India is a long way from its main sources of tourism. This disadvantage can be neutralised by reducing air fare. Fares should be maintained at as low as a level is economically possible to encourage tourists to visit as many parts of the country as possible. Compared to other countries, India is a relatively inexpensive country to tour.
Second, crime is a great deterrent to the promotion of tourism in the country. As a result of disturbances in Punjab, particularly after the assassination of Mrs. Indira Gandhi, there was a big slump in tourist arrivals. The tourists from UK, USA and Japan are hesitant to come to India because they are not sure that our law and order machinery is strong enough to render them protection.
The former Minister of State for Tourism and Civil Aviation, Mr. Ashok Gehlot admitted that there had been a decline in foreign tourist arrivals from July 1984 to May 1985 due to disturbances in the country and the adverse media publicity abroad. Measures should be taken to create confidence among prospective tourists like reassurance, press campaign by the overseas offices of the tourist department and the Indian High Commission and invitation to foreign travel agents and media persons to visit at government expense to have first-hand information on the normal conditions in the country.
Third, the proportion of outlays on tourism in most developing countries is very low. In our Sixth Plan it is 0.90 per cent of the total outlay; in the Fifth Plan it was only 0.16 per cent. In the Seventh and Eighth Plans share of this sector should be further increased as done in 2003-04. Fourth, it is widely believed that a country cannot promote international tourism unless its domestic tourism has attained a high level of development. Many Western countries adopted this approach successfully in the post-war era. In the Ninth Plan the Central Government has laid much more emphasis on domestic tourism than in the past.
Fifth, tourism is not free from evil sides. Rapid and uncontrolled development of tourist facilities can be a factor contributing to inflation by driving up real estate prices, fostering land speculation and creating excessive demand on construction and other industries supplying tourism. Government policy must be such as to counteract such undesirable development. Sixth, visa and other travel formalities should be simplified to obviate harassment to the tourists. It is happy to note that due to persistent demand by both the media and the travel agents, the Home Minister has agreed to relax the visa restrictions to tourists travelling in groups and to businessmen. Seventh, there is a vast scope for attracting ethnic tourists, e.
g., people of Indian origin living in Indonesia, Fiji, West Indies, and Africa etc. With proper promotional efforts, we can tap this new source of international tourism. India has undoubtedly made substantial progress in promoting tourism since independence. However, we have a long way to go before we achieve our target, i.e., our due share of the huge international tourist’s traffic.
This is a challenging task and it is necessary for the public sector and the private sector to mobilise all available resources to meet the challenge.