Does In­dia pack the right punch?

In­dia has a myr­iad tourism of­fer­ings, but do th­ese as­sets man­age to get enough tourist ar­rivals to the coun­try? In­dus­try stake­hold­ers share the chal­lenges they face while sell­ing the des­ti­na­tion in­ter­na­tion­ally.

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De­spite var­i­ous chal­lenges faced by Des­ti­na­tion In­dia in the in­bound tourism traf­fic from tra­di­tional mar­kets, In­dia is show­ing reg­u­lar in­crease in the tourist ar­rivals. Though the stag­na­tion of de­mand is felt as a chal­lenge, the In­dian tourism in­dus­try has started reach­ing out to al­ter­nate po­ten­tial mar­kets and started cul­ti­vat­ing them and gen­er­at­ing in­creased in­flow to In­dia. Ac­cord­ing to FORBES Asia, South Asia is pre­dicted to be the fastest grow­ing re­gion as In­dia out­paces China in the near fu­ture. Ma­jor coun­tries pro­jected to ex­pe­ri­ence strong travel and tourism GDP growth will be In­dia, China, Thai­land, In­done­sia, Peru, and Kenya. It is ev­i­dent that the com­ing decade will see tremen­dous growth and revo­lu­tion in the travel, tourism, hos­pi­tal­ity and avi­a­tion in­dus­try. As part of this global phe­nom­e­non, In­dia and this re­gion will be play­ing a vi­tal role. With that be­ing the fu­ture, it goes with­out say­ing that the tourism in­dus­try will have a lot to do cre­atively.

In­dia is a beau­ti­ful coun­try, with var­ied land­scapes, of­fer­ing a range of tourist des­ti­na­tions to choose from, mak­ing for a per­fect re­vi­tal­is­ing hol­i­day. From snowy hills, ma­jes­tic moun­tains, scenic val­leys, serene beaches and calm back­wa­ters to sul­try deserts and lush forested ar­eas, In­dia has it all. The mag­nif­i­cent coun­try of­fers a plethora of tourist des­ti­na­tions for thrilling ad­ven­ture sports, re­laxed and re­fresh­ing hol­i­days as well as mem­o­rable ro­man­tic va­ca­tions. The ter­ror at­tacks that struck Mum­bai in Novem­ber 2008 dealt a strong blow to tourism in the coun­try. Se­cu­rity has also been a ma­jor prob­lem for tourism growth for a num­ber of years. The Golden Tri­an­gle (Delhi-Agra-Jaipur) is In­dia’s only cir­cuit which is world fa­mous. For a vast coun­try like In­dia with di­verse tourism of­fer­ings, devel­op­ment of cir­cuits for var­i­ous seg­ments like her­itage and cul­ture, ad­ven­ture, reli­gious, eco, beach, well­ness, agri and ru­ral is re­quired.

The MOT has taken up many ini­tia­tives, in­clud­ing clean­li­ness drive as well as a new mar­ket­ing cam­paign. The ef­fect of all this will not be vis­i­ble im­me­di­ately, but in due course of time. UK re­mains one of the big­gest source mar­kets for the coun­try and peo­ple keep com­ing to In­dia as they know about our coun­try. In­dia of­fers a wide range of tourism prod­ucts, right from her­itage, cul­ture, beaches, yoga, wildlife and moun­tains, which many neigh­bour­ing coun­tries can­not of­fer. How­ever, as a tour op­er­a­tor we are fac­ing many chal­lenges, in­clud­ing high tax­a­tion and we hope that it gets ra­tio­nalised. Clean­li­ness should be our pri­or­ity, and I am glad that the gov­ern­ment has taken ini­tia­tives for mon­u­ment main­te­nance. The ho­tel rates in In­dia are higher than other des­ti­na­tions in South­east Asia. Al­though, the gov­ern­ment has strength­ened its mar­ket­ing ap­proach and with the Prime Min­is­ter visit­ing var­i­ous coun­tries, peo­ple around the world know about In­dia.

The Oc­to­ber sea­son for in­bound busi­ness to In­dia has been low as com­pared to pre­vi­ous ar­rivals in th­ese months. The new In­cred­i­ble In­dia 2.0 cam­paign has been launched. How­ever, the vis­i­bil­ity in travel shows would work only if the tax regime is ra­tio­nalised. Also, there is wide­spread neg­a­tive pub­lic­ity brought about by me­dia cov­er­age out­side In­dia, which is not good for tourism. In terms of rates, we need to be com­pe­tent with neigh­bour­ing des­ti­na­tions, but that is not the case. Pro­mo­tion of tourism out­side In­dia should be done by tourism of­fices in those coun­tries as em­bassies can’t do it. How­ever, those of­fices are short of staff at most of the places. While e-Visa has been good, there are long queues at the im­mi­gra­tion coun­ters for the same be­cause of short­age of staff at the air­ports. De­spite all th­ese chal­lenges, we are ex­pect­ing Novem­ber to be nor­mal in terms of busi­ness and ar­rivals, while De­cem­ber and Jan­uary could prove to be a chal­lenge for us. We are ex­pect­ing Fe­bru­ary and March to bring de­cent busi­ness.

For the time be­ing, GST has killed the in­bound busi­ness and for­eign tourists are pre­fer­ring to go to neigh­bour­ing des­ti­na­tions like Bhutan, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong and Sri Lanka in­stead. I don’t think we are go­ing to have a very good in­bound sea­son this year. To make the busi­ness bloom again, we need to set­tle the GST regime first as it has put us in the high­est bracket of tax and made the pack­ages costly. While the tax on ASI mon­u­ments has come down, we still end up pay­ing 12 per cent GST on tick­ets. How­ever, the man­age­ment in the Tourism Min­istry is in best hands to­day with a dy­namic min­is­ter and sec­re­tary. We hope that they are able to turn things around for us.

EM Na­jeeb Chair­man & Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor, Air Travel En­ter­prises Group of Com­pa­nies (ATE) and In­dia Travel Award Win­ner

Lally Matthews Di­rec­tor, Va­ca­tions Trav­els & Tours and Hony. Sec­re­tary, IATO

Santosh Ku­mar Sharma Di­rec­tor Fore­see Avi­a­tion

Ra­jiv Mehra Di­rec­tor, Uday Tour & Trav­els and Vice Pres­i­dent, IATO

NS Rathor CEO, Garha Tours & Trav­els

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