Harnessing the potential of India’s tourism model of inclusive growth
The targeted outreach programmes to promote inclusive and sustainable tourism as people begin to travel will ensure India’s potential is realised as we celebrate 75 years of Independence
In December 2013, Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi, as the chief minister of Gujarat, flagged off the Run for Unity marathon as a part of a nationwide outreach programme to collect iron for the Statue of Unity that was to be constructed at Kevadia, Gujarat. The loha campaign collected farm tools and soil samples from farmers in more than 150,000 locations as a unique tribute to the Iron Man of India.
Even before the statue’s construction, Kevadia was a popular destination in Gujarat. Many families would visit the Sardar Sarovar dam for a day trip that included picnics and sight-seeing. Fast-forward seven years, and today, we have Kevadia and the Statue of Unity on the world tourism map. This model exemplifies the transformation that can be achieved as a result of the scale of vision and the focus on execution. The Statue of Unity and the cluster of projects around it are directly benefiting local communities in a 100 square-kilometre radius, and are providing inclusive sustainable growth in the region.
India has 41 Unesco World Heritage inscriptions, many iconic destinations, 10 eco-friendly blue flag beaches, immense natural beauty, many wildlife sanctuaries, and intangible cultural heritage through festivals and performing arts. We have the opportunity to build tourism clusters around these so that local communities can benefit from them. Some of these areas are inhabited by marginalised communities such as tribals and forest-dwellers. Our aim is to empower these communities by skilling them and integrating them into the tourism supply-chain so that they can run their own homestays, operate logistics, act as guides and tour operators. This is the PM’s vision — tourism as a tool to deliver welfare and prosperity to local communities that benefit from the jobs and development opportunities that it brings.
In the wake of Covid-19 and its adverse socioeconomic impact, the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has designated this year’s World Tourism Day on September 27 to focus on inclusive growth. India can lead the way by providing ample opportunities for community development and jobs to vulnerable sections of society. We are working in partnership with the states and industry stakeholders to intensify our efforts in promoting sustainable, responsible, and inclusive growth in the tourism sector. The ministry will also build the skills of local communities, and India’s young, to enable them to benefit from tourism activities in their areas.
The reason for the tourism sector’s ability to create inclusive growth is also because of the relatively low investment that is required to create sustainable jobs and generate employment. Various studies have shown that for an investment of ₹10,00,000, tourism can create as many as 78 jobs — the highest job creating potential among our primary, secondary, and tertiary sectors. Therefore, it is only natural that we work to create an enabling environment where we can harness the sector’s potential to be an engine of job creation across the country.
During his Independence Day address from Red Fort in 2019, PM Modi exhorted every Indian citizen to visit at least 15 destinations 2022, when India celebrates 75 years of Independence. The pandemic severely curtailed the plans of many who had begun on this odyssey. Vaccination and a predictable travel protocol can reignite this quest. Latent and pent-up demand among some sections is also bound to create opportunities for the tourism sector. As of today, India has administered more than 850 million vaccine doses in total. There can be no bigger confidence booster for the tourism industry than this.
While international tourism could take longer to open up, as international air travel is still constrained, we have a tremendous opportunity to promote domestic tourism as a large percentage of our population will be fully vaccinated by the end of the year. The targeted outreach programmes to promote inclusive and sustainable tourism as people begin to travel will ensure India’s potential is realised as we celebrate 75 years of Independence.
G Kishan Reddy is the minister for tourism, culture and development of Northeastern region and represents the Secunderabad Parliamentary constituency in the Lok Sabha
The views expressed are personal