Laggard India not making right tourism pitch

Naik’s statement on ‘pub culture’ may not go down well with foreign tourists

India, which attracts far fewer foreign tourists than nations much smaller in size such as Singapore and Thailand, may not be making the right pitch to ratchet up its position in the lucrative forex-earning sector.

Union Minister of State for Tourism Shripad Naik has said in Goa, a world-famous destination attracting a huge number of foreign tourists, that “pub culture” will not be encouraged in the State and the government will only support trends that fit into the Indian culture.

“The ‘pub culture’ is not our culture. Such unwanted things will not be allowed to thrive here,” said Mr. Naik, a former president of the Bharatiya Janata Party Goa unit, on the sidelines of a function at Dona Paula, near Panaji, on Saturday.

Goa Minister Ramkrishna Dhavlikar of the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party recently demanded a ban on wearing bikinis on beaches, and spoke out against the “pub culture”, which, he said, were against Indian culture. Such statements give stakeholders in the tourism industry reason to worry as foreign tourists normally stay away from destinations that impose restrictions that they feel unreasonable.

To a query from presspersons, Mr. Naik said he did not know in what context Mr. Dhavlikar had spoken, adding, “Pubbing must be controlled. Such things need to be kept within limits.”

Official data show that in 2013, while India attracted 6.97 million foreign tourists, Singapore accounted for 15.57 million and Thailand 26.55 million.

The potential of the tourism sector, which contributed about 6.6 per cent of the GDP in 2012, has not been fully tapped by the country.

“Some of the factors responsible for international tourist arrivals and outbound tourists from any country, including India, are economic conditions of the source and destination countries, air connectivity, extent of awareness among the source countries, availability of trained guides, reasonably priced hotels, good tourism infrastructure, etc.,” Mr. Naik had said in a written reply to Parliament.

Marginal growth

Even in the growth of tourist arrivals, India is lagging. While inflow of international travellers to Singapore and Thailand has been growing at a good pace, India has been recording marginal growth.

In 2011, Singapore attracted 13.17 million foreign tourists, which grew to 14.5 million in 2012. Similarly for Thailand, the number stood at 19.23 million in 2011, growing to 22.35 million in 2012. For India, the number stood at 6.31 million in 2011, growing to 6.58 million in 2012.

A World Economic Forum 2013 study of tourism competitiveness rated India at a low 65 among 140 countries. On its three pillars of competitiveness, India was ranked 21 on tourism natural resources and 67 on ease of business environment, but an abysmal 110 on its regulatory framework for tourism and travel, showing inability to convert its comparative natural and economic advantages into competitive advantages for the tourism industry.

The new government, acknowledging the importance of the sector, proposed in the Budget introduction of e-visa facility at nine airports to boost the inflow of tourists. Five tourist circuits with specific themes have been proposed, and Rs. 500 crore has been allocated for the same in the current fiscal year.

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Printable version | Jun 1, 2020 1:55:05 PM |

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