ITB Convention Market Trends & Innovations: India’s tourism finally takes its place on the world stage

August 16, 2007

Berlin, 1 March 2007 – The presence of India at ITB this year as the show’s official partner country is particularly significant since 2007 is an important year for the country, marking the 60th anniversary of its independence. From a tourism point of view, 2007 is expected to be no less momentous as it is likely to confirm India’s increasing prominence on the world’s tourism stage.

It took nearly 30 years from independence for India to exceed 1 million inbound arrivals, in 1986, and a further nine to attain 2 million. The country needed another nine years to reach 3 million for the first time, yet it only took two years – from 2004 to 2006 – to top 4 million. And the magic 5 million mark will almost certainly be achieved this year, just 12 months later. India’s tourism has finally come of age, attracting the level of growth in – and numbers of – inbound tourist arrivals that industry analysts have been predicting for so long.

2006 was not only a record year for India’s inbound tourism, but was the fourth year showing a double-digit increase in arrivals. Moreover, arrivals recorded double-digit growth in all 12 months of last year – even during the lean months of summer and monsoons. The 4.4 million arrivals recorded were 13% above 2005’s level and reflected average annual growth of 9% over the six years from 2000.

India is forecast to be one of the world’s leading tourism destinations
India has everything needed to become one of the world’s leading tourism destinations. Summed up so colourfully in the current ‘Incredible India’ campaign, its attractions are countless and extremely varied – from its rich cultural heritage and natural geographic attractions, its wildlife, flora and fauna, to its ethnic diversity, different cuisines and many festivals.

In addition, the country is the birthplace of four great religions – Sikhism, Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism – all renowned for their fundamentally compassionate, peaceful philosophies and principles, and which attract pilgrims from far and wide. India’s 24 UNESCO World Heritage sites reflect all four religions, as well as the art and architecture of the Muslim Mughal emperors, epitomised by the magnificent Taj Mahal, India’s most famous architectural icon.

The growing importance attributed by recent governments – and, in particular, the present government – to tourism, as well as increased investment in the sector, have resulted in a number of important measures to enhance India’s tourism product and facilitate tourism development. Among these, the most significant have been the liberalisation of aviation, improvements in basic infrastructure and incentives to the hospitality sector, including steps to ensure better education and training.

Things cannot change overnight, of course, and a number of weaknesses and problems remain, including the country’s bureaucratic and long-winded visa procedures, its painfully slow immigration and security checks, continued imbalances in infrastructure, serious hotel capacity constraints, and high expenditure and luxury taxes. These need to be addressed urgently, and the good news is that the present government appears to be aware of this need.

Although India has so far failed to make even a fraction of the impact of destinations like Thailand on major travel source markets around the world, it certainly has nothing to envy Thailand in terms of tourism attractions, and its short- to medium-term tourism prospects are better than they have ever been.

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