What Impedes India's Tourism Growth

Vijayendra Thapliyal, Managing Dircector, Tour My India Tour My India is a Noida-based Travel & Tourism company offering holiday packages across a wide array of categories that include spiritual tour, adventure, hill station tour, Backwater & Beach tour, wildlife tour, and honeymoon packages.

Tourism in India is apparently one of the substantial business sectors which has even defeated leading sectors like apparel and pharmaceuticals in the country. However, a close scrutiny reveals that India’s tourism growth is still slow or rather disappointing when compared to its potential and other rapidly growing counterparts like Singapore, China, and Dubai. So where is India going wrong when it is able to generate $23 billion, which is close to what Singapore earned (approx. $24.8 billion) in the same year, 2016? Well, the reasons are interconnected and they range from infrastructure to government red tape, security concerns to the most obvious issue of sanitation. Let us take these issues one by one now:

Paucity of Accommodation
Indeed, the tourism industry in India as well as across the globe are closely integrated with facilities such as accommodation, aviation, transport, healthcare, and entertainment; and it is evident the glitch in of these areas can cause the collapse of tourism growth instantly. One setback and a major one that India suffers from is the lack of hotels. Not only India fails to offer adequate accommodation options to its visitors, it lacks hotels in the budget category as well. It is true that in Thailand, tourists can avail a stay in a 5-star hotel at the price of a 3-star hotel in India. Another factor that haunts the hospitality industry in India is the disproportionate distribution of hotels, for instance, while Jaipur can be seen replete with accommodations in varied categories, several places in the state of Rajasthan do not even have budget hotels. So, if a state that allures almost 65 percent of foreign tourists lacks low-cost stay options, then indeed it is a matter of concern for the tourism industry in the country. On the contrary, the data of countries like Singapore and Thailand and for the fact Malaysia and Indonesia demonstrate meticulous planning to cater to their visitors of the varied budget with value for money accommodations on offer.

Expensive Transport and Absence of Fixed Rates
Travelling to and in India, both seem to bother the foreign tourists. Yes, the country offers some inexpensive modes of transport like the buses and the Indian Railways but the two are often either overcrowded or over booked. There seems
to be also the security concerns in both these transport modes and many have reported the slow speed and zero assurance of reaching the destination at the estimated time. This leaves foreign tourists banking largely on flights or cabs/taxis that evidently charge exorbitantly. Whereas in Malaysia and Thailand, the domestic air transfer can cost as low as $12, cheaper than train or bus and also saves time. It is a fact, both domestic and international tourism might increase if the flights and cabs could reduce their tariffs or at least fix it on reasonable grounds.

Although the whole of India is not deprived of decent sanitation, the major setback is that most of the major tourist destinations are littered significantly

Substandard Roads
The faulty and neglected roads have evidently affected the tourism in the country. Visit any country abroad including the ones in Southeast Asia like Singapore that have a strong economy, they boast incredible road connectivity for the convenience of their citizens as well as visitors. However, that’s an unlikely case in India, the country has potentials to receive plenty of Buddhist tourists from Japan, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Sri Lanka but the roads and infrastructure of these places (Bihar) lie in a total state of disorder. Poor road condition also has also hampered the footfall of tourists to Ajanta caves as the drive from the airport is a long one and that too on a road that often struggles with heavy traffic. Another interconnected issue is the lack of public amenities such as clean toilets on the roads. On major highways, a few stopovers can be found in the form of Petrol Pumps and roadside dhabas but then a major chunk of Indian roads still await construction of public toilets. Other facilities like a number of feeder stations too need to be improved as for tourists travelling by road, buses don't have enough stops for pick up.

Security Concerns
Indian tour operators have reported a 25 percent drop in the business sector in the first quarter of 2013 after the gang-rape case of the 23-year-old woman in a moving bus in Delhi, followed by a further drop of 35 percent in female tourism in the same quarter. Additionally, there are a large number of female foreign tourists that have testimonies of being either groped, even in the first class compartments of trains, which is an unlikely case in several Southeast Asian countries like Singapore where the crime rate is almost negligent. Singapore, in fact, boasts being one of the safest countries not only in Asia but around the world.

Visa Hassle
Although now India has eased its visa process for the visitors and offers E-visa for 150+ countries, there are countries of ASEAN region which are either visa-free or have the provision for visa on arrival for the tourists of EU or Americas. So, you can travel to ASEAN without worrying about the visa whereas in India one has to still struggle with E-Visa process. Apart from it, the South-Eastern country of Singapore boasts the most powerful passport in ASEAN and it allows visa-free access to 159 countries, followed by Malaysia that offers visa-free access to 156 nations.

Sanitation Issue
Sanitation in India is a grave issue that affects the tourism graph significantly. Often the poor sanitation in the country has been criticised by international tourists who always have ASEAN to compare it with. Although it is a fact that the entire country is not deprived of decent sanitation, the major setback is, most of the major tourist destinations are littered significantly. Therefore, India is pushed terribly by other Southeast Asian countries and even by Bhutan, China, and Dubai that have ensured proper sanitation system.

Tourism in India is expected to make a direct contribution of $148 billion by 2027, which is almost the double of what it had contributed in 2016. However, if the country endeavours to make improvements in its weak sections that are discussed above, possibilities are that Indian tourism can turn tables and there can be a 400 percent growth in the revenue as well as in tourist footfall.