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Three Years Of Modi Govt: Tourism Sector

Growing international tourist arrivals and local tourists — eager to experience incredible India — indicate the positive turn the sector has taken

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The ministry of tourism came under the spotlight in January 2016 for removing actor Aamir Khan as ambassador of ‘Incredible India’ soon after he voiced his views on growing intolerance in India. The ministry later confirmed that Khan’s contract had actually come to an end.

Small hitches such as these aside, the ministry has constantly been in the news for the last three years for its positive work. In the latest Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index released by the World Economic Forum in April 2017, India is ranked 40 among 136 economies across the world, up 12 places since 2015.

During a recent conclave organised by a news channel on the accomplishments of the Modi government in three years, tourism minister Mahesh Sharma said, “India has improved its ranking in tourism sector by 25 places in the last three years. This is the first time in the history of independent India when the country has cumulatively improved its ranking.”

Key Highlights In Last 3 Years 

In the last three years, the government has launched several key projects as well as continued some old projects of the previous government to boost the travel and tourism sector. Among its top initiatives are Swachh Bharat, electronic visa, digital application, and Udan among others.

Karan Anand, head of relationships at Cox & Kings, says, “Among the various government’s initiative, first is Swachh Bharat. It will go a long way in attracting Indian and foreign tourists in large numbers.”

The second-best initiative has been the e-tourist visa facility, which was launched on 27 November 2014. The facility has been extended from 113 to 150 countries and so far, more than 7.5 lakh visas have been issued under the scheme. At present, on an average 3,500 e-tourist visas are granted to foreign nationals on a daily basis.

Foreign tourist arrivals (FTA) in India have witnessed a moderate growth in the last three years. According to the ministry of tourism, FTAs in April 2017 stood at 7.40 lakh compared to 5.99 lakh in April 2016 and 5.42 lakh in April 2015.

Rakshit Desai, managing director of FCM Travel Solutions, says, “Initiatives such as sanctioning visa on arrival (VoA) and extending electronic travel authorisation (ETA) to more countries, developing a mobile application for tourists and introducing the Incredible India multilingual tourist helpline, have definitely helped in progress and socio-economic growth.”

Under the current government, not only is FTA up, there has been a rise in Non-Residential Indians (NRI) travelling to India as well. NRI arrivals in 2014 and 2015 were at 5.43 million and 5.26 million, respectively.

Nikhil Ganju, country manager of TripAdvisor India, says, “The ‘Incredible India’ campaign has done well to drive inbound tourist arrivals, but there is a huge opportunity to further expand on it so that it reaches the global online traveller today.”

Demonetisation in India has in fact already forced many travellers to transact online. And the rise in digital transactions will boost the growth of travel and tourism industry in India. But Samyukth Sridharan, chief operating officer at Cleartrip, says, “The decision to amend service tax, however, added a surplus of up to 9 per cent on tour packages, which can create a slowdown in the ultra-competitive industry.”

The Big Agenda

Focus on international destinations has been an integral part of the tourism ministry’s agenda under the new government. So far, it has released several campaigns in international and domestic markets to promote various tourism destinations and products of India to increase foreign tourist arrivals and domestic visits within the country.

Simultaneously, the ministry also focused on consolidating domestic tourism within India. In February 2017, the state governments of Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand signed 86 MoUs worth Rs 1, 2196.7 crore for developing tourist destinations in their respective states.

The Road Ahead 

With government policies such as Make in India and Startup India, there’s more demand for travel across smaller cities, says Geeta Jain, CEO of Carlson Wagonlit Travel.

The latest scheme of Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik (Udan), which gives further impetus to both domestic and inbound tourism, will act as a booster for business and leisure travel. Aloke Bajpai, co-founder of Ixigo, says, “The project will help a lot of tier-2 towns offer affordable flight tickets to the common man and Bullet trains will finally become a reality.”

Now with Modi as the new ambassador of Incredible India 2.0, the support from the government will go a long way in creating awareness about the country’s tourism capacity.