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 minuscule 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 neighboring 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 in 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, travelers obviously choose destinations that are easy to get to in terms of the visa. 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 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 traveling 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 !!!