Tourism Potential of India

India has the potential to release foreign exchange earnings of over $10 billion and attract 10 million tourists by 2008, even with the existing infrastructure, marginal investment in certain specific segments, rational management of hospitality industry and change in mindset of various players in the field. Where do we stand now? India's share in World tourist arrivals and receipts is dismally negligible as demonstrated in the following tables: What is more appalling is that we are far below such small countries like Taiwan, Malaysia, Thailand, Korea, Indonesia, etc.

It is note worthy that China ranked seventh in the world's top 40 tourism earning countries, with external founds inflow of $ 12.5 billion, while India's rank was 34 with an intenational tourism receipt of over $3 billion in29k98. While there has been substantial increase, both in terms of tourist arrivals and receipts the world & over, India's position was stagnant at about 0.4 percent. Despite these unimpressive figures of India's share, there are certain built in positive factors. These include average duration of stay, (about one month), repeat visitors (42 per cent), leisure tourist (58 per cent) comparatively higher percentage of visitors being in the age group of 25-44 years, normally high spending category, increase in the proportion of business travellers etc.

The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) estimates that contribution of the hospitality industry Indian GDP is expected to go up to 6.6 per cent by 2010 and foreign exchange receipts from 10.8 per cent to 12 per cent of the aggregate exporter earnings in the same period. Given a thrust and determination it is possible to exceed the rate of growth of 8.43 percent on arrivals projected by WTTC. Technical and commercial tie-ups facilitate region alliances.

National carriers of countries of the region can for instance have on line agree momentos and have hub and spoke arrangements with the principal domestic carriers. For instance in India, which has 180 air routes, 40 of Whittier for tourist traffic, including 125 major ones, International carriers bring visitors to gateway cities from where they take off in domestic carriers to destinations. Indian Railways has special tourist trains like Palace on Wheels, Royal Orient, Rajdhani, Shatabadi, with special seasonal fares and Indorail pass.

Tour operators, primarily responsible for organized tourism, do make use of conducted rail tours. If tour operators have a spread of offices in the region they could offer a variety of packages which include pilgrim spots of almost all-religious faiths. While air and rail transportation is important, the lifeline of tourism is road transports. Aviator wants to experience journey in another Courtney road or rail or by air transports. As on date approved accommodation intake star category hotels is about 70,000 rooms, another 30,000-40,000 rooms are in different stages of implementation. Taking into account all types of facilities, the total accommodation available is of the order off our million units distributed mainly in different centers like , Several thousands of apartments and flats are lying vacant inmate cities, towns and other places, which could easily be made available to tourist with appropriate up gradation and augmentation of basic hygienic condition and AC facilities.

Once the momentum is created, there is no reason why we should not use this idle capacity and capital in the overall interest of the country in general and tapping the tourist arrivals and receipts of potential in particular. Transporter and communication constitute yet another component of tourism development. The Indian Government has just cleared an airport policy providing for automatic approval for foreign equity investment up to 74 per cent in airport ventures and with permission for up to 100 percent foreign equity investment on merit. Airports will be of five categories. Namely subcontinent hubs, international hubs, national hubs, regional hubs and other operational airports. Delhi and Mumbai will be the sub-continental hubs with world class facilities. Up gradation of the existing airport infrastructure has been enproposed at an estimated cost of RS 10,000 crore which has got be raised through private, Government and foreign participation.

There are 92 auroras in the country, besides 28 civil enclaves defense airports, of this total, only 35 airports are remunerative at prent. The other airports are either not handling any traffic or very low traffic. But once civil aviation expansion continues to commensurate with the growth inner traffic, both domestic and international, most of these airports can be put to use. The air-seat capacity in both domestic and international services will have to be similarly increased along with expansion of the network. The country enjoys an eminent position in the civil aviation sector. Air -India has a fleet of 28 aircraft and Indian Airlines has 53 Aircaft under its fold, there are also a couple of other private airlines like Jet, Sahara, etc, which have acquired prominent positions in the Indian sky.

There are also many foreign airlines that are waiting in the wings to land in India, once they get a clear signal. It is here the marketing people, like travel agents, tour operators, media etc, and have to play a decisive role to project India for its variety and uniqueness. Some of the measures suggested by the Federation of India Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) deserve a close look. These include: . Time-bound implementation of programís. . Since India is a vast country, it is necessary to adopt a selective approach. . Greater attention to those segments which earn large amount of fore per visitor, viz., business tourism, conference tourism, shopping tourism, leisure and adventure tourism. . onto more international airlines and charter fights to operate in India. .

Tourism sector should be treated at par, in all respects, with the development of core infrastructure as recommended by AC Muthiah Committee. . Evolving an effective mechanism for development and management of important tourist centers jointly by the Government and private sector. . Rationalization and reduction of the burden of heavy taxes including those imposed by the State Governments and also a year's tax holiday. Increased investment in marketing and overseas publicity. . Deployment of efficient and sincere personall at airports, immigration counters, transport networks, hotels and resorts. . Adoption of Singapore model for tourism development and setting up of a Singapore Tourism Board like institution all framework which would help in taking decisions and implementing them without any hassle and impediment.

To conclude we have operationally tolerable tourism infrastructure, which if properly harnessed can ace delegate the rate of growth, the tourist arrivals and receipts. We can hope to augment orchard from the present level of 0.4 per cent to 1, to 1.5 per cent of the international tourist arrivals and receipts with a distinct focus on market segment and product identification and promotion. Let us forget the Government plans and programers, they should only bettered at the margin. It is the private sector who should stair itself to take advantage of opportunities thrown up in the backdrop economic liberalization and globalization, coupled wit India's unique position as a tourist destination. The Government can at most play a catalytic role and facilitator, nothing less, nothing more. Let us frankly admit so and work accordingly. Then we can safely and comfortably achieve the targets and goals set by we. A threefold increase in foreign exchange earning is within the realm of attainment.

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