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All India Radio (AIR) IAS UPSC - Tourism in India: Opportunities and Challenges
Published on Oct. 5, 2019, 5:42 p.m.

Tourism in India: Opportunities and Challenges

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Search 27th September 2019 here http://www.newsonair.com/Main_Audio_Bulletins_Search.aspx 

TOPIC: General Studies 3

  • Inclusive Development

World Tourism Day 2019: Tourism and Jobs — A Better Future For All

A report released by the World Economic Forum (WEF) ranks the travel & tourism competitiveness of 140 economies. The biennial “Travel and Tourism Competitive Report” shows that India has made the greatest improvement since 2017 among the top 25 per cent of the countries that were previously ranked, the WEF said in a statement. 

Overall, India is ranked 34, up six places from 2017.

The study scored countries on four indicators — 

  • Enabling environment
  • Travel and tourism policy and enabling conditions
  • Infrastructure
  • Natural and cultural rankings

From a sub-regional perspective, the nation (India) has better air infrastructure (33rd) and ground and port infrastructure (28th), international openness (51st) and natural (14th) and cultural resources (8th). India also greatly improved its business environment (89th to 39th), overall T&T policy and enabling conditions (79th to 69th), infrastructure (58th to 55th) and information and communications technology (ICT) readiness (112th to 105th)

Compared to global benchmarks, the country can also add price competitiveness (13th) to its roster of strengths, the report noted. 

What aided it?

  • The growth is aided by what India has always been famous for in the West—price competitiveness, or in other words, being a cheap destination that has rich natural and cultural resources. 
  • India’s highest improvement was in enabling environment, by 10 places to 98. 
  • Last year, the Union government issued new rules governing India’s coastlines, which allow temporary tourism facilities like shacks, toilet blocks and drinking water facilities in what were earlier ‘no-development’ zones. Tourism contributes a substantial 10% to India’s GDP, generating about $250 billion.
  • Also, with Ladakh having become a Union Territory, analysts estimate tourist inflow to increase substantially in the region.

What are the troubles the sector faces?

The least improvement is in infrastructure as well as in natural and cultural rankings, by just three places each, but India’s rank was already high in the latter.

Environmental and livelihood concerns continue to plague the sector. While the hospitality industry has ravaged mountains and coastlines across the country - primarily due to over-exploitation - archaic legislations have restrained the industry’s growth.

A recent study by the UN blamed over-exploitation of the Western Ghats for the megafloods witnessed in Kerala and parts of Karnataka for two consecutive years. Tourism is the single largest factor behind the over-exploitation of the sensitive Western Ghats ecosystem. There will be tourism only as long as the ‘rich natural and cultural resources’ exist.

Legislators and industry players must, hence, promote eco-tourism in the true sense. The most successful example in this regard is Bhutan. While most countries subsidise tourism, Bhutan charges a sustainable development fee from tourists. This helps keep the Himalayan nation an evergreen attraction.

The focus on higher tourist arrivals, greater revenues and more tourism-related jobs ignores some real problems related to sustainability, equity and the social impact of tourism. Rising incomes, affordable air travel, hotel and room booking apps, and social media have continued to fuel domestic demand. Supply, in terms of new locations and experiences, however, is lagging. In fact, we are getting “over-touristed" before reaching our tourism potential.

Jobs in the Tourism Industry:

India has created over 13.92 million jobs in the tourism sector, with over 10 million in education and health sectors. As per the data shared by the Minister of State for Tourism, the tourism sector contributed an estimated 5.06 per cent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country during 2016-17.

  • The gap will be 7.55 lakh in non-managerial level and 1.09 lakh in managerial cadre by 2020-21 in tourism and hospitality sector," as per the data shared by the Ministry of Tourism.
  • The medical tourism sector attracts around 4 million people every year for various health checkups and major surgeries, with a majority from neigbouring countries of Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, the Middle East and African countries.
  • Further, the hospitality industry presents huge job opportunities for women, which are bound to increase as a lot of female travelers prefer solo trips

The Way Ahead:

Travel and tourism can drive economies, but only if policy-makers ensure proper management of their tourism assets, which requires a holistic, multi-stakeholder approach.

Tourism’s role in job creation is often undervalued. This is despite the fact that tourism generates 10 per cent of the world’s jobs and is included in the Sustainable Development Goal 8 for its potential to create decent work.

Also, if India is to ever close the immense gap between tourism potential and performance, it is vital that politicians and policymakers in state governments focus on creating high-quality experiences, rather than merely collecting entrance fees at monuments built by their olden-day predecessors.

We need ways to balance sustainable tourism with socio-economic imperatives. Whatever you do to manage the numbers, the problem of undesirable behaviour remains to be addressed.

  • Sensitize visitors: A combination of mandatory tourist education and strict law enforcement might perhaps work. The state government could require all tour bus operators, arriving rail and air passengers, hotels and resorts to conduct a short statutory briefing. Yes, people might treat it perfunctorily (like safety briefings on airlines), but it can nudge travellers to behave with greater respect and responsibility.
  • More tourism: If there are more destinations that people could go to, then demand would spread out, thus relieving overcrowded locations of pressure and making behavioural changes easier to achieve. But if a new spot is promoted ahead of adequate infrastructure and behavioural norms, it is bound to be ravaged before development. On the other hand, developing a place too early might leave you with a white elephant if demand does not pick up.
  • Prepare for the changing profile of the international tourist: As the WEF report notes, foreign travel is no longer a luxury enjoyed only by wealthy Westerners. The lowering of trade barriers and the rise of the middle class in many emerging economies mean that North America and Europe, which have dominated the travel markets till now, may give way to international travel from Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index (TTCI)

The Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index (TTCI), that covered 140 economies, measures the set of factors and policies that enable sustainable development of travel and tourism sector which contributes to the development and competitiveness of a country.

  • Spain held on to the top spot in the World Economic Forum's (WEF) latest Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report (TTCR), which ranked 140 countries on their relative strengths in global tourism and travel.
  • Spain was followed by France, Germany and Japan, with the United States replacing the UK in the top five.
  • Others in the top 10 list include the United Kingdom at the 6th place, Australia (7th), Italy (8th), Canada (9th) and Switzerland (10th).
  • The report further added that Asia-Pacific was one of the fastest-growing travel and tourism regions in this year's ranking.
  • Japan remains Asia's most competitive travel and tourism economy, ranking 4th globally, while China is by far the largest travel and tourism economy in Asia-Pacific and 13th most competitive globally (up two spots).

Barrier-free tourism

In 2018, Kerala Government launched the barrier-free tourism project to make prime tourist spots in the state accessible for people with disabilities. 

  • With the aid of the District Tourism Promotion Council and the Kerala State Industrial Enterprises, many tourist spots were made disabled-friendly. Wheelchair ramps were introduced in beaches and plans were mooted to bring Braille signboards, audio guides, walking sticks and special guides for the differently-abled as part of the project. 
  • This may be a small leap, but things are looking good for differently-abled who are overcoming odds. And, joining the bandwagon are many tour operators who have come up with special packages inclusive of the differently-abled community.
  • Meanwhile, social workers and NGOs that work for differently-abled people feel even if there are packages for the disabled people, most of them do not use them due to financial constraints, safety fears and lack of knowledge related to provisions available.

Over-tourism

A term coined just a few years ago by Rafat Ali, CEO of Skift, a travel intelligence startup, “overtourism" refers to a situation when the negative consequences of tourism, such as overcrowding, environmental damage, crime and the pricing out of locals, overwhelm the benefits. From Iceland to Thailand, there has been a growing backlash against tourists from the local population. Not xenophobia, but “tourism-phobia".

Notable Schemes

Swadesh Darshan Scheme, wherein infrastructure will be built around places of tourist interest under the umbrella of 15 themes such as Buddhist Circuit, Krishna Circuit, Spiritual Circuit, Ramayana Circuit and Heritage Circuit Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual Augmentation Drive or PRASAD scheme that focuses on the development and beautification of identified pilgrimage destinations.

Connecting the Dots:

  1. What are the challenges that Indian Tourism Industry face? Discuss.
  2. The marketing of India as a culinary destination lies in the answer of how to brand Indian cuisine. Examine.
  3. More than old structures and natural beauty, tourism is about selling experiences. Do you agree? Substantiate your answer with good case studies.
  4. Can India, as a developing country, ever face a problem called Over-tourism? Discuss.
  5. How do you think India can become more tourist-friendly? 
  6. Assess the potential of rural tourism in India. What measures and precautions should be taken to promote rural tourism? Discuss.
  7. Discuss various schemes launched to promote tribal culture and entrepreneurship. How are they performing? Examine. (Answer: Link)
  8. Coastal regions of India have great tourism potential. Which coastal topographies attract tourists to the coastal states? Explain by taking suitable examples. What strategies can be adopted to improve the potential of coastal tourism?
  9. ‘Sustainable tourism’ has the potential to overtake ‘mainstream tourism’. Critically analyse.