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Domestic Tourism: Key to India’s Tourism Future

After the recent slowdown following the world economic crisis, Indian Tourism is slowly moving upwards. Indeed, the first four months of the current year have witnessed a growth of over 10% foreign arrivals.

However, even without looking at statistics, it is obvious that the Indian domestic market is far, far larger than all our foreign markets put together. As against 5-6 million international tourists, well over 1200 million domestic tourists travel around the country every year.

The domestic tourism market, therefore, has a great potential for both the tourism and hospitality industries, as well as for the economy as a whole. Unlike many other countries, we have a huge domestic tourism market of our own and are not really dependent on foreign source markets. Not only is the size of our domestic market very large, we have a huge number of potential tourists with high spending power. One has only to look around at the number of foreign tourism boards who have set up their offices in India or appointed representatives to attract Indian tourist, to appreciate the size and importance of Indian market.  These countries include affluent western nations like Britain, France, Switzerland, Germany, Italy and several states in the USA.

Hence, our tourism industry – whether it is hotels or domestic airlines or agents – has large enough markets within India not only to sustain itself during difficult periods in the world but also think of future investment and growth. Similarly Governments, both central and state, have sufficient incentive and justification to invest in the tourism product of India.

It would be pertinent to remember that countries like the USA and Japan initially built their domestic tourists, and this infrastructure is now serving the needs of foreign tourists as well.

It is estimated that incomes in India would almost triple over the next two decades, and the country would climb from its position as the twelfth largest consumer markets to become the world’s fifth- largest consumer market. There will be 9.5 million households having an income over 10 lakhs and some 128 million households with an income between 2-10 lakhs. India’s rising middle  from what we have now class is expected to 583 million – a 12- fold growth – that is, over 40% of the population, and its discretionary spending will increase from 39% to 70% of all spending.

There is no doubt that India has unparalleled natural and historical resources. We have everything that a country could possibly want in terms of tourist attractions – from majestic mountains and wonderful beaches to magnificent deserts, exquisite lakes, attractive rivers, a host of leisure and adventure tourist activities, and a 5,000 year old heritage with historic monuments dating back 2,500 years in time. Add to this a great variety of cultures and religions with diverse fairs and festivals- and there is hardly any kind of tourist attraction that India does not possess.

What we lack, however, is a sufficiently well-developed infrastructure to match these attractions. And, it is this aspect that we need to focus on. If we develop our infrastructure for our domestic tourists during the next few years, India would be ready to receive many times the number of foreign tourists it currently receives.

There are many areas in which the infrastructure needs to be augmented. We need more mid-market clean hygienic hotels; better airport with more welcoming, visitor –friendly staff; clean toilet facilities for both men and women at monuments, beaches and other tourist places as well as at airports, railway stations and inter-city bus stations; we need better roads leading to our tourist  places; a dedicated tourist police force to ensure the safety and well-being of tourists; knowledgeable guides who can enrich a tourist’s  understanding of our timeless history and culture; and so much more.

If we want to create all these facilities and augment our existing infrastructure, both the Indian tourism industry and the Government should plan for the country's huge domestic market which is both permanent and reliable, in good times as well as in not-so-good times. If we do this, international tourism will take care of itself.


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