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India’s Domestic Tourism Growth Story

Lets into the statistical data which are published in press - lets check the reality. The figures only shows the tourists who had stayed at a registered accommodation but the actual number would be over many more as half of the number who might have stayed at unregistered places, like Dharamsalas, tented accommodation even inside the coaches, Ashrams, huts with relatives, friends etc are not included in the figure reported. Even one billion figure surely indicates the “Volume” the domestic tourists hold. It has gone down aftermath of the global economic meltdown. No doubt, it is only the domestic tourism that kept our tourism industry running. It will have a very marginal impact whether global economic slowdown or terror threats, the domestic tourists know the contour of the country very well and know how to plan their itinerary and even how to exercise economy when economic slowdown disturb their budget.

Domestic Tourism in India commenced a steady growth since 1970’s when Ministry of Tourism had special focus on domestic tourism and made increased outlays for tourism infrastructure. It promoted the scheme like Yatrinivas in each state for budget tourists, yatrikas at pilgrimage places, youth hotels in each states forest lodges at wildlife centers, giving financial aid to Dharmsalas, Musafirkhanas and temple trustees to renovate, construct and refurbish accommodation through an establishment called “Bharatiya Avas Vikas Samiti”. Inadequate tourism infrastructure still remain but now state Government’s assistance, they have setup tourist Bungalows, Panth Nivas, Rest Houses, Trekking Huts, Rural Tourism Centers, with cottages of ethnic style, pilgrimage sheds and cover all over India to ensure quick dispersal and balanced development through tourism activities. These efforts of the Central Ministry of Tourism really made a big difference and that was a big reason for domestic tourism boost and since then the positive trends continued with an average growth of 15% year on basis.

Since the opening of the economy in 1991 and foreign direct investment inflows also helped in the availability of clean and economy priced accommodation in 3 Star/2 Star categories. A number of the India hotel and real estate players view hotels as a natural extension and synergy to their growth real estate portfolios. New hubs thus developed at National Capital Region comprising Suburbs of Noida, Gurgaon, Ghaziabad, Faridabad and nearby areas and the trend is visible all over India.

Domestic Tourism got real boost with Government’s policy on “Leave Travel Concessions” to the staff and financial assistance to join the package tours on offer from State Tourism Corporations. The growing Indian Economy spurred business travel. The strong performance of the corporate sector led to unprecedented surge in business travel. GDP grew at a robust 8% in 2006-07 and since then continued to grow by 6% in spite of economic recession visible since 2010. Double income in a family with husband wife team in service offered good disposable amount for leisure travel in the country. The MNC’s in India also offered Incentive Travel to their employees on the lines in overseas and they provided round the year movements on business travel which even at off season (April-July) kept tourism plants running to capacity. Thus Indian Tourism became round the year tourism activity destination.

Domestic Tourism in 2006/07 was still very much restricted to travel by trains by coaches and very limited by air journeys. It is the “Liberalization of the airline industry” that promoted and increased travel by domestic travelers and which also increased country’s accessibility into hinterland areas not visited by them earlier. With Low Cost Airlines introduced with increased frequency and additional routes with competitive and affordable prices, including packages, domestic tourism saw the real boom. Low cost airlines like Indigo, Spicejet, Jetlite, Go Air and host of other airlines coming one after the other enhanced domestic travel flows in such volume which was not seen earlier. Even those who could not think of taking air journeys joined the one for air travel that was the offer and afford ability. Even many 2-Star/3- Star hotels joined the airlines to offer affordable packages with value additions. Thus Goa, Chennai, Bhopal, Pune, Mangalore, Lucknow, Jaipur and Jodhpur also came in demand from domestic tourists who earlier preferred pilgrimage places like Jammu (for Vaishno Devi Yatra) or Chardham (Uttarakhand), Shirdi (Maharashtra), Tirupati, Haridwar-Rishikesh etc. They became choosy and demanding.

Many of the domestic tourists who were earlier joining outbound packages only to USA, Europe, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore now due to economic meltdown started looking inward. They have  seen how tourism products have been developed on international standard and do join at Ananda Resort in Risikesh, Beach Holidays with Casino in Goa, Health/ Wellness Spa Resorts in Kerala, visit Tea Estates in Darjeeling Dooars, Mountain Resorts in Srinagar, Otty or Orange Estate in Coorg and even join luxury trains like Palace on Wheels, Deccan Odyssey etc. They are equally conscious of Quality and look for unique experience. They have become globe trotters and want the domestic tourism services to be of that quality. Ministry of Tourism, Govt. of India is also directing its energy towards domestic tourism as good facilities can be used by budget tourists from overseas (as sound domestic tourism is the main base for future development of inbound tourism). With the indicative statistics from the Ministry of Tourism in 2013, it has crossed one billion figures.

Government is taking right steps to ensure quality, based on facilities and services. The Ministry of Tourism continuously approves hotels in India into eight categories namely 5-Star Deluxe, 5-Star, 4-Star, 3-Star, 1-Star, Heritage and now added tented/camping sites, Time shares, Bed & Breakfast scheme. Government also approve tour operators, travel agents, adventure operators, domestic tour operators etc. this is to ensure that supplies are that of quality and also given recognition with National Tourism Awards. No doubt, tourism industry needs risk management, concession on taxation for tourism services and trained man power are essential to keep its growth. Sustainable tourism developments with carrying capacity, environmental guidance, community involvement should be in the priority for future planning. We all mean business as tourism promoters, we stand together to make “India a land for all reasons and all seasons”.


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