REPORT-HONG KONG-PATA TRAVEL MART 2006: India, one of the world`s oldest civilizations and also the world`s largest democracy, is now poised on the high growth path. The Indian Economy, consistently recording a…
REPORT-HONG KONG-PATA TRAVEL MART 2006: India, one of the world`s oldest civilizations and also the world`s largest democracy, is now poised on the high growth path. The Indian Economy, consistently recording a growth rate of around 8% since 2003-04, is> today the fastest growing economy among the major democracies of the world.
The macro-economic indicators are at present the best in the history of independent India with high growth, increasing foreign exchange reserves, and greater flow of foreign investment. The share of the Service Sector in the Economy has also gone up significantly from 40.6% in 1990-91 to 54.02% in 2005-06. The economy is booming and so is Incredible India.
The past two years have been good for the tourism sector as well. India, today, is a transformed tourist destination – competing to give the best to the visitors. Improvements in accessibility and infrastructure, well trained human resources, diversification of the tourism product and an integrated marketing campaign under the banner ‘Incredible India’ have helped India achieve an unprecedented growth, in terms of, both, volume and value. There has been an increase of 45.5% during the last two years, in foreign tourist arrivals to the country. Foreign Exchange earnings during the same period have also increased by 62.2% in US dollar terms.
This growth and a successful campaign has won India widespread international recognition in the field of tourism.
- Conde Nast Traveller, the world’s leading travel and tourism journal has ranked India amongst the top 4 preferred holiday destinations of the world.
- Lonely Planet has selected India amongst the top 5 destinations, in a survey of 167 countries.
- ABTA (Association of British Travel Agents) has ranked India as No. 1 amongst top 50 places for 2006.
- The Incredible India Campaign has been the winner of PATA Gold Award for Best Print Ad Campaign and PATA Gold Award for Best Destination Marketing Campaign.
- The Incredible India Campaign has been ranked as the Highest Recall Advertisement worldwide by Travel and Leisure and has been given the Jury Award by Travelution, Netherlands for the best advertising campaign for 2004.
- TTG Asia has ranked the Department of Tourism, Govt. of India as Best National Tourism Organisation.
It is, therefore, not surprising that World Travel & Tourism Council, in its projection covering 174 countries, has predicted an annual growth rate of 8.8% over the next decade for India, the highest in the world.
Tourism, in India, is being positioned as a major engine of economic growth and efforts are being made for optimally harnessing its direct and multiplier effects for employment generation and economic development in the country. The total direct and indirect contribution of tourism to India’s GDP stands at about 5.9% and the total employment in the tourism sector, both direct and indirect is approximately 41.85 million, accounting for 8.78% of the total employment in the country.
Various initiatives are underway in the tourism sector with the objective of providing visitors with a world-class experience that differentiates itself as a spiritually enhancing, culturally enriching, physically invigorating and mentally rejuvenating experience. Infrastructural facilities in the country are being augmented in a well planned manner, in partnership with the State Governments and the private sector. The thrust presently is to develop Cultural cum Tourist Hubs, based on India’s unique civilization, heritage and culture in an integrated and comprehensive manner. Fifteen destinations / circuits have been identified for development as world class destinations. Promotion of Buddhist Circuits has also been given priority and 22 important Buddhist sites throughout the country have been identified for this purpose.
Development of infrastructure which requires large scale investment is being promoted in public private partnership mode by providing financial support to bridge the viability gap or by making outright subsidy grants of up to Rs.100 million. Projects like Tourist Trains, Cruise Vessels, Cruise Terminals, Convention Centers, Golf Courses etc. are eligible for this assistance. A single window policy for clearance of tourism projects and a proactive land policy, by prior identification of land for tourism projects, are the other measures being adopted for encouraging investment in the tourism sector. Foreign investment is encouraged and overseas investors are allowed to invest up to 100% equity on repatriation basis. Investments in Hotel projects in India have earned high rate of return.
With a view to providing better air connectivity the Aviation Policy has been radically liberalised. The imbalance in demand and supply has been corrected.
Some features of the liberalization process in the Civil Aviation sector include:
- Open Sky Bi-lateral Agreement with USA and many other source countries
- Operation of private airlines to International destinations
- Liberalization of air services with the ASEAN countries
- Open Sky Policy during Peak season
- Liberalization of the Charter Policy
In addition, 12 airports are being developed as model airports within the next 5 years. The Private Sector is encouraged to participate in up gradation of existing ones and development of new airports. The plan is to make these airports cater to 40 million international and 65 million domestic travelers by 2010.
In order to overcome the shortage in the accommodation sector, efforts are afoot to set up 1,50,000 additional hotel rooms in the next 4 years. Leading international chains of hotels like Sheraton, Hilton, Radisson, Marriot, Holiday Inn, Country Inn, Inter-Continental, Accor, IBIS, Novotel, Shangrila and Hyatt have already established their presence in India.
India is a land of transition where the ancient co-exists with the most modern. India`s impressive variety of history and culture, climate and geography, race, language and traditions harmoniously blend to present a unique experience for visitors. Its huge land mass straddling from the Himalayas to the Indian Ocean abound in a veritable feast for the eyes and the senses : placid backwaters and lagoons, bays and coral ringed seas, riverine estuaries full of crocodiles, mangrove forests with tigers, crashing surf, powdery golden sand or palm fringed shores, the lofty Himalayan ranges, the desert sand dunes of Rajasthan, the might rivers of the Ganges and Brahmaputra, the tropical forests and wildlife, a veritable kaleidoscope of colours, many hued cultural forms – Incredible India has them all.
The Culture and Heritage of the country, amply reflected in its monuments, arts & crafts, dance and music styles, vibrant and colourful fairs and festivals, Forts and Palaces provide excellent opportunities for product options. India has a total of 26 World Heritage Sites including monuments reflecting its Islamic Heritage – the Taj Mahal and Fatehpur Sikri in Agra, Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi, Christian Heritage in the Churches and Convents of Goa, Buddhist Sites at Ajanta & Ellora, Sanchi and Bodhgaya, the magnificient Hindu Temples of Khajuraho, Mahabalipuram and the Konark Temple in Orissa, the ancient ruins of Hampi, among others.
The mighty Himalayan ranges with snow clad peaks provide ample opportunities for adventure sports such as skiing, including heli-skiing, mountain climbing, rock climbing, river rafting, hang gliding. The forests with abundant varieties of flora and fauna provide rich experiences for trails in dense tropical jungles, sighting of rare animals including the famous Royal Bengal Tiger and the Asiatic Lions of the Gir Forest. The Andaman and Lakshadweep group of Islands are famous for snorkelling and scuba diving opportunities.
However, while developing and promoting tourism, no country can afford to forget or undermine the importance of sustainable tourism and the need of protecting the environment. India, a region with the world’s greatest bio-diversity and with varied natural locales is an ideal destination for Eco-tourism products. World famous National Parks and Tiger Reserves, the riverine estuaries including the Sunderbans, Mountains and Forests, the coral islands, the long coast line with its beaches, backwaters and lakes are some of the highlights of our Eco-Tourism sector.
74 % of Indians live in villages and no tourism experience can be complete without witnessing the Rural Tourism product. A number of rural sites have been identified to showcase rural life, art, culture and heritage, nature and landscape in and around such villages. This programme encourages greater interaction between the tourists and the rural population and provides an enriching experience to the tourists to savour the Indian countryside in its full variety. The Ministry of Tourism is working closely with UNDP and NGOs in development of this unique product.
Conference and Convention Tourism, known as the MICE sector, is an important segment. With the growing interest amongst tourists from the world over to experience the rich culture and heritage of our country, India is today, becoming a preferred venue for Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions and boasts of some world class convention centres. The inbound MICE segment is growing at around 20% annually.
Niche products like the luxury trains and hotels, world class spas, yoga and meditation centres continue to remain amongst the main attractions for tourists.
However, Indian Medical Tourism, a new product, is gaining popularity in world markets. As is widely known, India has a rich heritage in the areas of traditional and natural medicine, Yoga, Pranayama and spiritual practice. It has also made tremendous advancements in providing modern medicine and healthcare facilities at very competitive rates. Heart surgeries, kidney and liver transplants, plastic surgeries, knee replacements, dental care are available at fraction of the cost elsewhere. Further details are available in the brochure and CDRom specifically produced to position India as a Global Healthcare Destination. The recent introduction of the Medical Visa for one year, extendable upto three years with attendants, is also a step in the right direction towards encouraging this sector.
Cruise Tourism is growing very fast globally. The long coast line and the beautiful hinterland containing rich cultural and touristic treasures, the Andaman and Lakshadweep group of islands of India will prove irresistible for the growth of this sector. Star Cruise has already started operations since last year and Ocean Cruise Ltd. will commence its operations from Goa in November this year. Many other liners have shown interest for the Indian coast.
India, with several golf courses boasting of playing conditions and supporting infrastructure comparable to world standards, is ready to be announced to the world as a Golf Tourism destination. Even Film Tourism through promotion of Indian locales amongst foreign film makers has become increasingly popular. India is also a Shoppers’ paradise. With the treasure trove of its traditional handicrafts, gems and jewelleries, along with modern shopping malls in cities across the country, India is a great shopping experience.
‘Atithi Devo Bhava’ campaign is an initiative of the Ministry to create awareness and to sensitise all levels of society about the importance and economic benefits of tourism. The main components of the campaign are training and orientation to taxi drivers, tourist guides, immigration officers, tourist police and other service providers in this industry. We firmly believe that Tourism is everybody’s business and the whole civil society is to get seriously involved in order to provide unforgettable experience to the visitors.
The well-travelled author Mark Twain recognized that India is the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend and the great grandmother of tradition. Our most valuable and most instructive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India. His enthusiasm and admiration for one of world’s most diverse countries is still shared by millions of tourists from the world over.
We are hopeful that India will emerge as a leading destination of the world.
Theodore is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of TravelDailyNews Media Network; his responsibilities include business development and planning for TravelDailyNews long-term opportunities.