On the occasion of 73rd Independence Day, Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi addressed the nation from the Red Fort and mentioned that India ‘has much to offer’ to tourists. The government has been focusing on the tourism industry since 2002 with the launch of campaigns like ‘Incredible India’, ‘Athiti Devo Bhava’ and various other state sponsored campaigns. The travel and tourism (t&t) competitiveness index released by World Economic Forum's (WEF), shows that India has witnessed a continuous growth from 65th position in 2013 to 34th in 2019. The index measures 140 nations on 4 sub-indexes- ‘Enabling Environment’, ‘Travel and tourism policy and enabling conditions’, ‘Infrastructure’ and ‘Natural and cultural resources’.
Tourism is one of the prime sources for foreign direct investments. Under Union Budget 2019-20, government introduced a Tax Refund for Tourists (TRT) scheme to encourage tourists to spend in India. During January-July 2019, Foreign Tourist Arrivals (FTAs) were 60.84 lakh with the growth rate of 2.1%. In July 2019, Foreign Exchange Earnings (FEEs) were Rs 1,34,689 crore (US$ 19.27 billion) with the growth rate of 7.2% from July 2018 July to 2019. The sector has also emerged as a significant leader in employment as in 2019, 13 million jobs were created.
Union Tourism Ministry’s “Incredible India 2.0” won the Pacific Asia Travel (PATA) Gold award in 2019 with its engrossing tagline “Find the Incredible you”. This new edition marked a shift from traditional promotion undertaken to market specific promotions and content creation. The use of technology empowered the campaign through digital marketing on various virtual portals.
The Indian government released a fresh category of visa - the medical visa or M visa, to encourage medical tourism in the country. Incredible India 2.0 campaign was launched in September 2017 and further, in September 2018, the Indian government launched the ‘Incredible India Mobile App’ to assist the travelers and showcase major experiences for travelling. The Government of India is working to achieve 1% share in world's international tourist arrivals by 2020 and 2% share by 2025.
In October 2018, Statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, also known as ‘Statue of Unity’, was inaugurated as a tourist attraction. It is the tallest statue in the World standing at a height of 182 m. In February 2019, the visiting hours has been increased by two hours and has been equipped with e-bike tours. This has been criticized due to vast amount of money being spent which could have been spent on development of key issues. In my opinion, the villages around Narmada have noticed a significant development especially in employment for youth. Hence the remarkable structure has grabbed world’s attention and is expected to boost the tourism sector in that part of the country.
The diverse portfolio of niche tourism products - cruises, adventure, medical, wellness, sports, eco-tourism, film, rural and religious tourism signifies that India has a vast market for tourism and hospitality which must be nourished.