Make Incredible India a reality
India has now released the second edition of the most well-recognised destination campaign in the world. But it will benefit from tweaking the gaps that have widened over the years. Excerpts from World Economic Forum’s white paper titled ‘Incredible India
World Economic Forum’s (WEF) white paper on India’s tourism industry released in September 2017 outlines the country’s US$ 20 billion tourism opportunity that lies underneath the issues that needs resolution. Its Global Competitiveness Report 2016-17 ranks India at 39th position, bringing it up 16 places in each of the last two years. India has shown improvement across the board and particularly in goods market efficiency, business sophistication and innovation.
The research conducted by Bain & Company estimated that this increase in tourism receipts would come from a growth in international arrivals to 20 million in to India. To realise its objective of welcoming over 15 million foreign tourists by 2025 and becoming the largest aviation market by 2030, India needs to focus on its opportunities and understand its current limitations.
Already endowed with incredible natural beauty and cultural heritage, India must foster an enabling environment for the industry to prosper. This White Paper puts forward recommendations, highlighting the importance of public-private cooperation in execution.
A national tourism board
A proposal to create a Tourism Board is put forward. Currently, India’s travel and tourism industry lacks a unified public-private body to represent the industry. India has more than 50 active foreign tourism boards, yet the country does not have its own tourism board. While it has a number of industry associations and state-level bodies, no public-private organisation represents the industry, and these bodies work independently to drive forward their own agenda. No single ministry is responsible for all the policies affecting the aviation, travel and tourism industry. The Ministries of Civil Aviation, Tourism, Home Affairs, Culture and Road Transport and Highways, among others, have all been actively involved in the industry’s policies.
This board could support enhancing industry coordination, joint messaging, building Indian talent, driving forward industry-wide policy recommendations and enacting change through policies, as well as public-private policy initiatives and small and medium-sized enterprise growth, while considering India’s reality and best practices from other countries.
Bain & Company undertook a seven-economy analysis, investigating the governance and organisation of tourism boards, their roles and activities, as well as outcomes. Their research found that most tourism boards include a mix of public and private-sector representatives.
This White Paper also recommends a state-level approach, with a proposal to create a pilot in a state that has traditionally welcomed fewer international visitors, and to develop a few of its destinations via public-private cooperation.
Incredible India 2.0 must engage travellers on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, among other digital platforms. It should consider which influencers will inspire people to visit India. As India prepares to launch Incredible India 2.0 with a budget of over $46 million, it will need to determine its message to the world, define its audience, messenger and channels of communication, and forge partnerships to ensure success.
The new single Goods and Services Tax (GST), applied on the Indian hospitality market since July 1, 2017, is likely to be highly detrimental to the industry. The GST proposed in India is the highest across a broad range of markets in the region, amounting to 28 per cent for hotels with room tariffs of US$115 and above. Given that, over 70 per cent of hotel accommodation is consumed by business travellers and the market still faces significant room shortages, hotel rooms are not a luxury.
Creating a powerful narrative is not enough. India must establish an enabling environment for business development and for both domestic and foreign investment. As shown in the table and highlighted specifically by India’s ranking on the first five indicators, emphasis should be put on ensuring that India’s environment supports the development of the industry.