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Tourism in India has little to cheer
Ravi Teja Sharma in New Delhi | April 05, 2007 11:06 IST
India has huge tourism potential -- a fact that no one can refute. So why is it that India lags behind several other less endowed countries when it comes to attracting tourists? After rating different factors, the World Economic Forum's new Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2007 has ranked India as low as 65 among a total of 124 countries.
Right at the outset, the report states that given the importance of the travel and tourism industry vis-�-vis the world economy, the fundamental objective of the report is to explore the factors driving travel and tourism competitiveness worldwide.
"Our study is not a statement on the attractiveness of a country. We aim to measure the factors that make it attractive for a country to develop its travel and tourism industry. The top rankings of Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Hong Kong and Singapore demonstrate the importance of supportive business and regulatory frameworks, coupled with world-class transport and tourism infrastructure and focus on nurturing human and natural resources, for fostering an environment that is attractive for developing the travel and tourism sector," said Jennifer Blanke, senior economist, World Economic Forum (Global Competitiveness Network).
This insight provides useful comparative information for making business decisions and lends additional value to the governments wishing to improve their travel and tourism environments.
Let's look at the positives about India in the report. One of the biggest concerns worldwide is safety and security for which India is ranked 39 (and that's not bad at all!). Price competitiveness in the travel and tourism industry is ranked a high 6th, travel and tourism fair attendance even higher at 4th, ticket taxes and airport charges, and the number of world heritage sites both get 7th position.
What comes as a disappointment, however, is even after the huge Incredible India campaign, government prioritisation of travel and tourism as well as effectiveness of marketing and branding lags at 59.
There are other aspects too, like stringent visa requirements and airport density, which rank poor 106 and 121 respectively. The burning issue at the moment - crazy hotel room pricing - stands at rank 113 of 124. People's openness to tourism is also way behind at 97.
Arjun Sharma, managing director, Le Passage to India, refers to these as "startling facts". "It sets a clear benchmark for the travel and tourism industry and other stakeholders as well as the government to make India a better tourism destination," says Sharma.
It is well-known that the tourism dollar goes a long way into the economy. Sharma feels that it is high time the government looks at tourism as a priority area.
"Sadly, the ministry of tourism can't do much without the support of other ministries. Maybe the Prime Minister should to look into it himself," he suggests. This, considering travel and tourism contributes a whopping 5.3 per cent to India's GDP.
"The report suggests that Indian tourism is skewed towards publicity and promotion. That does not change people's perception about India. The inference would be to divert funds allocated for participation in fairs, campaigns and advertising to improving the infrastructure at tourist attractions, enabling current visitors to return satisfied and recommend the destination," says Prem Subramanium, principal business development, Infrastructure Development Finance Company.
The rankings, however, do suggest a Western sensibility and may not have bearing on true tourism growth despite handicaps. So, drawing inference from the report, it would be a better idea to woo closer neighbours instead of trying hard to influence Europeans, he says.
Indian tourism might have seen a double-digit growth in 2006 but questions that the report has raised will hopefully stir the government into taking action. And if it is of any consolation -- China is ranked 71.