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.
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