Putting The Best Foot Forward to have Positive Tourism Growth
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 increased tourist arrivals from Nepal, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka etc. Government’s statistical data till April end suggests an increasing trend but tour operators have not been benefitted. The increased arrivals from neighboring countries hardly take the services of the tour operator’s or use our 5 Star property. The priority is to increase more upmarket traffic from USA, Canada, Japan, South Korea, China, Gulf and Middle East.
The Consistent efforts of the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India to enhance infrastructure in the country with a holistic coverage of an entire circuit instead of individual tourist spots. PRASAD schemes is targeted toward the development of tourism infrastructure in and around famous religious and pilgrimage cities. The SWADESH DARSHAN scheme aims at the development of complete circuit on a specific theme. We understand that 56 projects covering 29 states/56 projects covering 29 States /UT’s worth Rs. 4,823.91 crores have been sanctioned under the SWADESH DARSHAN Scheme since its launch on 1st January 2015. 13 thematic circuits have been identified under which projects are sanctioned. 18 projects worth Rs. 488.45 crores have been sanctioned under the PRASAD Scheme since its launch on 1st January 2015. 25 religious cities have been identified under the scheme for development.
Incredible India Tourist Helpline was launched on 8th February 2016. The helpline provides assistance and information to tourists in 12 major languages of the world including Hindi & English. The helpline is available 24x7 and can be accessed on the Toll-free Number 1800- 11-1363 or on a short code 1363. The languages covered are Hindi, English, Arabic, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. At least, this initiative has created confidence in the minds of foreign tourists about Safety and Security part.
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 aims to encourage sound economic development and 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. Emerging markets highly reliant on financial position like Brazil, Mexico, Vietnam, Indonesia, Argentina, 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 destinations but for India media has damaged the image.
Even tax status remained heavy nearly over 30% is the tax component. Hope GST is put into operation by July end tourism is put into lower slab. At least present the uncertainty puts our sales team overseas to give quotations. As tour operators when they go overseas for sales/ marketing purpose have to give Quotations 5/6 months in advance so they fail to give a competitive price and often lose business. Inspite of doing their best and speeding fortunes on promotional visits. All these do not augur well.
The Ministry of Tourism has launched a ‘Welcome Card’ for distribution at immigration counters to tourists arriving at international airports. From 15th February 2017 the Ministry has introduced free SIM Cards with pre-loaded talk time and data to all tourists arriving in India on the e-Tourist Visa.
The e-Tourist Visa was introduced in September 2014 for 46 countries. This facility is now called e-Visa. It is now available for nationals of 161 countries and allows visits for business and medical treatment. The process of obtaining the e-Tourist Visa has been simplified significantly by addressing issues like more than one entry and longer lead period for applying for e-Visa. 10,79,696 tourists visited India on the e-Tourist Visa in 2016.
All these efforts have shown positive results as indicated through international tourist arrivals. Foreign Tourist Arrivals (FTA) which were 6.97 million tourists in 2013, increased to 7.68 million in 2014, 8.03 million in 2015 and 8.89 million in 2016. FTA has grown with a CAGR of 8.45% against the international growth rate of 4 - 5%. Foreign Exchange Earnings (FEE) which were US$21.07 billion in 2015 and US$23.15 billion in 2016. FEE has grown with a CAGR of 7.86% against a contraction of 5% in international tourism receipts. FTA has registered a growth of 16.3% in January 2017 when compared to January 2016. This shows a positive trend and this trend will continue throughout the year.
By Gour Kanjilal, Executive Director, IATO and Former, Dy. Director General, Ministry of Tourism, Govt. of India and Freelance Journalist..