India offers a great tourism potential not only for the Indians but to the foreign travellers as well. Comparing the years 2017 and 2018, when the number of domestic tourists registered a growth of 11.9% (1657.55 million to 1854.93 million), growth in number of foreign visitors was registered at 7.4% (26.89 million to 28.87 million). The travel and tourism sector is the third largest foreign exchange earner for India. Statistically, India’s tourism revenue in terms of foreign exchange earnings increased from $20.24 billion in 2014 to $28.59 billion in 2018.
The tourism sector is also a good source of employment. Data shows that this sector accounted for 8% of the total employment opportunities generated in the country in 2017, providing employment to around 41.6 million people and the number is expected to rise to 52.3 million by 2028.
Initiatives taken by the government
Keeping these facts and figures in mind, PM Modi in his speech on the 73rd Independence Day of India urged Indians to travel to at least 15 tourist destinations within the country by 2022. Prior to this, the government has launched tourism promoting schemes like ‘Athiti Devo Bhava’, ‘Incredible India and Swadesh Darshan in its first term. In addition, to reach the target of 1% share in international tourist arrivals by 2020 and 2% share by 2025, the Indian government has also introduced a fresh category of visa - the medical visa or M-visa, specifically to encourage medical tourism in the country. Further, in September 2018, the government launched the ‘Incredible India Mobile App’ to assist travellers to India and showcase major experiences for travelling. Unified efforts to boost tourism are carried out because this sector offers a potent solution to the problem of economic growth of the economy. A comprehensive tourism policy, besides rewarding pro-active states, can go a long way in attracting large-scale private investment which can leverage India’s tourism potential and may usher in the generation of jobs, particularly for women.
Analysis of India’s tourism industry
The recently released Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2019 showed that the travel and tourism sector has improved worldwide owing to advancement in air transportation infrastructure, higher digital connectivity and improved international openness. In fact, 132 economies of the world have improved their travel and tourism score in 2018 vis-à-vis 2017. The Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index (based on four sub-indexes and 14 pillars) measures the set of factors and policies that enable the sustainable development of the travel and tourism sector, which contributes to the development and competitiveness of a country. To the extent, India is concerned; we are placed at the 34th rank with an improvement of six ranks vis-à-vis 2017. A brief analysis of our performance with respect to different parameters is elaborated below.
Primary factors on the basis of which our economy has performed well constitutes the natural and cultural resources where our collective rank worldwide remained 9th. This head encompass sub-factors like availability of UNESCO cultural World Heritage sites, number of large stadiums that can host significant sport or entertainment events, beautiful landscapes, richness of the fauna in the country as measured by the total known species of animals and the number of international association meetings taking place. Similarly, in context of two more parameters i.e. travel and tourism policy and enabling conditions (India’s rank 69) and infrastructure (India’s rank 75), our performance worldwide remained satisfactory. The former factor i.e. travel and tourism policy and enabling conditions constitutes airfare ticket taxes and airport charges, relative cost of hotel accommodation, cost of living, visa requirements, forest resources, marine life and the completeness and timeliness of providing travel and tourism data to international organisations. Correspondingly, the latter (infrastructure index) consists of airport transport infrastructure, ground and port infrastructure and tourist service infrastructure where again the performance, by and large, remained satisfying.
The major problems where the Indian economy needs to improve comprises of enabling environment wherein our rank remained 98th. Within this broad factor too, our performance remained particularly dismal in context of safety and security of tourists (122), health and hygiene at tourist places (105) and ICT readiness (105). It directly or indirectly connotes that number of cases of rape, murder, theft, forgery and other assaults on tourists, especially on foreigners, need to be curbed. According to a report by the National Crime Records Bureau, a total of 384 cases of crime against foreign tourists were registered during 2014 which decreased to 271 in 2015 but was high in comparison to international standards. Further, theft, assault on foreign women with intent to outrage their modesty and forgery are the grey areas which are hampering our performance. In the same fashion, although we are using oil, plastics and poisonous chemicals under the influence of western countries, but its careless disposal or at the best, creating heaps of garbage at undesignated places is leading to spoiling of environment in Indian cities, towns and villages. In context of ICT also, we need to cover a lot. As per the estimates, 16315 hours of Internet shutdown between 2012 and 2017 in India robbed the economy of $3.04 billion. It also included the time which could have been utilised for booking restaurants, hotels and transport. Simultaneously, an effort is also required to secure the digital economy by embedding cyber security into the system so that increasing numbers of cyber frauds may be curbed.
Deepti Tara, Associate Professor (formerly), University Institute of Computing, Chandigarh University, Gharuan (Pb)
Dr. Rajiv Khosla is Associate Professor in DAV Institute of Management, sector 10, Chandigarh.