How to attract more international tourists

Although blessed with a vast network of tourist destinations ranging from scenic landscapes to historical sites, India’s tourism potential remains largely untapped. As a highly labour-intensive sector, tourism can generate high-quality jobs on a large scale.

According to the Report on Working Group on Tourism (2011), the travel and tourism sector in India was forecast to create 780 jobs per ₹1 crore of investment, compared to 450 manufacturing jobs for a similar investment. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who fully understands the role of the tourism sector in India’s growth story, encouraged states to focus on tourism and the 3Ts – trade, tourism and technology – at the 7th session of the Governing Council of NITI Aayog support financially.

There is much more scope to increase the number of international tourists visiting India. As also documented in economic survey In 2021-22, foreign tourist arrivals in India increased only from 0.2 crore to 1.1 crore between 1990-2019, while domestic tourist arrivals grew comparatively better from about 6 crore to about 232 crore in 1990-2019.

India accounted for just 1.2 percent of international tourist arrivals, ranking 23rd globally in 2019. The draft National Tourism Policy focuses on international tourists and also aims to make India one of the top 5 destinations in the world in terms of both international arrivals and international tourism revenue by 2030 and the most desirable tourist destination in the world by 2047. To achieve this vision However, to make it a reality, it is crucial to take some concrete steps immediately.

The smartest strategy to attract foreign travelers would be to focus on niche areas. It is important to note that medical tourism accounted for 6.4 percent of all foreign arrivals in India in 2019. The main reason behind the burgeoning medical tourism sector is the lower cost of tertiary healthcare and relatively high quality of medical treatment in India compared to other countries.

For example, heart bypass surgery in India costs only US$7,900, which is the lowest among major medical tourism destinations such as Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Turkey and South Korea. However, in order to realize this potential, it is important to create incentives and develop clusters of hospitals to facilitate access for foreign tourists.

To attract more international tourists, India needs to increase investment and accelerate public-private partnership models in healthcare. The use of new business models such as telemedicine can further increase the productivity of the sector. In addition, the scope of medical tourism can be expanded to make India a hub for spiritual and wellness tourism as the country has a lot to offer in Ayurveda and Yoga. There is an increasing focus on spiritual tourism. With its long history and rich philosophy, there are more and more opportunities for India to attract people who wish to increase their physical, mental and emotional energies by following the spiritual path.

improve the experience

While India’s appeal as a tourist destination is undisputed, the focus needs to be on making it easier and more accessible to access and experience. It is important to simplify the process of registering online with the Foreigners Registration Office (FRRO). With the establishment of FRRO helpdesks at major Indian airports and hospitals, visitors are given the information to complete the process online.

In addition, the number of annual visits allowed under an e-medicine visa should be increased. Currently, e-medical visa holders are allowed three repeat visits during their one-year visa period. And this may not be enough for patients who need follow-up/post-operative care. Also, the number of escorts with e-medical visa holders under the same visa can be increased from two to up to four, as has been done in countries like Malaysia.

Digital tourism will also gain in importance in the coming years. Emerging technologies like the Metaverse have the potential to transform tourism experiences and engagement in destinations. Because of the metaverse, travelers can experience 3D hotel tours before confirming the booking. Information such as facilities, hotel room size, furnishings and amenities can be known in advance before the actual visit. This is likely to save tourists time and avoid unnecessary troubles, thereby enriching the tourist experience. In addition, targeted advertising campaigns for tourist circuits can be carried out in key regions of the world.

Tourism infrastructure projects — hotels, resorts, equipment, parks, etc. — with project costs greater than ₹1 crore should be reported as “infrastructure” to allow entrepreneurs to prioritize borrowing.

Also, even small steps aimed at facilitating travel, such as creating common passes for visiting multiple heritage sites, providing currency exchange offices at each tourist spot, and operating tourist information centers professionally, can play a big role in increasing tourist traffic in India play.

The government has rightly stated its intention to boost the tourism sector, but if this intention is also complemented by a concrete roadmap and an effective implementation strategy, the tourism sector can make a significant contribution to generating job-rich growth in the country.

Monika is Research Officer and Gopalakrishnan is Former Lead Adviser, NITI Aayog How to attract more international tourists

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