On 31st May 2019, India got a new tourism minister, Mr Prahlad Singh Patel. Mr Patel is a career politician and a four-time MP. He was a member of several committees in the previous Narendra Modi government like Committee on Public Undertakings, Committee on Government Assurances Member, Standing Committee on Rural Development Member. He was also a member of Executive Council of V.V. Giri National Labour Institute and member of the Consultative Committee in the Ministry of Labour and Employment.
The Ministry of Tourism is an independent ministry and has a plethora of opportunities to work on and make it one of the highest revenue generators. For this to happen, the new minister and his team must focus on an integrated approach to developing tourism in the country.
The Ministry must bring together all travel and tourism industry stakeholders to work together to understand the future challenges well in advance and prepare with a long-term vision of a decade or two in mind. The speed of change in the travel and tourism industry has been incredible over the decades. The pace of that change will be much faster, thanks to the growth in travel technology, in the coming decade compared to the changes that have come over the last three decades.
Building Narratives Around Different Areas
It is significant for Indian tourism (centre & states) to be proactive and well planned about the kind of tourists they want, carrying capacity of the destination, the experiences they offer, and the kind of memories visitors take back. For example, a lot of the average traveller coming from other countries, hear only about Taj Mahal, Jaipur, Red Fort, frequently, while India as a destination has so much more to offer in every state. Fascinating, yet factual, stories around nature, landscape, history, people, cuisine etc. must be created to generate curiosity & interest in the minds of the people to visit the destination. Ministry of Tourism will do well to introduce short term courses in subjects like “art of storytelling”, “historical importance”, geological inheritance”, etc.
Long Haul & Short Haul Source Markets
The Ministry must encourage short haul source markets as there are stronger trends in travel from rest of Asia to the South Asian region. Various reports indicate that Asian travellers percentage is likely to increase in the next five years as there is a decline from the European travellers market into Asia. India also requires a specific tourism strategy to tap the Chinese market which brings in a huge potential. Data shows Indian economy could have received an additional US$8.7billion to its GDP over the last decade if Chinese tourism potential had been better leveraged.
Focused approach to tourism-associated economic and social infrastructure – hotels, connectivity, human resources, hygiene, health facilities, etc are largely underdeveloped in India. The poor quality of infrastructure is reflected in India’s 112nd rank in the ICT readiness component and 104th rank in the health and hygiene components of the WEF’s Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index 2017. The prime reason for this apathy is the poor allocation of financial resources.
Safety and Security
Safety and security of all tourists is a major roadblock to the tourism development. Attacks on foreign nationals, especially on women, raise questions about India’s ability to welcome tourists from far away countries. Among the 130 countries surveyed, India was placed at the 114th position in terms of safety and security aspect in the WEF Index 2017. This requires measures to be taken on a war footing if our ranking has to improve.
Many of the tourist spots in the country are not accessible to the poor, specially abled and elderly. This is because of high costs of travelling, poor connectivity and a series of permissions required for various reasons. It is a fact that Divyangs, who constitute more than 2 per cent of the population, cannot access many of the tourist spots in the country. The Ministry should be able to put together a public private partnership to encourage this category of citizens to travel across the length & breadth of India.
Tourism & hospitality not only create jobs in the tertiary sector, they also encourage growth in the primary and secondary sectors of industry. Hence, it is high time, the government encourages the participation of the private sector in a big way for the all-round development of the tourism sector that has the potential to act as the key driver of inclusive growth.
India’s share in international tourist arrivals is a meagre 0.50%, while the share in the global international tourism receipts is around 1.30% only. Mr Prahlad Singh Patel can make it his Ministry’s mission to increase these percentages in the next three years and make the Ministry of Tourism truly a Ministry to reckon with.