Tourism Products of India is so varied that very few countries in the world can provide such a mix of nature, richness of architecture, worldlife, festivities, shopping etcin one holiday. Thus Indian holidays provide real tourist experience. The Travellers of all ages, all budget and all interest can find their visit very satisfying.
Looking into all these aspects, one always feels that we have not been able to utilize our potential in full. Infact, we lack positive attitude to do something big that is also reflected in tourism field.
Of course, there are some real problems and many of those are influenced by internal and external factors. More important is the internal factors where a clear-cut policy directive is needed by giving priority attention to tourism, higher budget outlay, tax incentives and creating tourism friendly environment with sound service providers team; tourism is nothing else but a combination of services for which travellers are willing to pay. It is their interest for meeting new culture i.e. experience, a new source of entertainment, eco-friendly holidays, economic viability of its products (value for money) that decide destination choice. India fits quite well in this selection process. But sad part is that still we are hovering around 2.5 million tourists since last 2 years. No doubt, there were genuine reasons between 2001-2002 with series of negative global events to bring a halt to the growth. Things are improving since mid 2004. India is stepping in 4 million figure by early 2005. There is a positive growth over 2003 figures and average 15 % year on growth can be expected. Same success story can be seen for tourism receipts. Even outbound traffic from India is progressively moving upward (about 5 million) and domestic tourism is having continuous growth which probably now stand at 350 million in 2005 and may go over 500 million by 2006.
However this small success should not create a complacent attitude. We have to move ahead cautiously as our competitors are doing much better and preparing themselves aggressively. We must see how Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong and now China are coming forward with competitive packages. We have not only to match their price but product has to be improved. Our infrastructure is limited to certain metropolitan cities; many tourist places around metros do not have basic facilities.
Let us first look into Air connectivity part. We have to be well connected from the traffic generating we do not use them all because our national carrier do not have that number of aircrafts to fly from all those destinations. Thus seat capacity is always remained a big problem. We must allow all those foreign airlines who are willing to fly to India without putting lot of conditions or soon privatize Air India so that it becomes competitive.
The position becomes all the more complex with aviation related taxes (things are bit improved with the withdrawl of ATT, reduced fuel tax etc recently. As announced by our Finance Minister in his mini-budget. Similarly our airport facilities are very outdated; they need total facelift to take more charters, bigger aircrafts and up market traffic. Airports from first impression and we can’t create the right image with present condition of our International airports. We need to relax the charter norms. It will take away congestion from metropolitan cities and open up new tourist centers that can ensure balanced growth of tourism all over India.
We must rationalize the tax part. Aviation Turbine Fuel taxes have proved domestic tours by air very cost prohibitive. Indian tourists find visit to overseas countries much cheaper than visiting the places within India. Road taxes are so high that surface transport packages are not being patronized. Fly drive concept is totally lacking in India because of road taxes. The inconvenience which travelers have to face at border check points is really discouraging to boost surface tourism.
We also lack forming business partnerships. Each one is trying to promote some product by undercutting each other’s business in overseas markets. Greater degree of co-operation is needed especially between trade and Govt. agencies. State Governments should reduce road taxes, luxury taxes on hotels-all these taxes make our product a bit overpriced. Shortfall of trained manpower has been felt by the industry. All State will have to play a very pro-active role in augmenting the capacity through the institutes run by them. This is all more essential as demand will be more for 2-star 3 star hotels all over the country and these hotels do not use trained manpower. More international collaborations will be needed to market 2/3 star category hotels. This is the market demand. In a country like India where they stay for a longer period, they would like to exercise economy on accommodation and thus prefer 2/3 star hotels.
Evening entertainment is totally lacking in most places including metropolitan cities. Some serious partnerships need to be formed between State Govts and private sector so that tourists can enjoy the evening. They should get an opportunity to experience local culture Diversification of product by adding specific sectors like sports, healthcare, museum, etc is a must for increasing tourist nights.