By Gour Kanjilal
Last decade have been challenging for the Inbound Tourism, Entire industry had to bear the brunt of slowdown and compounded with problems of terror attacks, Advisories issued from time to time by major traffic generating countries like UK, USA, France, Germany, Japan, Canada, Australia advising their citizens not to visit India and which was further affected with the revised visa regulations that tourists need to have 60 days breaks since their last visit to India.
Inbound really went down since 2005 and nearly took clear-cut four years to revamp. Now since 2010, there is double digit increase in international tourist arrivals. The last year 2010, the international tourist arrival was 55.83 lakhs (+8%) and similarly foreign Exchange Earnings also showed progressive growth.
In 2011, since beginning of the year continued with this positive trend. Till October 2011, international tourist arrivals reached 49.3 lakhs (10.0%) and foreign Exchange earnings reached 60,780 crore 49.3 lakhs with a growth of 21% over the corresponding period.
One good thing which was visible in the inbound sector since 2006/07 when global economic slowdown was impacting many developed countries, India was less impacted by the economic down turn. But there were negative events like Mumbai terror attacks (26/11/08), natural calamities put slow growth in tourist movements. But in general, the proactive approach of the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India taking all stake holders together really put a brave challenge.
Government took all measures for overall safety to all visitors; hotels made focused safety steps, airport had intense security checks that created positive confidence. Ministry of Tourism organized Road Shows in major traffic generating markets and all stake holders also joined hands. State Government also gave priority to tourism and with partnerships with private sectors grown stronger and many new destinations opened up.
The greatest achievement was declaring 2009 as the visit India year with many special offerings which attracted overseas tourists. The possibilities came up with niche holiday products and these included Adventure tourism, MICE tourism, Sports Tourism (Golfing Holidays), Rural Tourism, Spiritual Tourism etc. These were showcased while participating in international travel and tourism exhibitions.
To supplement our efforts there was a real growth in budget accommodation and with 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi there was real impetus in accommodation growth. Over 50,000 rooms were added in star category hotels. Then there were supplementary accommodation in the forms of Bed & Breakfast and Guest House establishments. Good Four Lane/Six Lane Highways with facilities enroute, shopping Malls etc showed a big progress from earlier times when things were lacking international acceptance.
Even there were regular skill-development programs at all levels. T-3 international Airport made a significant change and more airlines started operations to India. Thus the right environment in the last decade boosted inbound tourism. We need to maintain this momentum and quality that we developed. Modern day tourists are globally experienced who will not accept nothing less. This learning made the industry more professional. Ministry of Tourism, Government of India also worked out with all stake holders' quality control norms by standardizing strict hotel classification norms, for Recognition of Tour Operators, Adventure Operators and revised the Marketing Development Assistance scheme with higher incentives.
Overseas publicity with Incredible India branding made a change in the perception. While on branding, we all accept it had worked very well. But still our delivery was lacking. We need to rebrand the Incredible India campaign by focusing thematic aspects and giving more information how to make such visits possible and should not be generic.
We have been able to tell to the world how India is shaping up as one of the economic power of the future. This made international players making inroads into India and that started brining business traffic to India. Opportunities also started coming in 2 tier/ 3 tier cities with low cost carriers opening up hither to unknown tourist places. Charters now coming in number in Goa, Kerala, Bangalore and Inbound are maintaining the growth trends growth in volume is visible.
Seamless travel in Golden Triangle Sector, Comprehensive Entry tickets to ASI Monuments, big conferences centers in India are the positive steps towards inbound tourism which were not even thought of in the 1980's we were only thinking about cultural tourism with focus on Golden Triangle Circuit.
Through the last decade, India presented incredible opportunities across the board over the next few decades with China as competitor. Mega tourism Circuits /Centers in the country are in progress to gain longer stay. Sincere efforts are being made has taken initiatives in developing tourism infrastructure in a big way. Government of India, Ministry of tourism is extending financial assistance liberally to the Hotel and Travel Industry.
The next decade is going to be for India and Indian tourism will at the forefront for National economy, employment and of course overall prosperity.