Unlocking India’s tourism potential
Infrastructure development, collaboration between the Centre and state governments, and investments in sustainable tourism are key for India to lead in tourism
India is globally acknowledged as the world’s most ancient civilization, a crucible of the world’s most cultures and religions, endowed with rich and diverse cultural heritage going back to thousands of years, natural beauty and dotted with historical sites across the country.
While it attracts millions of tourists for its various attractions, the G20 Summit brought over a lakh delegates from the world in over 60 meetings across the country. Their exposure to our culture, diversity, World Heritage sites and India’s rich treasures of art, music, and cuisine has given a boost to global tourism. In September, in his 105th address in ‘Mann ki Baat’, Prime Minister Modi highlighted India’s huge global tourist attraction. He said that tourism is the sector which generates ‘maximum employment with minimum investment’.
The tourism and hospitality sector is a big-time contributor to economic growth, 4.6% to our country’s GDP and has humongous potential. In the context of India’s G20 Presidency and Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav, the ministry of tourism declared 2023 as a ‘Visit India’ year. Forbes recently ranked India as the 7th most beautiful country in its ‘The 50 Most Beautiful Countries In The World rankings.
The ministry of tourism is drafting a National Tourism Policy-earlier released in 2022, incorporating suggestions from Central ministries, state governments, Union Territories and industry stakeholders. The policy aims to enhance the contribution of tourism to the Indian economy; create jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities; enhance competitiveness of the sector; attract private sector investment and FDI; preserve, and enhance the cultural & natural resources, and promote sustainable, responsible and inclusive development of tourism in the country.
In the HT Tourism Conclave held last week, the secretary of the ministry of tourism stated that the Goa Roadmap on Tourism endorsed at the G20 Leaders’ Summit on September 9-10 shall be a part of the National Tourism Policy. She also highlighted the government’s focus on ‘experiential tourism’, enhancing the knowledge of tourist guides. Start-ups like TourHQ also focus on guide training and facilitation with tourists by infusion of technology. The roadmap focuses on five priority areas, green tourism, digitalization, skills, tourism MSMEs, and destination management, and will promote sustainable development goals and sustainable tourism.
India has a diverse opportunity for travellers to explore, be it adventure tourism, religious and spiritual tourism, eco-tourism, cruise tourism, etc. Ministry of tourism intensively promotes infrastructure and more than half of its budget is channelised for funding the development of destinations, circuits, mega projects as well as rural tourism infrastructure projects. Hotels and hospitality sector revenue is projected at $7.66 billion in 2023 with a CAGR of 8.29% between 2023-27. This will also boost the Indian startup ecosystem as the tourism sector has 1,300+ DPIIT-recognized startups.
Tourism is supplementary to infrastructure development and state governments are important stakeholders. There are more than 3,650 ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) sites in India, including 40 World Heritage Sites inscribed by UNESCO. The logistics and tourist infrastructure facilities not only enhance the experience of tourists but also promote development in the region. For example: The maintenance and promotion of Sanchi Stupa, also promotes development and generates employment in adjacent villages near Bhopal and Sanchi.
Recently, the Union minister for roads and highways, Nitin Gadkari remarked that India’s road connectivity grew by 59% in the last decade. Civil aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia announced three new routes in Arunachal Pradesh among others which help connectivity with the Northeast region to promote tourism. The inauguration of nine new Vande Bharat trains by Prime Minister Narendra Modi will help faster connectivity and services by railways.
The state government’s contribution to regional development and tourism-friendly infrastructure gives a boost to national tourism. Some states have their own tourism policy like Gujarat and several others are expected soon. A coordinated and collaborative approach will greatly help between central and state governments to promote tourism.
Aashish Gupta, CEO of the Federation of Associations in Indian Tourism and Hospitality, in the HT Tourism Conclave, stressed that India is set to become a global leader in tourism. He suggested tapping key source markets with an intensive marketing campaign. It might be relevant and useful to involve the ministry of external affairs and Indian embassies in a big way.
The theme of this year’s World Tourism Day, celebrated on 27th September is ‘Tourism and Green Investment’. In the post-pandemic recovery of the tourism sector, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), a specialized agency of the United Nations, highlighted the need for investments for ‘People, Planet and Prosperity’. The theme for National Tourism Day 2023 in India is ‘Rural and Community Centric Tourism’. This will boost investments in education, skill development related to the tourism sector; sustainable infrastructure and green energy, and innovation and technology. With ‘experiential tourism’ comes ‘sustainable tourism’, and a need to promote clean and green tourist infrastructure and ecosystem.
During the various meetings of working groups and engagement groups of G20, which will continue till November 2023, the thousands of delegates got an opportunity to travel across the country and get a feel of the rich heritage and culture. With the upcoming Miss World 2023 to be hosted in New Delhi, the tourism sector is set for a further boost. While India’s image and attractiveness as a tourism destination are going up exponentially, it might be useful if, in the new tourism policy, suitable measures are taken to build a one-window service involving the concerned stakeholders, including the states, embassies and private sector with a mechanism for constructive feedback for constant improvement in services.
Dhanendra Kumar has been India’s executive director in the World Bank, secretary of culture, Govt. of India and chairman of the Competition Commission of India. With inputs from Aditya Trivedi. The views expressed are personal