India Tourism — A Case of Missed Opportunities

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India Tourism — A Case Of Missed Opportunities

It is certainly true that India as a tourist destination offers a whole lot more to tourists than most other destinations can, from the peaks of the Himalayas , to the Tea Gardens of Assam, to the backwaters of Kerala, to the white sandy beaches of Goa , and above all, monuments like the Taj Mahal , one of the wonders of the world--- India has all of this and much more , but sadly , India gets fewer tourists than most of its competing nations.

There are quite a few reasons as to why India only gets a miniscule percentage of the world’s tourists . Prominent amongst these are our lack of infrastructure, visa’s being difficult and expensive, the perception regarding lack of safety and security etc.

When it comes to infrastructure, sadly , we are way behind our neighbouring countries or other Asian destinations – the drive from Delhi to Agra has improved and is now world class, but, when you look at other highways , it’s a sad situation. The drive from Jaipur to Delhi , a distance of about 250 kms, could take up to 7 hours !! Likewise the drive from Bangalore to Mysore , a distance of only about 150 kms , could take up to 5 hours ! It is just not the roads , or the lack of them , it is basic facilities like clean toilets that are lacking on most of our highways.

Then there is air connectivity – while things have improved quite a bit in the last few years , our national carries Air India unfortunately hasn’t done much to improve connectivity to India from major tourism producing countries . Compare ourselves to Dubai or Singapore , where the national carriers because of their strength , network and connections , bring in thousands of tourists.

A lot of tourists intending to travel to India are deterred by the high cost and the time taken to obtain a Visa for India . With short lead times and last minute vacation planning becoming more and more common , travellers obviously choose destinations that are easy to get to in terms of visa’s . Competing destinations like Thailand , Singapore, Hongkong, Malaysia, Indonesia etc , either require no visas at all, or have visas that are available on arrival. Even countries like Turkey , that are serious about their tourism , have introduced e-visa’s that can be obtained on the internet.

As a country , we have so much to show , in terms of history and culture , but, unfortunately , greed and dishonesty seems to have crept in , and crept in so deep, that it mars the tourist’s good experiences too ! Tourists visiting the Jama Masjid (the largest Mosque in India ) are forced to pay a camera fee , when there is actually nothing to be paid . Tourists travelling in auto rickshaws often end up paying 3 or 4 times the usual fare !!

We really need to get our act together , and the Government needs to understand the importance of tourism, both in terms of its cultural exchange value , and in terms of its economic value , and do things that will attract visitors to our shores--- getting our act together on the infrastructure front , lowering of taxes on tourism product ( taxes in Delhi for example constitute almost 40% of the Hotel costs) , ensuring the safety and security of tourists travelling (particularly female travellers ) , would be the first steps towards this .

We also need to have more leisure activities for tourists , travellers are very happy to see monuments , forts and palaces , but a lot of them even want nightlife and evening entertainment , good golfing facilities etc , facilities which sadly, most of our tourist destinations lack. For example , Goa , India’s most sought after beach holiday destination , does not till date , have a world class Championship Golf course something that every other beach holiday destination offers .

Having said all of this , India certainly does have lots to attract tourists , monuments like the Taj Mahal , Tiger Reserves like Kanha and Bandhavgarh , the frozen deserts of Ladakh, the pristine backwaters of Kerala, the 400 year old temples of Southern India , the list is actually endless !!!

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