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Monday, 30 October, 2017, 14 : 56 PM [IST]

Inbound Tourism to drive future growth

Our aim is to put Incredible India on the global tourism map and for that inbound tourism is key.

The past decade has made us see a reasonable increase in the number of tourists. The numbers are slowly increasing, but India needs the infrastructure to be able to support this planned growth.

What is required moving forward is more Visa liberalization, International airports, Airline connectivity through regional hubs, well located affordable Hotels and structured Highways.

The important changes in the past 10 years have been Visa on arrival and online visa which have been a big boon and has made it very convenient for inbound tourists. There has also been an increase in the number of international airports and low-cost carriers, resulting in more flights and destinations having bilateral agreements with India.

For tourism development, the government is taking the necessary steps in tourism-related activities and have started to consider allocation of conveniently located lands for accommodation, malls, convention centers, etc. Some of the recent initiatives taken by the government include grant of export house status to the tourism sector and incentives for promoting private investment in the form of Income Tax exemptions, interest subsidy and reduced import duty. The hotel and tourism-related industry has been declared a high priority industry for foreign investment which entails automatic approval of direct investment up to 51% of foreign equity and allowing 100% non-resident Indian investment and simplifying rules regarding the grant of approval to travel agents, tour operators and tourist transport operators.

Newer segments are attracting foreign tourists. A new segment in inbound sector is medical and wellness. This is attracting many tourists to Kerala and Goa. The new area that has emerged is the Spa culture which has gained popularity in past few years amongst the tourists. Certain niche markets have also been given a boost- Golf Tourism, rural & interactive tourism, adventure, sport activities, fishing, etc. Many states like Kerala, Goa, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, are strongly promoting themselves and do understand the importance of tourism bringing in dollars that can help in bringing more infrastructural changes.

A major challenge is safety and security as India has a lot of negative publicity in the media. The tragic unfortunate incident in December 2012 dampened tourism and the image of India has taken a beating. It has scared a lot of global travellers which we need to recover from.

Other challenges being - Inadequate Infrastructure, inadequate air seat capacity, accessibility to tourist destinations, tax issues which hopefully will get sorted by GST, poor hygiene conditions and importantly competing destinations are more proactive and have large marketing budgets.

In a nutshell, the tourism industry in India is growing but needs a booster as it has vast potential for generating employment and earning large amount of foreign exchange besides leading to country’s overall economic and social development. Eco-tourism needs to be promoted so that tourism in India helps in preserving and sustaining the diversity of the natural and cultural environments. Tourism in India should be developed so that it accommodates and entertains visitors in a way that is minimally intrusive or destructive to the environment, and sustains & supports the native cultures in the locations it is operating in. Moreover, since tourism is a multi-dimensional activity, and basically a service industry, it would be necessary that all wings of the Central and State governments, private sector and voluntary organisations become active partners in the endeavour to attain sustainable growth in tourism if India is to become a world player in the tourism industry.

The outlook for the Travel & Tourism sector in 2017 remains robust and will continue to be at the forefront of wealth and employment creation in the global economy, despite the emergence of a number of challenging headwinds. Direct Travel & Tourism GDP growth is expected to accelerate to 3.8%, up from 3.1% in 2016.

Over the longer term, growth of the travel & tourism sector will continue to be strong so long as the investment and development takes place in an open and sustainable manner. Enacting pro-growth travel policies that share benefits more equitably can foster a talent and business environment necessary to enable travel & tourism to realise its potential. In doing so, not only can we expect the sector to support over 380 million jobs by 2027, but it will continue to grow its economic contribution, providing the rationale for the further protection of nature, habitats, and biodiversity

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