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Tourists flock to India; holiday packages sold out
Maitreyee Handique in New Delhi | September 24, 2004 09:23 IST
With the onset of the tourist season and a slew of international events expected to take place in the country in the months to come, most holidays packages are already sold out and hotel rooms are in short supply.
Sample some figures. Foreign tourist arrival, according to the ministry of tourism, is expected to touch 3 million this year, up from 2.8 million last year.
Hotel industry experts expect this to peak at 3.3 million. Between January 2004 and August 2004, the inbound travel market grew by 26 per cent over the same period last year.
While there's been a steady growth in tourist traffic from Europe and the US, travellers from newer markets like Russia, Iran and Hungary are flocking to India this year, point out travel trade experts.
Ramesh Punjabi, director, Le Passage to India, a Delhi-based travel company, says, "Our business is expected to grow by 25-30 per cent this year. While we brought in 25,000 tourists last year, this year we may touch 40,000." Sita Travels also expects a 40 per cent growth in business.
Meanwhile, Madan Kak, TCI India's manager, tours (north India), adds: "India's travel industry is buoyant and going by the indications we are getting from our 10 offices abroad, there has been an obvious increase in business. Russia and Iran will be the new markets for us." Kak also says that the charter flights, which had dipped in the past two years, are full this season from September to April next year.
Most of the traditional tourist circuits such as Rajasthan, Kerala and Goa are completely booked for the season. Prithvi Singh, senior vice president, at Sita (Inbound) says, "With a fully booked season, operators are looking at the off-season markets in Ladakh and Srinagar between April and September."
Travel industry sources also say that while the golden triangle of Delhi, Jaipur and Agra has always been popular with tourists, south India, especially Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, is witnessing a surprising increase in demand.
The demand for these destinations has risen by up to 25 per cent this year. " A lot of people had not asked for Gujarat last year but requests have started coming in this year," adds Singh
But it's not just the inbound tourists who are contributing to the travel business. Domestic tourism is said to be growing rapidly, and according to Manav Thadani, managing director at HVS International, a hotel consultancy company, "It has been witnessing a 25 per cent year-on-year growth for the past several years."
Despite the visible buoyancy, is tourism in India really shining? C R Srinivas a consultant with Deloitte Touche Tohamatsu, doesn't read too much into these numbers.
"Now we are reaching levels that we should have achieved under the normal circumstances two years ago. With 9/11 and the Iraq war, we witnessed a sharp slump. So any claims on the 25 per cent jump seems a bit hollow."
Also, while foreign arrivals has climbed up, India's ranking in the World Tourism Organisation slipped last year -- from the 47th to the 53rd position. India features below countries like Thailand with 10 million tourists and Malaysia at 12 million.
Currently, India has only 0.45 per cent share of the world tourism market. The market leaders are France (70 million), the US (60 million) and Spain (55 million).