Chapter # 10. Travel, Tourism and Hospitality
- Increase India’s share in global international tourist arrivals from 1.18 per cent to 3 per cent.
- Increase the number of foreign tourist arrivals from 8.8 million to 12 million.
- Double the number of domestic tourist visits, from 1,614 million in 2016 to 3,200 million visits.
There has been significant progress in the travel, tourism and hospitality sector in the last decade but there is much further room for improvement. India moved up 12 places from 52nd to 40th in the World Economic Forum’s Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index in 2017.
Foreign tourist arrivals have increased from 5.1 million in 2009 to 8.8 million in 2016; yet they account for less than 1 per cent of global tourist arrivals. With 35 world heritage sites, 10 bio-geographical zones and 26 biotic provinces, India has significant potential to increase the number of tourist arrivals.
The sector is an important contributor to national income. In 2017-18, India’s travel and tourism sector accounted for foreign exchange earnings of USD 22.92 billion. Hotels and tourism also accounted for USD 0.9 billion of foreign direct investment (FDI) in 2016-17, making up around 3 per cent of total FDI between April 2000 and October 2017.1 Domestic tourism plays a key role within the sector. In 2016, domestic tourist visits to all Indian states and union territories numbered 1614 million, an increase of about 13 per cent from the previous year.
As a highly labour-intensive sector, tourism has the capacity to generate large-scale, good quality employment. In 2016, it accounted for 25 million direct and more than 14 million indirect jobs. Direct jobs in the sector made up 5.8 per cent of India’s total employment. Together, direct and indirect jobs accounted for 9.3 per cent of total employment. The sector has multiple forward and backward linkages with further job generating potential in sectors such as agriculture, retail, transport and financial services.
Recognizing the sector’s potential to generate income and employment, the government has undertaken several measures to strengthen infrastructure and facilitate tourism. India recently introduced tourist visa on arrival, enabled with electronic travel authorization (ETA) (renamed as the “e-Tourist Visa”) for tourists from 150 countries.2 The Ministry of Tourism has launched a round-the-clock, toll-free tourist helpline in 12 international languages. The government has launched several schemes to develop tourist circuits; develop our islands as tourist destinations; build large-scale convention centres in different cities; improve connectivity and develop niche offerings such as medical tourism and pilgrimage-based tourism.
- Entry/exit: Despite the introduction of an e-visa facility, visitors find the process of applying for a visa still cumbersome. Further, awareness about the e-visa facility remains low. In addition, medical e-visa holders face difficulties because of the limited number of repeat visits allowed under the visa, the number of accompanying persons permitted and cumbersome registration processes.
- Infrastructure and connectivity: Deficiencies in infrastructure and inadequate connectivity hamper tourist visits to some heritage sites.
- Tourism segments or circuits: India has various tourist destinations but few circuits or segments such as the Golden Triangle (Delhi-Agra-Jaipur).
- Promotion and marketing: Although it has been increasing, online marketing/branding remains limited and campaigns are not coordinated. Tourist information centres are poorly managed, making it difficult for domestic and foreign tourists to access information with ease.
- Skills: The number of adequately trained indi-viduals for the tourism and hospitality sector is a key challenge to giving visitors a world-class experience. A limited number of multi-lingual trained guides, and the limited local awareness and understanding of the benefits and respon-sibilities associated with tourist growth act as constraints on the sector’s growth.
- Entry/exit for tourism
- Increase e-visa awareness globally by launching an information campaign through our consulates abroad. It is also necessary to launch an e-visa regime to attract clientele from the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) market. To attract repeat visitors, the validity period of e-visas may be increased to 10 years.
- Enhance the number of annual visits allowed under an e-medical visa. Currently, e-medical visa holders are allowed three repeat visits during their one-year visa period. This may not be sufficient for patients who require follow-up/ post-operative care.
- Simplify the process of registering online with the Foreigner Regional Registration Offices (FRRO). Establishing FRRO help-desks at major Indian airports and hospi-tals will provide visitors with the informa-tion to complete the process online.
- Increase the number of accompanying persons with e-medical visa holders from two to up to four under the same visa, as has been done in countries like Malaysia.
- Infrastructure and connectivity
- Tourism infrastructure projects, viz., hotels, resorts, equipment, parks etc., having a project cost more than INR 1 crore should be notified as ‘infrastructure’ to enable promoters to avail loans on a priority basis.
- Conservation and development of all heritage sites should be undertaken and completed through either government funding or through NGOs/Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities. The Ministry of Tourism’sSwadesh Darshan and National Mission on Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual Heritage Augmentation Drive (PRASHAD) schemes are already undertaking the development or maintenance of heritage sites.3,4 The number of projects sanctioned under this scheme should be increased and their implementation accelerated.
- Increase domestic tourist traffic by upgrading existing infrastructure and leasing out the main-tenance of such infrastructure to private players. New destinations can be developed around the metros using the PPP model.
- Improve flight connectivity to tourist destina-tions through the timely implementation of the Ministry of Civil Aviation’s Regional Connectivity Scheme – UDAN (RCS-UDAN). Larger cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai should be converted into efficient and seamless transit hubs.
- Building tourist circuits or segments
- Develop the marine leisure industry by issuing national boating guidelines to regulate the industry in terms of safety, security, marina development, nautical infrastructure for safe access to water, cruising and charters, crewing (skill training), rescue and rationalization of import duties and local taxes to encourage the growth of local boat building. This segment will also help attract additional FDI into the sector.
- Promote river cruise tourism by making the entire stretch of National Waterway No. 1, the River Ganga, from Allahabad to the Farakkah Barrage, fully navigable.
- Build deep-water marinas in the coastal areas of India including in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and in Mumbai. Create enabling policies that permit scuba diving or other activities requiring boat travel.
- Promote India’s Buddhist circuit by increas-ing coordination among all stakeholders and improving connectivity. Tourism to the Buddhist circuit can be greatly enhanced by increasing promotion, building wayside amenities and connecting lesser-known sites to core circuits. We should also fully utilize the Swadesh Darshan and existing schemes to promote this circuit.
- Develop 100 “Smart Tourist Destination Sites” showcasing theme-based museums and heri-tage sites.
- Develop 100 “Model Swachh Tourist Destina-tions” by undertaking a special clean-up initia-tive focused on 100 iconic heritage, spiritual and cultural places in the country.
- Develop at least five “Beach Destinations” as exclusive tourism zones.
- Develop at least five “World Class Museums” drawing from world class museums such as Bilbao or the Asian Civilization Museum in Singapore. Further, ease the process of accepting gifts by museums in India.
- Plan and develop five globally competitive and world-class national circuits from entry to exit.
- Skill development
- Connect local communities to tourism by en-couraging them to set up small enterprises to supply the tourism industry (accommodation, food and material). Employment opportunities can be expanded by ensuring that investors and operators in the organized sector are encour-aged to hire staff locally.
- Local craftspersons, masons, carpenters and labourers should be engaged for heritage conser-vation and restoration activities to create jobs.
- Create a database of artisans based on the dif-ferent craft forms they are associated with and the areas where they live.
- Upgrade the skills of existing workers such as taxi drivers, boat operators, guides, and restau-rant and dhaba workers through state tourism departments in association with local tourism and hospitality institutes and industry.
- Expertise available with heritage hotels may also be used for skill development in the sector.
- Language competencies of tour guides should be improved through a bridge course conducted by the sector council all across the country.
- Support private sector institutes in tourism regulated by government to create the required talent pool. This can be done by expanding the number of private sector institutes or bodies recognized as implementing agencies for delivering the Ministry of Tourism’s Hunar Se Rozgar Tak initiative to create employable skills.
- Create Centres of Excellence for leadership in the tourism sector as a fulcrum of professional education, research and advocacy to create managers and entrepreneurs in tourism.
- Additionally, ensure that tourism management and leadership is included as a distinct course in top management institutes in India.
- Enable access to markets for traditional handicrafts producers by linking them with global markets. The government should also encourage the export of tribal handicrafts.
- Promotion and marketing, especially with respect to cultural sites
- Launch targeted promotional campaigns in Asian countries such as China, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea, using digital media including TV advertisements.
- Design policies using data on consumer usage to target marketing efforts and segments of the population.
- Reconsider differential pricing for heritage sites as the higher ticket price for non-Indians leads to losing out on a large segment of youth travellers.
- Consider establishing cultural centres in additional countries to spread Indian culture worldwide.
- Create an online portal of all heritage sites to increase awareness regarding these.
- Ticketing and access to monuments and museums.
- An online ticket distribution system for heritage sites and wild life areas should be developed with time slots to visit.
- Buying tickets at reception centres should be streamlined to avoid long queues.
- Create common passes to visit multiple heritage sites.
- Provide foreign exchange counters at each tourist site.
- Tourist information centres should be operated by trained personnel and must have resources like maps, travel guides, etc.