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India's Tourism Potential Highlighted At Industry Fair
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Foreign visitors to India could rise significantly in the coming years as the government has eased visa requirements and tourist infrastructure is getting better, according to industry people.
The rupee's weakness against the US dollar has also made India an attractive option for foreign tourists who can now get more value for their money in the country.
Though India is ranked 41st in terms of inbound tourist arrivals, it is 16th in total tourism receipts as per the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).
Experts speaking at the recently-held travel and tourism industry fair SATTE highlighted hygiene, visa issues, illiteracy, sanitation, and safety of women travellers as some of the major challenges that deter potential visitors from coming to India.
The January 29-31 SATTE in New Delhi attracted 650 participants from 35 countries and 26 Indian states. It recorded more than 12,000 visitors, representing a growth of 42 per cent over last year.
The initiatives started by the new government include the "Swatch Bharat" cleanliness campaign, building tourism "circuits", and liberalising policies to set up tourism projects.
Girish Shankar, additional secretary at the Indian Ministry of Tourism, said the government would soon be adding more countries to its visa-on-arrival scheme.
In November last year, India launched an electronic visa service for visitors from 43 countries.
He also spoke about efforts by the government to improve transport facilities and the utilisation of idle airstrips for better international connectivity.
Apart from maintenance and beautification of pilgrim centres, the Ministry of Tourism has also been focusing on tourist safety.
The Indian government has announced new measures, including the launch of an air-conditioned train in the Buddhist "circuit" and signboards in foreign languages to make Bodh Gaya and other places associated with Buddha more attractive to visitors.
"SATTE 2015 has witnessed tremendous appeal with the magnanimous response of the players, the buyers, launches by different tourism boards and the overall increase in visitors this year. Surely, this platform has been one which international and domestic players alike have taken well to," Joji George, managing director of event organiser UBM India, said in a press release.
Various issues and opportunities related to the tourism industry were highlighted during various seminars.
These included sessions on Indian tourism growth, peace tourism, golf, role of technology in marketing and the role of social media in promoting travel.
Over the past decade, India's rank in total earnings from foreign travellers has risen from 36 in 2000 to 16 in 2012.
Travel and tourism contributed 2.2 trillion rupees ($36 billion) to India's $1.9 trillion economy in 2013 as per analyst reports. The World Travel and Tourism Council projects this to rise by 12 per cent each year over the next decade.
With 150 ships pass India each year, cruise tourism can be a big opportunity for India is necessary facilities are created.
India has a huge coastal line but the lack of awareness and utilisation of resources is a setback to exploiting this opportunity.
Medical tourism continues to be a growing sector in India as the country is expected to experience an annual growth rate of 30 per cent and earn $2 billion by this year.
The leading medical tourism destinations in India are Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, New Delhi, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra.
India's territory covers 75 per cent of the total Himalayan range, 4,000 square km of the Sundarbans, 0.2 million square kilometres of deserts and 1,000 caves. This can open up new avenues for adventure tourism but India ranks 110th in this segment globally.
Tourism in India is projected to provide 10 per cent of jobs by 2020.
The contribution of tourism in the GDP is about seven per cent and the government wants to double it.