National Tourism Policy – To sustain India’s remarkable performance in the tourism sector, necessary improvement in India’s service and hospitality industry is essential. The implementation of the proposed National Tourism Policy will go a long way in removing the impediments associated with this particular sector and will provide a sustainable and conducive environment for the overall development of the tourism sector.
India is a vast country with varied cultures, traditions, languages, festivals, and rituals. The country sets up a perfect example in the world when it comes to unity in diversity. History in its ancient, medieval, or modern form has provided evidence to the fact that India has been a country that has attracted global attention right from the days of Alexander the Great to the British raj.
Some of the dynasties that have ruled our country have left an indelible impression in art, culture, and architecture and most importantly, have left us with a legacy that is still very much a part of India’s day-to-day life. All of these have made India a hugely attractive tourist destination. A country that can offer mystic Himalayas, serene seas, enchanting wildlife, holy shrines, and above all a very dynamic way of life in the same platter.
Tourism has also been one of the major driving forces behind India’s remarkable growth in the recent past. As per the Report of the World Travel & Tourism Council, India is the world’s seventh-largest tourism economy in terms of its total contribution to the country’s GDP. According to the latest data available, Travel & Tourism generated INR14,1 trillion (USD208.9 billion) in 2016, which is the world’s 7th largest in terms of absolute size, the sum is equivalent to 9.6% of the country’s GDP.
Further, this sector is particularly important for employment generation. As per the latest data, the travel and tourism sector has supported 40.3 million jobs in 2016, thus, making India global second in terms of total employment supported by travel and tourism. This particular sector accounts for 9.3 percent of the total jobs in the country. It is estimated that in 2017, there will be a growth of 6.7 percent in the travel and tourism sector in India.
However, this remarkable growth of India’s travel and tourism sector is being driven by domestic tourism which accounted for 88% of the sector’s contribution to GDP in 2016. Thus, there lies significant potential in India’s tourism sector. This paper will try to identify the bottlenecks that exist in the Indian tourism industry in light of the tourism policy and would also attempt to identify the potential areas where India can work to increase its foreign tourist influx.
Need for a National Tourism Policy
As is evident from the figures above, the Indian tourism industry is doing remarkably well but the major challenge lies in providing adequate infrastructural and logistic support to sustain this growth momentum. Tourism has evolved with time and presently it can be broadly classified into the following:
- Medical Tourism: Persons coming particularly to avail medical facilities. A large chunk of the population from South Asian countries come to India to avail medical facilities here.
- Education Tourism: Prospective Students and their families coming for pursuing higher studies in Institutes of repute such as IITs, IIMS, JNU, etc.
- Golf Tourism: India boasts world-class golf courses to promote golf tourism in the country. Jammu and Kashmir, Chandigarh, New Delhi, Kochi, and Bengaluru have excellent facilities and infrastructure which attract golf connoisseurs worldwide.
- Eco-Tourism: Ecotourism as defined by the International Ecotourism Society is “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of local people, and involves interpretation and education”. Eco-tourism is ecologically sustainable. The concept of ecological sustainability subsumes the environmental carrying capacity of a given area. The Western Ghats, Indo-Burma border, and Eastern Himalayas and Nicobar islands are bio-diversity hot spots ecoregion.
Apart from the above-mentioned classifications, other forms of tourism that are gaining popularity are weddings; sports tourism; tea tourism, and rural tourism.
These are some of the challenges faced by India in the tourism sector. But, most importantly, it is essential to ease the paper works that are required for obtaining an Indian visa for foreign tourists. Thus, there are several issues that need to be looked into. To address this need, a national tourism policy is essential. A policy that will highlight each issue and will lay down structured guidelines to address the issues individually for the overall development of the tourism sector.
National Tourism Policy
National Tourism Policy was formulated in 1982 in a closed economy with stringent licensing procedures. The policy, however, did not recognize the role of the private sector and due to its formulation in the closed economy, foreign investment in the tourism sector was not encouraged. Further, the policy did not adequately address domestic tourism. To lay emphasis on tourism and address the loopholes in the previous policy, Government of India formulated National Tourism Development Policy in 2002. The main objectives of the policy were:
- To position tourism as a major engine of economic growth
- To harness the direct and multiplier effects for employment and poverty eradication in an environmentally sustainable manner.
- To focus on domestic tourism as a major driver of tourism growth.
- To position India as one of the global brands to reap benefits from the global tourism trade and to promote the untapped potential of India as a destination.
- To create and develop integrated tourism circuits based on cultural and socio-economic aspects along with States, the private sector, and other agencies.
- To recognize the importance of the private sector and private investment in the tourism industry, with the Government acting as a catalyst to boost tourism earnings.
Considering the recent developments and advancements in the tourism sector across the World, a new draft tourism policy has been formulated by the Government of India, which is yet to be approved. Some of the salient features of the new draft tourism policy are:
- The focus of the policy is on employment generation and community participation in tourism development.
- Stress on the development of tourism in a sustainable and responsible manner. An all-compassing policy involving linkages with various Ministries, Departments, States/UTS, and stakeholders.
- The Policy enshrines the vision of developing and positioning India as a “MUST EXPERIENCE” and “MUST RE-VISIT” destination for global travelers while encouraging Indians to explore their own country.
- Development and promotion of varied tourism products including the rich Culture and Heritage of the country, as well as niche products such as Medical & Wellness, Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE), Adventure, Wildlife, etc.
- Development of core infrastructure (airways, railways, roadways, waterways, etc.) and Tourism Infrastructure.
- Developing quality human resources in the tourism and hospitality sectors across the spectrum of vocational to professional skills development and opportunity creation.
- Creating an enabling environment for investment in tourism and tourism-related infrastructure.
- Emphasis on technology-enabled development in tourism.
- Focus on domestic tourism as a major driver of tourism growth.
- Focus on promotions in established source markets and potential markets, which are contributing significantly to global tourist traffic, with targeted and country-specific campaigns.
- Emphasis on Tourism as the fulcrum of multi-sectoral activities and dovetailing of activities of the Ministry with important/flagship schemes of the Government of India.
The Draft National Tourism Policy is fairly exhaustive. It has addressed all the important issues in the tourism sector. The policy has also laid emphasis on the ‘repeat value’ of India by incorporating a “MUST RE-VISIT destination for global travelers, as one of its salient features. Targeted and the country-specific campaign is expected to boost Indian tourism as it is a welcome departure from “one-size fits all approach.
The National Tourism Policy has also recognized the role of the State and UT and is expected to establish linkages between the State/UT, various ministries/ departments of the Central Government, and other concerned stakeholders. Cooperative federalism has been strongly encouraged by the policy. Tourism is one of the largest employment creators and generators in the country. Focus on employment generation and community participation will further enhance the possibility of creating employment in this particular sector.
One of the main focus areas of the Ministry of Tourism is rural tourism, Rural tourism or village tourism provides a welcome relief from the mundane life of metro cities and other big cities. The growing interest in India’s heritage and culture, improved connectivity of rural areas and the urge to live a rural way of life have provided the necessary impetus for the development of rural tourism. Major types of rural tourism in India is
- Agriculture Tourism: where agriculture as a way of life is explored.
- Food Routes: It’s tourism relating to food and knowing more about different staples of different places.
- Community Tourism: This type of tourism comes with a social cause, where, the main aim is to conserve the environment and improve the well-being of the local people.
- Ethno-tourism: Ethno-tourism is travel focusing on the exploration of indigenous populations and their respective culture and traditions. Ethno tourists usually seek to learn more about native peoples and their livelihoods.
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In rural tourism, the primary interest is in understanding the rural culture. It interconnects with seasonality and local events and is based on the preservation of culture, heritage, and traditions. Under the SwadeshDarshan scheme of the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, theme-based circuits are promoted. The rural circuit is one of the theme-based circuits which emphasizes revitalizing the rural economy through tourism and it also provides the opportunity for foreign and domestic tourists to get a glance at rural India. Rural tourism also encourages handlooms, art and craft, and the textiles industry by creating positive linkages with them.
So far, 153 rural tourism projects in 28 States/Union Territories have been sanctioned by the Ministry of Tourism including 36 rural sites where UNDP has supported capacity building. Ministry of Tourism’s Explore rural India sub-brand supported by the globally recognized Incredible India brand is strengthening the visitor’s attraction towards India in general and towards India’s countryside in particular.
India with its robust GDP growth and stable socio-political environment provides the perfect platform for the growth of the tourism sector. In the recently published World Bank Ranking on Ease of Doing Business, India has jumped 30 points to secure itself in top 100 nations, which is the result of several ongoing reforms that have taken place in the last one year.
Reforms such as lesser paperwork, and extending the visa-on-arrival facility to other countries are expected to further boost India’s tourism sector. To sustain India’s remarkable performance in the tourism sector, necessary improvement in India’s service and hospitality industry is essential. The implementation of the proposed National Tourism Policy will go a long way in removing the impediments associated with this particular sector and will provide a sustainable and conducive environment for the overall development of the tourism sector.