New growth sectors for Indian tourism

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Wanderlust continues in spite of recession, terror and pandemics. The Indian inbound tourism market has grown in spite of a difficult year.

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Wanderlust continues in spite of recession, terror and pandemics. The Indian inbound tourism market has grown in spite of a difficult year. The latest data compiled by the Indian tourism ministry indicates that North America and West Asia constitutes the strongest growth for tourism to India. The number of foreign tourists visiting India increased from 7.99 million in 2007 to 8.27 million in 2008. This augurs well for the inbound tour operators as prices have also been rationalized by suppliers like hotels and airlines and this could mean better value packages for the taking for the international tourist visiting India now.

The growth in tourists have been most significant from countries like Denmark, by 24.1 percent, Brazil by 21.8 percent, Russia by 21 percent and Norway by 18.6 percent, followed by countries such as Israel, Bahrain and UAE. Traditionally, the UK has been the forerunner but this year it has been pushed to second place by the USA, while tourists from Germany, France and Canada have reduced in numbers. Tourists from neighboring countries Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have increased sharply. Tourists from Japan, Australia and Malaysia continue in the top arrivals list, as last year.

The West Asia region, including countries like Israel, Bahrain, UAE and others, has shown 21 percent growth almost on par with the US that has registered 20 percent growth. The tourism ministry officials have promised to continue strategic promotional effort to lure more tourists from these regions.

Fortunately, after a drop of about 10 percent in foreign tourist arrival between October 2008 and June 2009, the inbound tourist market is showing definite signs of revival. Tourist arrivals in July 2009 have increased substantially although, less than July 2008 levels, but foreign exchange earnings have risen sharply in real terms. In the year that India felt the impact of the global economic slowdown as well as terror attacks reflecting in cancellations in corporate as well as leisure travel, the number of foreign tourist arrivals for 2008 was around 5.7 percent higher as compared to the previous year, according to data received.

The Indian tourism ministry plans to continue its aggressive marketing campaign in the US market with its hugely successful and colorful Incredible India ! campaign planned at the Oscar, Grammy and BAFTA award functions. The World Economic Forum and G-20 summit are other important international events where brand India will be promoted with fanfare. Television commercials, to be telecast during Winter Olympics in Vancouver and through major European television channels are part of the plans on the anvil.

In April 2008, the Ministry of Tourism officially opened its first tourist office in Beijing, marking its first office in China and only its 14th overseas. This followed China’s opening of a China National Tourism Office in New Delhi in August 2007, as part of the 2007 India-China Friendship Year. The initiative marks part of India’s efforts to increase the number of Chinese tourist visiting India. As a close regional neighbor, with an estimated population of 1.3 billion, China represents a valuable potential tourist market. However, in 2007 Chinese tourists comprised only 1.4 percent of total tourist arrivals to India, or 14th in the ranking of arrivals by country.

As part of the drive to increase tourism from China, the Ministry of Tourism is running several programs, including a familiarization program for Chinese travel agents and tour operators, and the introduction of tailor-made tours and websites for Chinese tourists. This initiative is likely to provide a valuable boost for the Indian tourism industry, by strengthening links between the two countries.

The top 10 source markets for Indian inbound tourism are :
1. USA
2. UK
3. Bangladesh
4. Sri Lanka
5. Canada
6. France
7. Germany
8. Japan
9. Australia
10. Malaysia

Compared to world statistics in terms of tourist arrivals, India ranks 41st in the world. The findings were published by the United Nations World Tourism Organization. India still gets far fewer visitors than much smaller nations like Ukraine, Tunisia, Croatia and Saudi Arabia, says a report. The leading country in terms of visitor arrivals is France, followed by Spain. India has a long way to go to be able to draw the same number of arrivals to its myriad attractions and its own indigenous flavors.

The development of infrastructure, deployment of greater security measures and increase in skilled human resources in the tourism industry will augur well for Indian tourism. Governmental initiative will surely attract the big players in the tourism industry worldwide to invest in India to build more resorts, better roads, increase the number of flights to and from India and even develop India as an attractive leisure and MICE destination if the logistics of large arrivals can be facilitated. India has a huge potential that has not yet been exploited. There is a long way to go and in the near future, many more tourists will be able to see India as a dynamic melting pot of unity in diversity, the quintessential India, in all its glory.

The author is a tourism consultant, freelance journalist and executive Director of Travelcorp. Email : [email protected]

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Editor in chief is Linda Hohnholz.