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Post Xi's visit, India to woo Chinese travellers

September 30, 2014 16:53 IST

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi played the perfect host to Chinese President Xi Jinping during his India visit, almost playing the role of a guide as he showed the Chinese premier around at the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad. 

The country too is gearing up to encash on the Chinese tourist's wanderlust, and increase its share in China's huge outbound tourism market.

Consider this, readying a bevy of Chinese speaking tourist guides, promoting the Buddhist tourist circuit, planning to start a service of offering Chinese food on request on board tourist trains, inviting Chinese travel writers and tour operators to experience India among others.

About 97 million Chinese travelled overseas during 2013, and India got only a tiny fraction of this flow coming into the country, around 150,000 to 160,000 tourists, according to Sarabjit Singh, vice chairman, Federation of Association in Indian Tourism & Hospitality or FAITH, which has been formed by the representatives from the top 10 national tourism industry associations. 

The numbers could increase significantly in the recent future. As Singh points out, with the slew of efforts planned at the government level and as well by private operators, the numbers could well double in around two years time.

At the moment, however, the growth rate is hardly around 4-5 per cent, claimed tour operators.

Girish Shankar, additional secretary, Union tourism ministry informed that the International Buddhist Conclave was planned later this month (starting from September 26), that would see attendance from 33 countries. 

Around 135 delegates are expected at the Conclave which aims to showcase the Buddhist heritage and pilgrim sites in India, the country of origin of Buddhism.

Shankar further added that the ministry had also trained 154 people to act as tour guides to Chinese visitors. 

Singh explained that, "There were about 40 Chinese speaking guides in the country, and as language is a major barrier to attracting Chinese tourists, the need was felt to ramp up the supply."

According to him, the ministry, hence took up the onus to train people with knowledge of the language to act as escorts to Chinese tourists. For that matter, already the IncredibleIndia is available in Chinese language. Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation's (IRCTC) on website on Buddhist Circuit tourist train is also available in Chinese. 

Food is another major area of focus, as authentic Chinese cuisine is not widely available across India. According to sources in the tourism ministry, plans are afoot to serve Chinese food on request on board the tourist trains, especially the Mahaparinirvan express which travels the Buddhist circuit in India.

"A proposal has been prepared, and things are not yet fully finalised," said a senior official in the ministry. 

Add to this, an idea to invite more and more travel writers and tour operators from China to experience India, so that they can go back to their country and spread the word.

"There is a plan to have around 200 such people from China come to India in phases, for which a range of hotels could also offer a discounted fare to these travellers. Further, the Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO) would handhold the tour operators for the purpose," Singh said. 

The tourism ministry is also planning the next International Travel Mart (ITM) in Shillong in October, an initiative which tries to boost tourism to the North-East, which is also a bordering region to China. Interestingly, the North East has seen a 27.9 per cent growth in foreign tourist visits during 2013 over the previous year.

Sohini Das in Ahmedabad
Source: