mode’ considering critical factors like connectivity to the destination, tourists’ security, etc., and the focus will be on developing a complete package keeping in mind the needs of Indian and foreign tourists.
- Promote eco-tourism: A new scheme, ‘Amrit Dharohar,’ has been announced to enhance biodiversity and support the optimum use of wetlands.
- Starting Unity Malls: Apart from promoting domestic tourism, to promote local handicraft products, all the states are encouraged to build ‘Unity Malls’ at all prominent locations. These malls will act as a place to display and sell the state’s local speciality products manufactured and made by local artisans.
- Building new airports and improving railway connectivity: To promote and develop the Indian tourism industry further, Budget 2023 announced that India would develop 50 new airports, water aerodromes, and heliports to improve connectivity within the cities and smaller towns. Also, a budget has been allocated to develop railways in India.
- Unlocking India’s immense tourism potential requires a comprehensive strategy that addresses the six key pillars of planning, place, people, policy, process, and promotion. The “6Ps” cover destination planning and management, infrastructure development, sustainability and safety, development of human capital, policy and process interventions to align the Centre and states as well as promoting the narrative of Indian tourism.
- Presently, Tourism is a state subject. The central tourism department has been batting for it to be moved to the concurrent list, which can allow policy-making both at the Central and the State level.
- Granting tourism infrastructure status will provide further impetus to the growth of the sector. Some Indian states have already provided industry status to tourism, a key demand of the sector for decades now.
- Artificial Reality/Virtual Reality can help travellers explore destinations before they even arrive, providing virtual tours and simulations of famous landmarks, historical sites, and cultural experiences. AI-powered chatbots and digital assistants can help travellers plan their trips, recommend personalised activities, and offer real-time assistance while travelling.