By Gour Kanjilal
The writer is the former Deputy Director General, Ministry of Tourism, Government of India. The views expressed are his own. Visit www.gourkanjilal.com
for more articles or tourism related matter.
Tourism is one of the most vibrant and growing sectors of Indian economy today as is evident from the increasing arrival flow of tourists and Foreign exchange earnings. Foreign tourists arrivals which were 2.38 million in 2002 increased to 5.37 million in 2009. Foreign exchange from inbound tourists have also increased from US$ 3.10 billion to US$ 12.00 billion in 2009. In between there were two difficult years in 2008-09 but progress some what continued with same set back due to global economic downturn. But since the beginning of the year 2010 the arrivals are progressively showing upward trend and international arrivals figure reached 35 million over the Jan- September period in 2009) The sector has also been big employment generator. As on date, about 55 million people are employed in the tourism related business. Tourism has proved to be the right engine for economic growth of the country. This fact was not accepted earlier but growing understanding of tourism as a vehicle for development has brought a change. Earlier tourism was just branded as an "Elitist Activity"
to serve the rich. But the heart of the matter that it benefit to all has been the change in the attitude toward tourism which is very important for a country like India.
As regard to sustainable tourism, there is now more awareness about Eco-Tourism and tourism as an instrument for saving the environment. This fact was never focused earlier. Now Eco-tourism staked as a primary tourism product. Several initiatives are underway through the support of the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, and all the stake holders and the emphasis is to encourage regulated growth of Eco-Tourism with its positive impacts of environment protection and community development. All the stake holders ie people in the Tours & Travel Industry, State Tourism Department and the Community should work together and handle all the issues collectively. Tourism is leisure activity and use nature for leisure activities - Beaches, lakes, Waterfalls, Wildlife, Adventure Tourism and the revenue gained grained are used for perseveration of natural heritage in a big way. Best thing is the tourism education providing respect to nature. This feeling that environment is the saviour of tourism and its growth and every body putting his bit to protect the nature is the matter comes to our heart positively. In other words, Responsible tourism activities have positively impact on the environment and culture of the host community for long tourism benefits.
Now the trend is the "Fear Psychosis" that prevail for the destinations in tourist mind. Global terrorist activities have created this fear psychosis and India is feeling the brunt as it is termed as a destination open to Terrorism But the reality is quite different. It is not India alone, it is all pervasive every country even the strongest one like USA is reeling under this threat. Government of India, Ministry of Tourism, has taken special action to develop and implement a frame of work for a coordinated response to tourism Safety and the concerned authority that is the Ministry of Home Affairs have evolved a Safety Policy Ministry of Tourism has worked with the state Governments to have tourist Police force at tourist place and every where Do's & Dont's have been prominently displayed to meet this new challenges.
While this also falls as a part of Responsible tourism, there is now growing awareness about Hygiene at tourist places; proper infrastructure for disposal of garbage, to ensure safe accessibility and all the more in all these areas the availability of trained manpower. Ministry of Tourism did a yomen service by conducting Capacity -Building Programmes covering all stake holders and service providers going upto grass root level wherever they meet tourists.
Strong fundamental to drive growth is the Domestic tourism and this is the positive turn in India tourism as earlier the emphasis was only for International Tourism. Due to an increasingly affluent growing population, greater consumption and introduction Low Cost Carriers, India Government is looking to raise domestic tourism in a big way and infrastructure planning is directed toward domestic tourism which can well be used by international tourists who look for affordable accommodation as they spend longer holidays in India and do not like to spend high hotel rates for night stays.
The success story of performance of the corporate sector and growth in the economy has also led to an unprecedented surge in business travel and India is a choice destination for Meetings, Incentives and conference. There are good convention centers now available in Delhi, Kochi, Chennai, Bhubaneswar, Jaipur, Mumbai, Goa, Hyderabad with good hotel infrastructure and air connectivity and trained manpower. In this area the hotel investment market in India has seen a forward move and over 20 hotels are at various stages of completion which will add 10,000 rooms in Delhi and NCR and some of them were partially commissioned during the commonwealth games. This hotel development is taking place across the country.
While full service carries have been adding additional flights but now domestic airlines are also flying overseas and airports are upgraded which have improved corporate travel. The Government is ready to step in to assist the industry and have given some special incentives.
We have enthusiasm to see the interest about India from emerging markets and we enjoy a sight of relief since the beginning of the year. We are ready in all respect now & that is the heart of the matter.