Prior to the outbreak of the epidemic, the tourist sector contributed US$ 250 billion to India’s GDP in 2018. However, owing to the epidemic, the contribution had reduced to US$ 122 billion in 2020. Tourism’s contribution to GDP has typically been between 5 and 6%. The tourist business is predicted to reach US$512 billion by 2028 as it recovers from the epidemic.
In 2019, the tourism sector is the country’s third-largest foreign exchange earner. Foreign exchange profits climbed at a CAGR of 7% between 2016 and 2019, but fell in 2020 because to the COVID-19 epidemic. Indian tourism and hospitality are predicted to earn US$ 50.9 billion in visitor exports by 2028, up from US$ 28.9 billion in 2018. Due to the epidemic, foreign tourist visits fell to 2.7 million in 2020, from 10.9 million in 2019.
The World Economic Forum’s Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2019 rated India 34th. According to the World Tourism and Travel Council’s (WTTC) Economic Impact 2019 Report, India had the greatest rise in the number of employment produced (6.36 million) between 2014 and 2019, followed by China (5.47 million) and the Philippines (5.47 million) (2.53 million).
In 2020, the Indian tourism sector employed 39 million people, accounting for 8% of total employment in the country. It is predicted to account for around 53 million employment by 2029. The tourism industry offers several work possibilities in areas such as hospitality/hotels/accommodation, transportation, tour guides, travel operations, and so on. Various reasons such as diversified attractions, powerful demand (such as for medical tourism), and appealing possibilities drive the Indian tourism sector.
In addition to the foregoing, India’s rapidly developing economy offers several chances for business tourism. The World Bank reports that India has surpassed Japan to become the world’s third largest economy in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP). In terms of PPP, India accounts for 6.4% of world GDP. Because of the country’s economic progress, global players are interested in establishing operating facilities there.
Domestic investors have also made significant investments in order to develop their businesses. The rising economic climate and investment by both domestic and foreign investors assist the tourism sector. The country’s expanding economic climate is a primary driving force behind the country’s tourist growth and development.Despite government advertising activities, knowledge of India as a tourism destination remains low. Even among domestic visitors, the options are restricted to a few famous areas that remain congested, while many other possible destinations have low tourist footfall. The management of the information portals and centres is deplorable. Promotional initiatives are lacking in overseas nations. In the absence of internet branding initiatives, information to entice visitors is lacking.
Many attractive places, particularly in mountainous areas, lack air connection. Furthermore, many areas lack basic sanitary facilities. Many tourists are put off by a lack of hygiene. Furthermore, there are safety worries, particularly among international visitors, as a result of a few incidences of harassment. Poor experiences of certain visitors contribute to negative word-of-mouth information, which influences the perception of potential tourists.
Many travellers have difficulty communicating when in India. As a result, they must rely on tourist guides or travel companies to plan their trips in India. There is a scarcity of competent labour, particularly multilingual tour guides and hotel workers. Small unorganised companies dominate the market, unable to invest in skilling their personnel or sensitising them to the cultural values of foreign tourists. This affects the visitor experience.
The government began the e-visa procedure (online), which has resulted in a surge in international tourists. However, visa-on-arrival is only available in a few countries, restricting international travellers. Currency exchange rate swings are another concern. Long-term tourist pricing are especially difficult to estimate due to the inability to determine the value of a currency, and the consequences from this monetary volatility is already affecting many tourism support systems.
Although the coronavirus epidemic has short-term negative consequences on the tourism business, it is challenging tourism practises and attracting attention to a number of concerns such as poor risk management in the travel industry, viral globalisation, and disease travel with visitors across borders.The government has been boosting expenditures in the country’s road and rail networks, and supporting port development is a crucial driver of tourism growth. The Adarsh Station Scheme is assisting in the modernization of railway stations, while the Regional Connectivity Scheme – UDAN (UdeDeshkaAamNagrik) is assisting in making air travel more affordable and widespread on formerly unserved routes.
The Swadesh Darshan and PRASHAD programmes are intended to promote growth in niche tourist areas including as religious, heritage, wellness, medical, adventure, MICE, wildlife, and so on. The government has developed numerous theme-based circuits under the Swadesh Darshan Scheme, such as the Buddhist circuit, which encompasses places related with Lord Buddha’s life.The Incredible India 2.0 campaign, for example, focuses on specialised tourism offerings such as yoga, wellness, luxury, food, and wildlife, among others. The “Find the Incredible You” campaign leverages digital and social media to promote the country’s specialised tourist offerings.
The introduction of e-tourist and e-medical visas by the government has contributed to a rise in inbound travellers to the country. Additional efforts, such as AtithiDevo Bhava, a 24-hour multilingual Tourist Helpline, have aided in improving tourist safety and security. An ‘Incredible India Helpline’ has been put up on a trial basis to assist tourists.
The Ministry of Tourism has created a code of conduct for safe tourism, which includes a set of standards to support tourism activities that respect basic rights such as dignity and the safety of both tourists and local inhabitants, particularly women and children.A major cleanliness drive has been initiated as part of the Swachh Bharat movement to conserve and preserve the sacredness of national cultural monuments. The Ministry of Tourism has also started an awareness campaign to promote cleanliness and contribute to the creation of a Swachh Bharat, SwachhSmarak.
The government will implement NIDHI 2.0 (National Integrated Database of Hospitality Industry) in September 2021, a plan that would maintain a hospitality database comprised of housing units, travel brokers, tour operators, and others. NIDHI 2.0 will aid in the digitalization of the tourist industry by encouraging hotels to register on the platform.The Incredible India Tourist Facilitator (IITF) and Incredible India Tourist Guide (IITG) Certification Programme was launched by the Ministry of Tourism to build an online learning platform of well-trained tourist facilitators and guides across the country.
In October 2020, the Ministry of Tourism announced the introduction of SAATHI (System for Assessment, Awareness, and Training for the Hospitality Industry) in collaboration with the Quality Council of India (QCI). The effort centred on the successful application of COVID-19-referenced guidelines/SOPs for the safe operation of hotels, restaurants, and other units.
To re-establish India’s standing as a tourism destination, the government should continue to promote the country’s variety and rich past. Domestic and international tourists should be targeted via advertising initiatives. The scope of theme-based tourism circuits can also be broadened. The skill-building efforts should be expanded. The tourism industry has the potential to create numerous job opportunities in smaller communities and villages (below tier-2 level). It can assist to solve the issue of rising unemployment.
Tourism marketing must be balanced with the protection of the physical, social, and cultural environments of tourist places. The government should also encourage green and sustainable tourism in order to address concerns such as the water crisis, pollution, waste management, and so on. To boost tourism, the government should further modernise tourist visa regulations and processes. The government should also look into extending the visa-on-arrival programme.
The emphasis should also be on supporting and marketing new tourism categories. The tourist industry in India is gradually recovering from the pandemic’s impact. Even throughout the epidemic, the industry demonstrated resiliency by changing its operations to maintain safe procedures and social distance. In India, the sector has enormous untapped potential. The tourist sector’s multiplier impact can assist improve income levels and promote inclusive growth. A thriving tourist sector may play a critical role in supporting India’s transition to a high-income economy.