Last two years have been challenging as the entire industry had to bear the brunt of slowdown and our problems compounded with issuing of advisories by countries like USA, UK, France, Canada etc advising their citizens not to travel to India and if they can avoid, they should try to avoid which was further affected with sudden revision in visa regulations in early 2010. After these advisories were modified, rather toned down and visa norms were streamlined (which had created lot of confusion and kept tourists in worried about re-entry to India after visiting neighboring states) there is now efforts to build up positive image and we are hoping that tourism industry is going to be on the path of quick recovery. Commonwealth Games in India, I am confident, we will get better tourist arrivals. Our tour operators have done hard work on the business prospects coinciding with Commonwealth Games and worked out enchanting packages covering all major destinations in India.
One good thing was that India was less impacted by the economic down turn so our recovery was much faster. This is proved by the increase in international tourist arrivals. Till May end, the international tourist arrivals was 2262689 tourists and this is showing a growth of 11.3% over corresponding period of last year. We are also becoming much more internationally competitive business wise with improved infrastructure and availability of hotel rooms and air seat capacity. I think these changes ensure bright future. Still there might be some unexpected events which can negatively impact which may be beyond our control, but we have done our home work very well and Government has taken all necessary step for over all safety to all visitors and these have created positive confidence .
The most noticeable steps have been taken by the hotel industry and the airport authority. Adecade ago, India as a destination had very limited choice. But with the passing of time and state Governments putting priority to tourism and with partnerships with private sectors grown stronger and many new destinations have come into tourism scene. Possibilities of having niche holidays are better in offerings like Adventure Tourism, Rural Tourism, Wellness Tourism, Spiritual Tourism, Sports Tourism (Golfing Holidays) Wildlife Tourism, Ayruveda & Spa, Gourmet experience that is going beyond Golden Triangle of Delhi-Agra-Jaipur. The packages have ushered in a radical change with more comfortable and budget priced accommodations, good connectivity and Highways with facilities shopping malls etc which show a big departure from earlier ones where things were lacking international acceptance. People are now more environmentally conscious and more service oriented. There is change in the attitude towards tourism and towards tourists.
There were challenges to have trained manpower for the industry but Governments priority to this sector ensured regular supply of trained man power. Going forward, it is my deep conviction that with adoption of sustainable practices in the industry, our tourism business will not only get profitability but also serve longer social need. Our trade professionals have understood that in this business, there is need to maintain quality as modern day tourist are globally experiencing quality and will accept nothing less.
Ministry of Tourism, Government of India has accordingly worked out quality control norms by having standardizing strict hotel classification guidelines, Tour Operators approval criteria, complaint cell, overseas publicity cell for promotional activities needed and focused areas identified with Incredible India branding. While on branding I must add that Incredible India worked very well- which based on varied aspects of tourism cultural variety, Ayurveda & Spiritual sanctity, wildlife, festivals etc. But India has made rapid changes and as a country, we need to look for a positive branding which relates to giant lips made in economic field and not only depending on the past. India's resounding changes in socio - economic front, share in world trade and scientific progress to be showcased in our re-branding.
The impact may take some time as negative perception is in the minds of the west and progressive India is beyond their imagination. We have to hammer their thinking process with re-branding efforts and it would be easier said than done. But the time is ripe to go ahead with re-branding efforts. Ministry is already thinking on this line and all other stake holders are also thinking on similar lines. There is now global recognition India as economic power of the future. While all the major international players are making in road in the India, this provides the country with a huge opportunity to develop its supporting infrastructure in 2 & 3 tier cities. This is really happening with so many international chains are having hotels beyond metropolitan cities.
With many chains now in hotel operations in India, there has been visible price rationalization in the market which is a step in the right direction to cater to the growing tourism industry. In effect, seamless travel through state borders have also been taken up with sincerity and soon be implemented coinciding with Commonwealth Games Regressive load of tax which is also having serious thoughts for rationalization. During Commonwealth Games, Delhi Government has reduced luxury tax for hotels with organizing Committee panels and many incentives have been added for Bed & Breakfast projects to boost budget accommodation which is a step in the right direction to boost domestic tourism.
In all activities, Ministry has thinking out of the box and ready to learn through discussions at every decision making level. This is the right way to move forward and all stake holders are in line with Ministry's thinking and coming forward to give their inputs based on experience. India presents incredible opportunities across the board over next few decades. Mega tourism centers in the country are in progress with identified circuits to gain long stay of tourists in the country and every state has taken initiatives on developing tourism infrastructure and Government of India, Ministry of Tourism is extending financial help liberally. The next decade is going to be for India and I have full confidence.