Tourism is an important socio-economic activity. It provides enormous scope for economic development of a particular area.
According to Ziffer (1989), “Tourism involves travelling to relatively undisturbed or uncontaminated natural areas with the specific object of studying, admiring and enjoying the scenery and its wild plants and animals, as well as any existing cultural aspects (both past and present) found in these areas.”
In India, temple towns, historical monuments and sea beaches were traditionally sought out as tourist attractions. But now the fabric of tourism is changing rapidly as nature, heritage, and recreational destinations are gaining more importance. In this background, eco-tourism has of late become a top attraction for the tourists.
Tourism growth in India
For a country that is surrounded by the Himalayas to the north, the Indian Ocean to the south, The Bay of Bengal to the east, and the Arabian Sea to the west, India quite hasn’t tapped into the full potential of tourism. Even the tourism industry is the largest service sector in India, the tourism growth in India is something that is still a work in progress.
With 37 UNESCO heritage sites and a land blessed with rich heritage and cultural diversity, each region in India has a unique story to tell. People have different expectations for tourism. Some prefer beaches, while others may like forests, some other people may be into deserts, etc. No matter what the preference, India has different regions to cater to everyone’s expectations.
As per the WTTC (World Travel and Tourism Council), about 9.2 percentage of India’s GDP in the year 2018 came from Tourism. From just over 2 million tourists in 2000 to over 42 million jobs in the Indian travel and tourism industry in 2018, and 10 million foreign tourists visiting the country in the same year, the growth of tourism in India has been steady. Despite these good tourism growth statistics, India has a long way to go to fully exploit this domain.
Tourism Development in India
The growth of tourism in India, although steady, is quite not up to the expectation. For a country with a population of 1.25 billion people, that is a minimum of 1.25 billion tourist visits. India, as a result, is doing great when it comes to domestic tourism with over 1.6 billion tourist visits to other states. However, when it comes to international tourists, this isn’t the case. The FTAs ( Foreign Tourist Arrival) in India is way below other developed countries. With an FTA of just over 10 million, it is almost one-eighth of what France has. Granted that this could be due to the free travel between Schengen countries, but there are several non-Schengen European countries, as well as other nations, such as Mexico, Turkey, Russia, etc that have FTAs more than twice that of India. One of the main reasons for this is the stringent immigration rules in India. Apart from this, other reasons that restricted a full flow of tourism in India were underdeveloped travel infrastructure, poor sanitation, as well as concerns about safety. These are aspects that every tourist look for while visiting a country.
Areas of apprehension
Medical tourism: Indian has been the origin of Ayurvedic therapy, and even after centuries, the country is successful in sustaining its remedial inventions. Over the years, several specialised hospitals are incorporated in India, which are served by many skilled doctors. In addition, the presence of well-equipped medical facilities has also taken the standard of medical dealing of the country to a new feat of success across the globe. The government should understand the need of medical tourism in India and excel on various tourism policies targeting the medical tourism destinations like Kerala, Chennai and Mumbai. Accordingly, various infrastructural initiatives can be put into practice to promote medical tourism in India.
Pilgrimage tourism: Harmony in diversity; this can best be experienced when in India. The country is laid out with plenty of religious destinations creating immense exposure for pilgrimage tourism. It is observed that most of the popular religious Indian sites are visited by thousands of pilgrims on regular basis. In addition, there are certain places as well which are believed to be quite religious but due to lack of promotion and government intrusion, these destinations are out of limelight. Hence, the respective state tourism authority should step forward in promoting pilgrimage tourism in India.
Eco tourism: It is something new in Indian tourism sector, which invites tourist to visit and explore various locations without impacting its fragile ecosystem. Eco tourism in India basically aims to create environment awareness amongst the visitors and service provider. Starting from wildlife reserves to naturally blessed regions, there are plenty of enticing spots in India that are idyllic for eco tourism. Through eco tourism, the rich variety of flora and fauna in the country can be preserved for tourists. Therefore, by bringing in various initiatives pertaining to energy efficiency, water reuse and recycling of waste products, the concept of eco tourism can be made more impactful in the country. And most importantly, the revenue generated from eco tourism can further be utilised for funding various conservation projects and training programs.
Youth tourism: This kind of tourism is specifically targeted for the youth travellers, who not only enjoy exploring new places but very adventure enthusiasts as well. Youth travel and tourism can also be included in the academic excursion wherein, the institute will arrange effective tourism program for the youth students. Besides, the craze of biking and many other rousing activities can equally be encouraged under such tourism schema. Today, youth visitors are considered as the most candid travellers all over the globe. Keeping in mind the volume of youth travellers, youth tourism market can further be segregated into independent youth travel and youth group travel. Independent youth travel may include an individual traveller or a group of independent travellers. On the other hand, independent youth travel includes a group of 6 or more youth (school/non-school group). Under Youth Tourism, government should execute more enticing and academic execution program for the students.
Cultural tourism: One should visit India to witness its cultural diversity. India is full of fiestas and traditional practices all round the calendar making the country one of the worth visiting destinations across the globe. Apart from religious variety, one can also get influenced by the diverse range of cuisines, languages, music tastes and architectures in the country. Considering the cultural affluences in the country, government and tourism authority should join hand in developing awareness program on cultural tourism.
Heritage tourism: The scope of heritage tourism in India is immense. Over the periods, it has been emerged as a major segment in tourism industry and an important source of revenue. Stepping in India will portray you its flourishing history that can still be witnessed in various majestic monuments, imperial fortress, holy shrines and other historic destinations. Indian government should come along various private enterprises in developing and preserving the significance of heritage tourism in India. Based upon the wide scope of heritage tourism in the country, this segment can further be grouped into various segments like industrial heritage, majestic heritage, religious tourism, ethnicity and urban renewal.
Agricultural tourism: Agricultural tourism or agritourism is a rapid growing sector today, which invites travelers to visit and explore various agricultural properties, farms, wineries and ranches. Under agritourism program, traveller can visit the working farms, involve into various activities and buy different agricultural products. In a country like India where majority of the populace is involved in farming and cultivation, agritourism should be promoted at higher level. Government should utilise its farming land by accommodating small gardens, activity areas, relaxation zone where traveller can come and spread its utility to enhance the scope of agricultural tourism in India.