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Tuesday, 18 August, 2015, 15 : 00 PM [IST]

Disruptive Growth!

P Krishna KumarIt’s a known fact that India really needs some sort of disruptive growth to carve out its rightful share on the international tourism map. The current inbound figures and the pace of annual growth do not give us any reason for contentment at all. It is high time India explored steps that could unleash that much required disruptive growth. Electronic-Tourist Visa (ETV) is of course a great leveller in that context. But, can ETV alone impel that disruptive growth? The answer will be a big ‘No!’

While the government has been trying to hard sell the initiative by flaunting growth figures every now and then, the bitter truth is that the scheme hasn’t been able to catch the fancy of travellers yet. The number of ETAs issued in the first six months of 2015 were just 1.26 lakh, out of the 3.85 million foreigner visits; the fact being, the government agencies’ attempts to flaunt the ETV y-o-y growth figure of over 900 per cent is seen as an exercise to hoodwink the public.

The endeavour is not to belittle the pro-activeness of the government to convert tourism into an economic growth engine. It is truly encouraging to see that the government is keeping its tryst with tourism by broadbasing the ETV initiative. But it is foolish to think that there will be a huge surge of international travellers to Indian shores just because of visa liberalisation. We need to work on several other aspects related to destinations, products, experiences, image, safety and security, sustainability, etc., to create that appetite for ‘Incredible India’. For this a national awakening is required and consensus has to be arrived at all levels.

The travel and tourism industry and its fraternal associations cannot dodge responsibilities. They need to rise above narrow objectives of commissions, incentives, tax concessions, MDAs, etc. The voice of industry leadership is seldom heard when major issues are affecting tourism. In most such cases, the responsibility to defend the industry in highest judiciary becomes the duty of motley local organisations. The examples are so many. The latest one is the imposition of ban on rafting and rafting camps in Uttarakhand by National Green Tribunal. While it can be dubbed as a local or state issue, the ramifications of a blanket ban on this most sought-after adventure activity in the River Ganga will be huge. It is easy to blame the authorities for permitting camping sites to sprout along the banks in large numbers without any concern for fragile ecology and long-term sustainability. But did the industry ever think of a self-check so that fingers are not pointed by fringe elements at it in the name of environment and sustainability? Unfortunately not!

P Krishna Kumar
Bureau Chief, New Delhi

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