To say that India’s tourism potential is enormous and the country has not been able to cash on it is to state the obvious. According to the ministry of tourism, in 2013, 6.97 million foreign tourists came to India. The number is paltry if you pit it against the number coming to, say, Thailand, which in 2013 was 26.7 million. India does not lack the sights and sounds that could make it a great tourist destination.
But it certainly cannot be called “tourist friendly”, an umbrella term that includes the various challenges visitors face in the country: Badly kept monuments, lack of any basic facilities for tourists and tardy security for visitors, especially female visitors. Even the best-known of monuments like the Taj Mahal are not spared: On Monday, tourists at the monument were found wading in the central water pool to beat the heat. It was simply the absence of security that encouraged them to break the rules.
When the Archeological Survey of India chief issued a show cause notice to the CISF and other officials, everyone started passing the buck. While the Taj Mahal has been more or less free of heritage marauders, other monuments have not been so lucky. Then there are other problems like lack of drinking water facilities. Foreign tourists have a long recurring grouse: They have to pay much more, in some places almost 150% more than what Indian tourists do. This gate-fee could be rationalised to entice more foreign tourists to India.
Tourism is one of the key focus areas of the NDA government. Earlier this month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked for travel experiences of tourists in India, and within minutes he received thousands of messages on social media. In keeping with this aim to boost tourism, the government is set to make lighthouses that dot the coastal area a major tourist attraction. This is good news but what is not is the way the areas around the lighthouses will be used to make them major tourist attractions.
According to the plan, there will be resorts, cafés, water sports, etc near these places. The impact of such development on old structures could be enormous. So whatever the plan of the government is, adequate resources must be deployed so that the pristine beach areas are not destroyed by unmanageable human activity.