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Where does India stand as a tourism hub?

July 19, 2007
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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)

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. July 19, 2007 9:38 am

    Hey Great findings..

    Whether Govt. initiate it’s actions or not.. Trust me India is going to become Best tourist hub in world.. No One can stop. Heavy private investment is being poured in hospatality business.. and also Our People’s view has changed drastically.. Wait for time.. you will see Much better India shortly.

    Morever I see tremendous change in lifestyle here.. look at these apartments coming up..

    http://www.brigadegroup.com/apartments/gateway/index.htm
    http://www.ggproperties.com/07/index.jsp?project=grandmain
    http://www.etastar.com/content/the-gardens.html

    .. surprisingly they all got very good response & booked fully… so fast!

    Some West people love to work & live in india and would like to settle here.. especially in few present MNC’s here.. they feel much better life here.. This is a major difference created here in past 4-5 years…

    and You would see good result so soon.

  2. Nil permalink
    July 19, 2007 5:16 pm

    Hi Nita, great article again. I feel a kind of deja vu here, because they were actually doing an in-depth report on India’s tourist industry on NDTV yesterday. It was supplemented by a poll on whether you think India is hospitable to its tourists. The vast majority of voters answered “No”.

    NDTV also seemed to paint a very dismal picture of India’s tourism, so I’m glad that you’ve done a well balanced article about, highlighting its strengths! Go to Kerala or Goa, and many tourists are from the west. I guess a growing number of people are just tired of the same old places. Living in Britain, I for one am not the least interested in going to all the overdone beach resorts of Spain and the south of France! India offers SO much more than them, in my opinion. Diversity is the key to that.

    However, one thing I do agree with one of the panelists on NDTV was that India’s infrastructure is dire. There needs to be access transport and roads, as well as efficient airports! Furthermore, he pointed out that Indian government (particularly the left-wing) are constantly making tourism a political issue. Eg, he mentioned that The Forbidden City in China is now sponsored by American Express, and it’s benfited immensely from that. He went onto say that if Agra were to offer such sponsorship, it’d be denied by government.

    India’s still got a long way to go, but the society is changing rapidly there, and I am confident that it will, one day, become one of the world’s biggest holiday destinations. Not just Agra, Rajasthan, Goa and Kerala, but elsewhere. The neglected North East India is one of the most amazing places for natural beauty and wildlife. Unfortunately years of backwardness and insurgency have left the region unknown.

  3. July 19, 2007 6:05 pm

    Its all money ;honey..
    as per my understanding Indians attract tourist bcos we are 70 or 40 times much cheaper than their currency..

    And the otherway is not true..

    when u say
    //Now take the tourism growth figures for Europe (foreign visitors) – just 4 percent. For North and South America – 2 percent.

    This doesnt mean we are better than them.. Indian’s dont have the spending power llike the western nations . Its so ovbious that a middle class indian family can only afford a singapore or a thailand package..not US or UK..and for westerners India is a good cheap package .

    So the trend is economically viable and therefore flourishing…also credit to india’s rich past.

    Also ,as per my knwledge..the reason goes to a culture factor.
    A foreigner(west) always saves money so that after the retirement he can roam about places and travel.(unlike indians who has no money left to marry off the children’s and buy a house)..Mostly i have seen old tourist…maybe my lack of observation…

    Lets see where india can go…as per comparison wid china..india will fail surely..no doubt..

  4. July 19, 2007 6:48 pm

    Nil, when you say:
    //I guess a growing number of people are just tired of the same old places. Living in Britain, I for one am not the least interested in going to all the overdone beach resorts of Spain and the south of France! India offers SO much more than them…//
    I agree with you absolutely. I too think that westerners want to see something different…and also that India has fantastic potential to deliver.
    I feel one should not harp on the lack of infrastructure, because India has thrown off the shackles of socialism only recently. It takes time to move forward and if the Left gets out of the government, the easier it will become for us. The Left is holding India back, and its really strange because although our government depends on them for survival, they actually represent only a minority in this country. I guess I am a capitalist at heart!
    But on the other hand, I think the Left is doing us a favour.🙂 Growing rapidly brings with it a lot of pain, and if the Left is slowing us down, maybe its a good thing. I am not an economist, but I instinctively feel that its better to grow slowly. And frankly I think to expect that our country improve its infrastructure overnight is far too much to expect.

    Nitin, I would not put it that way, that India will fail. Why expect India to go the way of China? They are different, because their way of government is different. When we had emergency here in the seventies everything worked perfectly. I was just a kid then but I remember the awe one felt about trains going on time, the fear etc…so lets enjoy the way we are!
    Also your point about India packages being cheap, I guess that plays an important role too…

  5. July 19, 2007 11:22 pm

    I think this wave of tourism surge can be attributed simply to the growing ‘craze’ about Eastern cultures in the west. Like they teach in our marketing course, “it takes four times the effort to bring in a new customer than to retain an existing” and also “If someone likes something, chances are that s/he’ll tell it to three other people, but if someone doesn’t like something, s/he will tell it to eleven others.” So, where is the tourism policy focusing?

    My experience in Kerala was a shocking surprise. I write about the details — here.
    “At every moment you will note how tourism has influenced the state. It appears that people are convinced of the equation between tourism and prosperity. At all the places, the common man is extremely helpful and polite. At times people will talk amongst themselves before giving you directions. Even the government staff (Bus, KTDC etc) was courteous enough with information to help us plan. Yes, the language problem exists, but broken English will surely work. Infact, the townspeople take pride in conversing in Hindi too! The people are genuinely warm and hospitable. No wonder it is one of India’s most famous destinations.”

  6. July 20, 2007 2:21 am

    Feels so gud to see those pictures B Chopra has shared!!!
    The economy point of view of more business in india is also right!! People are looking for better value for their money.
    Agree with you Nita on the speed of growth …. I believe the less fast it is the more inclusive it would be. More n more people benefitting by the growth would require slower growth … neways we r growing fast enough.
    It makes me happier to think that since our hospitality industry is doing fine with current tourist numbers, how would it perform when the numbers increase!!! Infrastructure wise also the government policies are good for healthy tourism industry!! The attitude will change and also awareness in tourists will increase. Now the tourists coming to india know the places and people to avoid to have a safe trip!!
    //Why, if I have to buy vegetables, I tend to park my car a little away because otherwise the price is immediately hiked up. //
    As they say … Chehra dekh ke tilak lagana!!!

  7. July 20, 2007 7:51 am

    Priyank, I am glad to hear about Kerala (we have Kerala on our list of places to go to!). I think the people in Kerala may be polite because they are more educated. Education plays a very important part…people read for example. And they become more professional…

  8. June 13, 2008 10:31 pm

    India Tourism is a long way to go – Manish K. Jaiswal

    So, the results are out. India trails behind 41 countries in tourist arrivals. The Incredible India campaign to woo foreign tourists, fail to insert excitement with foreigners to visit the land of diversity. India may like to think that it draws a lot of foreign tourists, but the fact is that the many-splendoured land of the Taj Mahal gets far fewer visitors than much smaller nations like Ukraine, Tunisia, Croatia and Saudi Arabia, says a report.

    News and Reviews : It is indeed a pleasure to see rise in percentage terms (100%) over last 5 years in terms of In-Bound Tourist, but it is far low compared to India’s Potential and Brand. May be the Tourism in India is very much placed on the both end of spectrum. One end reflects the most expensive part (Taj Hotels and S. Indian SPAs) and the second end would be (least expensive) Bag-Packers (tourists) who come in hoard (Chartered Plane load) from UK / France and Spaim to GOA. Perhaps, we need to get mid budget tourists who should ideally look at India as a land of Plenty, Modernity and Class than rather than current perception of Exotic Land of Extremes. May be we need to change our mind-set towards Indian Tourism besides just talking about poor infrastructure being the culpril.

  9. Minhaj Alam permalink
    November 1, 2008 5:19 pm

    The land of India is civilized but People??? This is what we have learnt from the long history of India (our recent ancestors) to cheat, fight and capture by anyway. As the people so the government and in return people are expecting best governance and developmental activities!!!!! They forget about themselves why others are parking their car far from the sabji mandi! “…..if I have to buy vegetables, I tend to park my car a little away because otherwise the price is immediately hiked up…..” I am not a political analyst it is just an opinion. Our country is passing through different phases under two clutches – socialism vs. liberalism on the same handle without front break!!! The socialist countries like erstwhile Soviet Union has already seen the result, we are still in confusion what to adopt, how to adopt, conciliation and reconciliation, adjustment and readjustment, what to do, what not to do – if one ideology is trying to push the country towards the path of development; the other is (in equal proportion) tries to push down. What we get as synthesis is ZERO. See all nooks and corner of India – crying for development initiative. Tourism Industry is one among them except few states of south India.

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