Where does India stand as a tourism hub?
Foreign tourism in India is booming. The figures tell us that from January to May 2007 as many as 2.02 million foreign tourists came to India, an increase of 12 percent over the same period last year. And the expected growth in 2007 (over 2006) is to be in the range of 20-25 percent. India’s tourism sector is thought to be the fastest growing after China’s. As it says here:
…since 1980, when we first crossed 1 million. The second million came 15 years later in 1995, the third ten years later in 2004 and the fourth in just two years. And now, hopefully, only one year for the fifth million.
Now take the tourism growth figures for Europe (foreign visitors) – just 4 percent. For North and South America – 2 percent. I am talking about growth and trends here, not actual numbers because if one talks of sheer numbers then ofcourse France (70 million foreign visitors per year!) and Spain are still the world’s top tourist destinations, followed by the USA (almost 50 million). However, trends show that China is catching up (already 37 million foreign visitors) and is expected to become become the world’s top tourism destination by 2014. In fact tourist arrivals in the U.S are declining because of visa restrictions.
India has still a long long way to go. China is providing tough competition – 34 percent of the tourists traveling to Asia go to China.
Foreign tourists to the African continent are increasing too… growth figures are at 8 percent and Asia Pacific countries are seeing an increase of 7.6 5 percent over the last year. Looks like the Americans and the Europeans are eager to try something new (they comprise 80% of all international tourists) – something exotic, different. They are turning increasingly to Asia and Africa.
Interestingly though, the growth in foreign tourists in India has not been fuelled by the North Americans and the West Europeans, but East Asians. As it says here :
The biggest growth in tourist arrivals in India has been from East Asia comprising China, Japan and Korea at 26.6 percent. Europe came next with a growth of 18% last year…
Again, if one talks of sheer numbers, then its visitors from the U.K. who form the largest group of tourists visiting India. About 700,000 tourists from Britain and almost the same number from the U.S came to India last year. I don’t know whether this will change…whether tourists from East Asia will form the bulk of foreign tourists in another decade (there are plans to promote India as a Buddhist destination) but I think it is more likely that there will be a more of an even distribution. Right now a lot of people from the U.K. come here because of the links that India has had with Britain in the past and high awareness of what India has to offer.
One thing has to be mentioned: this growth in India’s tourism hasn’t happened by itself (or simply because India is now on the economic map) but because the government has been proactive. The government’s Incredible India campaign to promote India as a tourist destination has played a part in the increasing awareness about India. This active promotion has meant spending more than US$ 15.70 million in just the last financial year. And apparently, about 80% of this money has been spent on advertising.
India certainly has a long way to go but I guess 5 million tourists is what India can handle this year…not more! As this figure grows, so will (hopefully) our infrastructure in terms of hotels, roads, transport and other tourist facilities.
Also our attitude has to change. Right now we are so unused to seeing tourists that we tend to treat them just like we treat our countrymen! Indians are not in the habit of being ‘polite’ (very nicely explained here), but what we forget is that others will judge us by their standards. That is human….we too tend to judge others by our own standards and one is not talking of right or wrong here.
The government should undertake a training program to sensitize those who come into contact with foreign tourists. Shop-keepers, those living around tourists spots etc. should be taught how to behave and it should be drummed into their heads how important tourism can become to our economy. All touts who try to cheat visitors should be severely punished. Its common in India to try and cheat anyone who is thought to have the money…a tradition left over from our socialist past. Its not even considered as cheating. Why, if I have to buy vegetables, I tend to park my car a little away because otherwise the price is immediately hiked up. And if the seller of the goods realises that you are not aware of the prices, then you will be cheated. That is why I am one of those who are grateful for the malls that have come up…but thats another story…
(Photos are copyrighted to me, one is taken in China, the other in Egypt)