Tourism industry: India pins hopes on domestic tourists

tourism industry
The government must support the tourism industry that contributes 7% of the GDP through policies and incentives to businesses and consumers.

Indian tourism industry: While foreign tourist arrivals have started to climb in India after a long dry spell under the coronavirus pandemic, the numbers are still far behind the pre-Covid levels. The Union government has recently eased restrictions and international flights have also resumed since March-end, resulting in an uptick in foreign tourist arrivals. In fact, over 4.2 lakh tourists visited India in the month of May, which was an increase over April. This is especially heartening considering May is one of the hottest months in the country.

One cannot ignore that even while the country has registered a monthly increase in foreign tourist arrivals, the tourism industry continues to reel under the impact of the pandemic. The tourism industry in the country suffered greatly during the Covid-19 pandemic, the government said in a reply to a question in the Lok Sabha. According to the numbers available with the government, the country recorded over 1.75 crore international tourist arrivals in 2018 and 2019. The number fell to 0.7 crore in 2021, the year when the country was in the grip of the second wave of the coronavirus.

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The tourism industry is one of the key income and employment generators for the Indian economy. The sector contributes 6.8% of the total GDP. The share, however, plummeted in the pandemic years. The country ranked 34 in the Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2019 published by the World Economic Forum. The rising middle class and increasing disposable income has supported the growth of domestic and outbound tourism and it is expected that the industry’s direct contribution to the GDP is expected to record an annual growth rate of 10.35% between 2019 and 2028, according to IBEF.

India woos foreign tourists

The country had closed its gates for foreign travellers in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Foreign air travel was restricted in March 2020. In October 2021, the country began to issue tourist visas which was later extended to passengers of all international flights from November. In its bid to encourage foreign nationals to visit India, the government also announced free tourist visas last year.

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As a result of opening of borders again and easing of Covid-19 restrictions across the world, India began to see the return of foreign tourists. The United States, Bangladesh, the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada were the top five sources of foreign tourist arrivals in the January to May 2022 period. These tourists accounted for 65% of the total tourist arrivals in India. One in every four foreign travellers in India was from the United States.

Government initiatives to boost tourism industry

To tackle the loss caused by the pandemic, the Centre announced various fiscal and non-fiscal relief measures with hopes to assist the tourism industry come out of the crisis. It remains to be seen whether the efforts will actually bear fruit. It also has eyes on improving infrastructure at tourist destinations to woo more travellers.

The government has pinned the hopes for tourism industry revival on domestic tourists. To incentivise domestic travel and tourism, the ministry of tourism is focusing on its promotion by arranging a series of webinars under the overall theme of Dekho Apna Desh. The aim is to promote various tourism destinations of India via webinars and this will also include showcasing of lesser-known destinations and lesser-known facets of popular destinations with glimpses of the culture, heritage, handicrafts and cuisine of the destinations.

Other than this, various schemes such as Swadesh Darshan and National Mission on Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual, Heritage Augmentation Drive (PRASHAD) are also in place to help the sector.

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India currently has a window of opportunity to woo inbound travellers as its two neighbouring countries — China and Sri Lanka have issues to resolve. China is currently shut down for foreign tourists due to rising cases and Sri Lanka is facing an economic crisis. Industry insiders are now looking to capitalise this opportunity to increase footfalls in the country. The government must also look into increasing marketing abroad to generate interest in Indian tourism.

With an increased vaccination coverage across the globe, the government remains optimistic that India is bound to witness an increase in the inflow of tourists in the near future, leading to an increase in India’s share in the world tourism market in the coming years.

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Prachi Gupta is an Assistant Editor with Policy Circle. She is a post graduate in English Literature from Lady Shri Ram College For Women, Delhi University. Prachi started her career as a correspondent with She specialises in policy impact studies.