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Friday, 12 June, 2015, 17 : 30 PM [IST]

Overnights Please!!!

Hector D'souzaThe world over, countries realise the tremendous impact tourism has on their GDP and the economy at large. Not to be left behind, India is making huge strides to garner maximum footfalls from foreign lands, with a number of tourist-friendly policies ranging from electronic visa approvals to providing airports with an ambience and decor matching international standards. We closed the year 2014 with over 7.5 million international visitors, as compared with 6.96 million visitors in 2013.

Though the increase in numbers appears relatively low, it’s the overnights that are more appealing. While there is no exact statistical data to measure the overnights India receives as a destination, it is a well-known fact that the country is a medium-to-long-stay destination for many. Projections differ; most holiday-makers stay, on an average, for 15 days to 3 weeks. When multiplied by the number or a percentage of the number, you get an impressive figure.

Computer-savvy and Internet-friendly India could easily evolve a system of measuring overnight stays, as opposed to simply providing arrival numbers. Cosmopolitan Delhi gets a huge number of arrivals, yet, there is no data per se to measure how many nights a visitor spends in the city, either on business or leisure or for visiting friends and relatives, before embarking on a trip to yet another destination. In the absence of reliable data, the onus again falls on arrival figures to gauge how well a destination fares in tourism.

Overnights data, when compiled, would refer to visitors spending on overnights at hotels, boarding houses, boutique resorts, luxury hotels, dormitories, home stays, and paying guest accommodation. This isn’t an onerous task, as almost all providers of accommodation gather data of guests at the time of check-in, including making photocopies of passports, driving licences, or other forms of identification proofs. At time of check-in, it is possible to identify whether the guest is a foreigner, India, or SAARC country traveller. The information is, thus, easily available. What needs to be done, however, is share the date with a statistical gathering organisation who will then release the figures on a monthly basis to various agencies. Tourist-friendly India will receive invaluable information from this source, and in turn, the states and Centre will be able to make and meet projections with greater accuracy.

With the available information, local governments and municipalities will be able to further improve facilities for tourists - clean drinking water, hygienic sanitation systems, scientific vehicle and crowd control, as well as better logistical support at heritage monuments, international convention centres, forest reserves and sanctuaries, beaches, and high-rise mountainous regions. But, what can be left out of this data is the number of visitors arriving to meet and stay with friends and relatives in India. Ethnic traffic and non-resident Indian traffic are on the rise. As there is no efficient method of calculating this figure, it could be kept on the back burner for the time being.

For starters, let’s begin with overnights. Working with two parameters is better than having just one
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