From India Shining to Incredible India - the slogan seems to have changed over the years. Does it augur well for Indians? Has it done any better than the earlier initiative?
From the endeavours of the government's long-term plans, one would look at India's economic growth rather optimistically, which isn't just a giant leap forward made possible by the Information Technology giants, who have close to 30 per cent companies registered in their name in the US but promise all round developmental programmes.
One sector that promises all the challenges getting addressed and realised is the tourism sector.
Managing Growth, a Travel and Tourism Conference organised by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) India Initiative in the capital last week made people sit up and take note of developments that would steer our economy farther.
Mrs. Ambika Soni, Minister for Tourism & Culture, who inaugurated the conference comprising over 100 participants including senior government officials, members of parliament, policy makers, media heads, council members, and industry persons, addressed the gathering and focused on where we are and what more needs to be done in the sector to showcase Incredible India as the brand destination.
While the tourism sector pats itself on its back with facts and figures that seem to be growing each passing year, some startling revelations shook the complacency of the sector last year for, according to the WTTC's latest findings, 842 million international tourist arrivals were recorded last year of which India's share was only 0.52%.
This shows that while the growth in tourism in India has been growing, India's share in global tourist arrivals and earnings needs an upward thrust. India needs to tackle its fundamental constraints and crippling issues to have a share in the global growth pie.
Mrs Rathi Vinay Jha, Secretary General, WTTC, in her welcome address said, "We need to learn from global best practices to make our product a truly incredible experience." In his presentation, Mr. Nakul Anand, Chairman, WTTC India Initiative, brought forth the key message, that with the incredible potential of our country coupled with the potential of the people of India, there is no other option but to grow.
He emphasised that; "The future belongs to India" The President, WTTC London, Jean Claude Baumgarten shared the outcomes of the 7th Global Travel and Tourism Summit that was held in Lisbon earlier this year.
In her inaugural address, Ms. Ambika Soni highlighted how tourism in India has grown in the last few years not only in terms of demand but also in products.
Several new circuit destinations have come up, road and railways are being upgraded to meet the international traveler's demands, airports are undergoing major transformation and focus is also on the international marketing & promotion of Incredible India as a brand destination.
However, to position and maintain tourism development as a national priority activity, a lot more still needs to be achieved. To strengthen India's reputation as a multi experience destination, there is an urgent need to develop our infrastructure; ensure creative and consistent destination management; introduce friendly & flexible regulatory policies; and enhance human resource training facilities in the organized as well as unorganized sector and bring India tourism to a new level.
The first session, moderated by Dr. Chandan Mitra focused on tourism as an engine for growth. Speakers for the session from the two key ministries touched upon macro issues & policies for growth in the tourism and civil aviation sectors respectively.
They also highlighted the economic benefits of advancing this sector.
Dr. Christy Fernandez, Secretary, Ministry of Tourism, stated that the tourism sector is poised for qualitative and quantitative growth. The Incredible India campaign has had remarkable success in marketing the destination.
Commenting upon the tremendous employment and growth opportunities, Mr. R.K. Singh, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation stressed on the steps being taken to break through the challenges in the aviation sector.
Growth in the tourism sector has seen the upward curve in the last few years, but we still have many milestones to cover in the core focus areas and create backward and forward linkages along with cross sector synergies.
The World Travel and Tourism Council India initiative was launched in India in February 2000 with the objectives of raising awareness of the full potential of the travel and tourism industry and making it a national priority for India.
Will they live up to the promise? Let's wait and watch.