“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
― Mark Twain
Since time immemorial, tourists have been a channel through which ideas, inventions and goods have been exchanged throughout the world. Tourists have also been a channel through which religions and diseases have traveled from one continent to the other. With improvement in transportation and average incomes, number of tourists have also increased. Hence, this sector employs millions of people all over the world. If we consider Twain’s words, we could also improve the relationships between different cultures and nations by promoting tourism.
As India grows in terms of population, economy and importance on the global stage, it will generate more attention from the world. People throughout the world are amazed by the diversity and variety in our country. However, one must admit that the size of our tourism industry is not as huge as it must’ve been , considering its rich cultural and historical heritage.
From the point of view of employment , growth in tourism sector will have to be targeted with more focus in order to tap unfulfilled potentialities. According to UN world tourism organisation, tourism accounts for 10% of world’s GDP. 7% of world’s exports and 30% of world’s service exports are dependent on tourism sector. International arrivals in the world increased by 4.5% in the year 2015. Considering these statistics, one can conclude that tourism is in fact one of the significant sectors in the world economy.
About 8 million international tourists visited India in 2015. This was 10% jump compared to the year 2014. If such a rise can be sustained over a period of time, it could lead to increased employment opportunities as well. In addition to this, improvement in maintenance and cleanliness at tourist sites and cities can also contribute to qualitative changes in the lives of locals. By earning foreign exchange, tourism sector can also help in reducing our trade deficits with some countries.
Can tourism be the next big thing for India? The answer is an emphatic yes. With rising incomes within India, the number of Indians travelling from one part of India to the other will increase. In addition to this, with improvement in connectivity, infrastructure and outreach across the world through various channels, India should also focus on attracting more tourists from abroad .
Tourism is also in sync with our cultural ethos i.e. “athithi devobhava” or “a guest is a form of god.” The Indian cultural upbringing makes individuals to treat guests with care and affection not just for monetary gains but also to fulfill his responsibility from the point of view of a host. This adds a human touch to tourists who visit India. When we as a people reconnect to our own culture, it could also reinstate the pride in Indians about our culture and heritage.
In addition to above factors, one must also take into account the slowdown or contraction of opportunities in high growth sectors like IT and manufacturing. Generating employment in these sectors needs high amount of capital and qualified personnel. It is hard to sustain the growth and profits in these sectors for a long period of time. However, this is not the case as far as tourism is concerned.
Growth can happen without any significant damage to environment. The investment on creation and maintenance of infrastructure for promoting tourism is sustainable. For example , a road connecting a tourist site in a rural area like Badami could also help other sectors of the economy in addition to tourism. Drinking water facilities created for tourist will help local residents as well. Creating jobs in tourism could also stem the migration to urban areas and slums.
Our geographical diversity is an advantage that can fuel the growth of tourism sector. In spite of having a 7000km coastline, only Goa, Kerala and Pondicherry have emerged as popular beach side tourist spots. Developing beaches in Orissa, Andhra, Maharashtra can widen the options of international tourists. These new beaches can also offer Yoga and Ayurveda retreats in order to add value to overall tourist experience . Kerala has been successful in this regard. If such success stories are replicated, it could be yet another avenue for growth.
Development of ecotourism can be a big way to generate income without destroying the environment. In fact, improving tourist facilities and sustaining the public’s interest in these areas could be an incentive for conservation of wildlife and forests. This will also be welcomed as a strategy to combat global warming. In this regard, North East India has huge potential as a tourist destination. The local tribal culture and exotic dances and festivals could be an added attraction to tourists from India and abroad.
One doesn’t need to elaborate on the beauty of Himalayas. Trekking expeditions in this part of India are already popular. If this were to be marketed abroad in a big way, tourism sector in Himachal Pradesh and Arunanchal Pradesh could earn more foreign exchange and also invest in conservation of the fragile ecosystems in this part of India.
Our rich cultural and historical heritage has not been tapped to expand tourist sector. Museums and places of historical interest are neglected since they are not as glamorous as Taj Mahal or Hawa Mahal. However, such places can attract people with interest in history. If promoted in India and abroad this could attract more tourists to India from within the country and abroad. Classical dance and music centres / festivals can also be promoted in cities like Varanasi and Chennai to attract tourists during specific times in a calendar year. Out of the box approaches could help in saving our culture and earning livelihoods for our people through tourism.
The government will have to take some important steps to ensure that tourism becomes the next big thing in India. This must be done by diversifying the basket of options for tourists by developing less known , but equally interesting tourist spots in India. Sometimes, one feels that the attention on big monuments like Taj Mahal, Red fort and forts of Jaipur are disproportionately large in comparison to Harappan sites and temple architecture of south India.
With improvement in infrastructure, training of employees in hospitality sector, connectivity and cleanliness, tourism sector could emerge as one of the biggest sectors in India. It is sustainable, environment friendly and also helps in preserving the diverse cultural heritage of the country. With efforts of all stake holders , tourism can indeed be the next big thing in India.