Tourism is the world’s largest and fastest growing industry. It is an invisible export, which earns valuable foreign exchange without any significant or tangible loss of internal resources. Tourism in India has immense potential of developing into a high profit making industry. India is a popular tourist destination and has been successful in attracting domestic and international tourists. The picturesque landscape, hill stations, historical sites, architecture and monuments, beaches and enchanting backwater, places of religious interests etc. make India a preferred destination for the tourists from all over the world.
Better connectivity of transport and communication, improved standard of living and value for money to the foreign tourists has led to the increase in the domestic as well as international tourists. The Government of India is taking keen interest in promoting different forms of tourism such as, ‘rural tourism’, ‘eco tourism’, ‘spiritual tourism’, ‘spa tourism’, and ‘adventure tourism’ etc. Medical tourism has formed an important source of revenue for the healthcare sector. Most of the foreigners from the Western countries such as US, UK, Canada, and neighbouring country Pakistan etc. are turning towards India for the affordable world class health care services and treatment.
Over the years, Indian tourism industry has grown by leaps and bounds. The Tourism Ministry has played an important role in the development of the industry Different functions of Ministry of Tourism are carried out by ‘India Tourism Development Corporation’ (ITDC). The Department of Tourism, Indian Institute of Tourism and Travel Management, National Council for Hotel Management and Catering Technology work towards the development of tourism in the country. ITDC hotels are situated at prime locations of important tourist destinations and provide comfortable and affordable boarding and lodging.
Government of India launched ‘Swadesh Darshan’ and ‘National Mission on Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual Augmentation Drive (PAROAD) in order to boost tourism. The Swadesh Darshan focused on theme based tourist circuits and integrated infrastructure development.
There are twelve circuits which have been identified under this scheme for the development. These are Buddhist, coastal, desert, eco, Himalayan, Krishna, North-East India, Ramayana, rural, spiritual, tribal and wildlife circuit. Under the PRASAD programme, twelve cities have been identified for the development of infrastructure. These are Ajmer, Amravati, Amritsar, Dwarka, Gaya, Guwahati, Kanchipuram, Kedarnath, Mathura, Puri, Velankanni. These cities are important pilgrimage sites and enjoy domestic tourists throughout the year.
The ‘Incredible India’ campaign by the Government of India is instrumental in promoting India as a holistic tourist destination in the domestic and international markets. There are specialised international media campaigns under’ ‘Incredible India’. Celebrities have been roped in to make ‘Incredible India’ a success even in foreign lands.
Besides, the ministry has launched ‘Clean India’ campaign under which cleanliness has become an indispensible norm at all the tourist destinations. Regular studies are being undertaken to analyse the market, identify the key factors, income figures, holiday habits and psyche of people in order to identify the key drivers in the tourism industry.
These key drivers are used to tackle the issues that deter the scope of tourism. The government has made the facility of e-Tourist Visa available to the citizens of 150 countries arriving at 16 designated International airports in India. The visa has a validity of 60 days and the procedures are much easier.
The government has gone a step further to permit foreigners to visit India on an e-Tourist Visa for attending short term yoga programmes. This visa will be for the purpose of short duration medical treatment under Indian systems of medicine. This visa allows holders of Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) to enter and stay anywhere in India for 30 days.
The Ministry of Tourism provides central financial assistance to the states, union territories, and other central agencies for the overall development of tourism in their area. The aim is to promote the culture and natural beauty of different regions and pilgrimage sites. The states at their level have been deploying measures to promote tourism. The Tourism Advisory Board recommends important measures for promotion of tourism. It reviews the tourist trends and suggests appropriate measures.
All these efforts bore results and the impacts are evident across the sectors. The allied sectors such as aviation, transport, horticulture and handicraft have been benefitted. The hotel industry is another allied industry of tourism which has a vast potential to generate employment and help in earning foreign exchange.
The concept of heritage hotels has gained popularity in India as the tourists get the experience of the exotic life style of a bygone era. Many historical havelis, castles, and forts built during the ancient times have been converted into heritage hotels. As expected, they have turned out to be major tourist attractions.
The magnificent ‘Palace on Wheel’, a train which travels through Rajasthan, attracts a lot of foreign tourists. Similarly the Indian railways have maintained other important trains that are enjoyed by tourists like the toy trains of Shimla and Darjeeling. Nowadays many private companies like Make My Trip, ‘Sterling Holidays’, ‘Club Mahindra’ etc. arrange domestic as well as foreign trips.
The tourism industry has become one of the major contributors to the GDP of the country. It has the potential to generate mass employment and raise the income levels thereby contribute significantly to the economic development of the country. In the era of liberalisation, privatization and globalisation, the tourism industry in India has grown into a multibillion industry. It has led to significant improvement in the transportation and infrastructure facilities across the country.
Tourism has played an important role in the revival of India’s art and culture. The foreigners are fascinated by the rich culture and heritage of India. Seeing the keen interest of tourists in the rich culture and heritage of India, the government is taking steps to preserve it. The works of craftsmen and artisans are greatly appreciated and bought by the foreigner. This boosts their morale and adds to novelty. Regional tourism helps to maintain the cultural identity of the minority groups.
Tourism is the largest service industry in our country and has the potential to stimulate economic growth of the country. To achieve its target, it is necessary to develop the tourism infrastructure, viz. the proper maintenance of the tourist destinations, railway stations, airports and rest houses are very necessary.