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India Tourism Retrospective

We should not be blindly optimistic about the outlook for India’s foreign tourist arrivals. We must talk about weak performance in tourist arrivals from our main source markets like Germany, Italy, France, Japan rather than Nepal, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Srilanka etc where positive growth is visible. Government’s statistical data shows that an improving trend but tour operators have not been benefited. The tourists from neighboring countries hardly take the services of the tour operators or use 5 star property. The priority is to increase more up market traffic from USA, Canada, Japan, South Korea and Middle East.

The consistent support provided by the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India to enhance investment in tourism sector is truly commendable. At least investors will visit India round the year and keep tourism growth continued.  Integration of all states promoting tourism into the investment policy can bring infrastructure development all over the country. This is a very positive step. Such initiatives shows commitment to promote and develop cooperation among various overseas countries. It arises to encourage investments and sound economic development, boost exchanges and cooperation in culture, technology and tourism. The contemporary economic climate has varying effects on our main traffic generating markets including BRIC countries including Russia and South Africa. Also emerging markets highly reliant on financial position like Brazil, Mexico, Vietnam, Indonesia and Argentina which have not been doing well in economic arena. China is a good potential market but latest political developments will not increase demand.

The Media is usually the first channel for people to know about destination and India media has damaged the image. We need balanced reporting of events in India. Even elections to be held in states generate uncertainty. Agra the city of Taj specially Taj Mahal will have Mud cover gives a wrong signal.  We need to issue an assurance on that Taj will be partially visible and not all covered. Our visa issues remain unsettled especially Multi Entry Visa and that is negatively impacting international tourist arrivals. Government has started global Campaign but the peak season is going to be over in December 2016. So this Campaign is for mainly for next year’s arrivals. India was not visible whole year in global markets, neither Electronic nor Print media. Our competitors took the advantage. Even tax status remained heavy (nearly over 30%). Even GST may not be in operation till September/October 2017. This uncertainty puts our sales team overseas to give firm quotations to clients. We have to give Quotations 5/6 months in advance so we can’t give a competitive price and we lose business before our neighboring countries.

All these do not augur well. We lack professionalism.  Even Safety and Cleanliness part people take with a pinch of salt and talk about it at all forums. Our media is mainly responsible for that. Air ticket cost have gone up and this has dampen the spirit for tourists who like to take long haul holiday destinations.

Things are not coming the way we want. One or the other problems crop up and damage tourism interest. Natural Calamities, Terror threats, Bird Flu phobia and Dengue all these have put a blow on our image or as a holiday destination. We are keeping our finger crossed. Hope November/December work out well and we end the year with international tourist arrival in double digit.

Severe economic down turn in the traffic generating markets makes our travel trade to think of promoting domestic packages. Stimulating growth in domestic tourism has been a good driver of economic expansion but we need to boost International tourism in order to earn foreign exchange that is essential for a sound economy.

Current decline in International tourist arrivals is attributed to a number of reasons including the sluggish markets in Europe, the United States and Germany the countries which are traditional traffic generating markets. The other reasons are high air tickets costs due to hike in air craft fuel charges and high operational costs. For India, one of the prime reasons for less traffic is the issue of getting Visa. It is getting very difficult to get visas from the Indian Mission overseas and tourists are going to destinations which have tourist friendly visa norms. Visa process need to be streamlined on top priority basis Group visas needs to be introduced for easy movement of group on a fixed itinerary being handled by Govt. of India approved tour operators in India. Another factor is the progressively high cost of hotels and varied taxes toward tourism sector.

Even our marketing strategy need to be revamped shifting focus from generic advertisements to focused destinations with some indications of the itinerary and package costs and local contacts for bookings.

Some special events which can provide unique experience which is unique to India like Kumbh Mela experience, Kite festival, Yoga festival etc to be focused globally with regular advertisements and advance notice and incentives to tour operators overseas who are promoting special packages. Our tour operator’s offer also must focus on new product offerings in various travel shows they participate and try to go beyond golden triangle circuit. It is unlikely that economic down turn will bring travel to standstill. In fact travelers will be more creative in their selection of destinations but no doubt travelers will be looking for cheaper alternatives in 2013/14 and many like to travel within their own region.

Government policy must support the industry i.e Tour Operators in India and overseas both for marketing, advertisements, joint promotions as they mean business and can convert the awareness into actual traffic. With such financial support, it can help and motivate the tour operators overseas to offer India specific holiday packages, put Indian holiday advertisements in the local press where they operate their business (even in distant areas) and help them to upgrade their manpower with India specific training by holding educational tours, seminars (where in Indian tour operators can join, show them what their clients will get in India, type of hotels and services as they are going to handle their clients in India). Just releasing TV advertisement is not going to help in creating   business in India. To help drive up business, a deal with the local tour operators overseas is a must. Thus we have to strengthen our efforts in developing the market and try to realize the goal fixed at the outset of the year and budget year marked accordingly. A clear cut policy decision in this respect is the need of the hour.

We should also ensure effectiveness in Civic Governance as since last one year we got several negative reports in the Global Press and there is a fear psychosis about safety of women tourists. Improve cooperation mechanism among government Ministries and State Governments and work together to see GST is put into place as this can bring tax structure down.

Tourism has to be made competitive with less tax burden. We must educate our people about tourism benefits in relation to poverty reduction and job opportunities. We need to fully leverage the role of the Civil Society and private sector in this endeavor and jointly meet the global challenges.

No country is immune to the complex and multiple security threats and we must take a holistic approach to address both the symptoms root causes of diverse security challenges and build a stable regional secured environment. We hope that all political parties will settle their difference through inclusive and constructive political dialogue and work for country’s growth.

We also need to have friendly relations with neighboring countries. There is an urgent need for intra-regional tourism like GCC countries moving within the GCC region, Asian countries or Latin American countries have continuous tourism within the region on Intra-regional tourism basis. India can promote even SAARC Regional tourism for boosting Regional Tourism.

Tour operators main job will be to bring back consumers confidence. They have become very careful on selecting the destinations. Tour operators must look for new distribution channels like tie up with Departmental stores, Airlines, Banks, Insurance agencies, etc. New Year is the time to look into the areas where we failed and work out new strategies, products innovation with customers need and assurance for delivery. What is more important is to have cash to sustain the business and to tide over the current slowdown.


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