India, the land of diversity, pristine natural beauty, and divine spirituality has always been the most sought-after travel destination of the world. From Kashmir to Kanyakumari, from Arunachal Pradesh to Gujarat, every place is blessed with an unmatched beauty and spirit. Where every travel destination narrates a mesmerising story and carries with it a rich history, that is the ‘Incredible India’ for the world.
In the recent years, India has displayed a renewed vigour in its global positioning and one of the important components is the improvement in the health of Indian tourism sector. This is evident from the latest Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index 2019 by the World Economic Forum which has listed India on 34th rank. Driven by rich natural and cultural resources and strong price competitiveness, India’s ranking improved from 40th in 2017 to 34th in 2019. This is the greatest improvement over 2017 among the top 25 percent of all countries ranked in the report. From a sub-regional perspective, India has better air infrastructure (33rd) and ground and port infrastructure (28th), international openness (51st) and natural (14th) and cultural resources (8th). According to the report, India accounts for the majority of South Asia’s travel and tourism (T&T) GDP and is the sub-region’s most competitive T&T economy. In the report, India showed the greatest percentage improvement to its overall Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index score, which has helped it become the only lower-middle-income country in the top 35.
Realising the immense potential that this land holds, and the direct implications of health and growth of tourism has on the country’s economy, and foreign exchange earnings, the NDA government has carefully charted a plan that helped it promote Indian tourism. With the investment of Rs 1,687.06 crore by the Ministry of Tourism in 2017-18, the tourism sector generated an estimated additional 13.92 million jobs during the years from 2014-15 to 2017-18. In the recent years, the NDA government has taken several initiatives to boost tourism in the country with the objective of increasing tourist arrivals, which inter-alia include:
1. Swadesh Darshan Scheme
For integrated development of theme-based tourist circuit, the NDA government has revamped central financial assistance to states/UTs under Swadesh Darshan scheme. The development of theme-based circuits attracts the tourists having special interest in visiting such places. Such tourist circuits are being developed in a manner that supports communities, provides employment and fosters social integration without comprising upon the environmental concerns and provides unique experiences to the tourists. Till 2018, a total number of 73 projects were sanctioned for an amount of Rs.5873.99 crore under this scheme covering 30 states and Union Territories.
2. PRASAD Scheme
An integrated development of identified pilgrimage destinations in a planned, prioritised and sustainable manner to provide complete religious tourism experience is being undertaken under the ‘National Mission on Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual, Heritage Augmentation Drive’ (PRASAD) Scheme. The scheme focuses on identifying and developing the pilgrim sites across the country to enrich the religious tourism experience. With this pilgrimage tourism, the government leveraged on the rich culture, heritage and religious wisdom that India boasts of. Till 2018, a total number of 24 projects were sanctioned for an amount of Rs.727.16 crore under this Scheme.
3. Extension of e- visa
A new liberalised Visa regime has been started by the Modi government with the extension of e- visa facility to citizens of 166 countries across 5 sub-categories and valid entry through 26 designated airports. The window period for online applications and period of stay in India have simultaneously been enhanced. With these reforms, the Modi government is focussing on making travelling to India seamless and an incredible experience.
4. Adopt A Heritage: Apni Dharohar, Apni Pehchaan
In a collaborative effort of the Ministry of Tourism with Ministry of Culture, Archaeological Survey of India, states and UTs, the government initiated ‘Adopt A Heritage: Apni Dharohar, Apni Pehchaan’ to provide world class tourist facilities at various natural/cultural heritage sites, monuments and other tourist sites. The project plans to entrust these tourist sites to private sector companies, public sector companies and individuals for the development of various tourist amenities that include cleanliness, public conveniences, safe drinking water, ease of access for tourists, signages, illumination, Wi-fi etc. This will enhance tourism potential and cultural importance in a planned and phased manner.
5. Incredible India 2.0
The launch of the Incredible India 2.0 campaign with market specific promotional plans and content creation is providing more interactive and a deeper engagement to the travellers in India. By getting personally involved in the campaign of #IncredibleIndia by posting pictures of his visits from different places in India on social media or showcasing natural beauty of the land through Man Vs Wild episode, PM Narendra Modi gave a new lease of life to the campaign. Revamping of Incredible India website is helping the travellers by showcasing India as a holistic destination, revolving around major experiences, such as, spirituality, heritage, adventure, culture, yoga, wellness that make India as a “must-visit” tourist destination. For a hassle-free experience, the government has also launched a 24×7 toll free multi-lingual tourist helpline in 12 International languages including Hindi and English.
6. Organising tourism fairs and workshops
The government has steadfastly undertaken the task of organising annual Global Tourism Mart for India in line with major international travel marts being held in countries across the world. It is serving as a platform for all stakeholders in tourism and hospitality industries to interact and transact business opportunities. With special emphasis on North East and tapping on the untapped potential of the region, the government is undertaking organisation of Annual International Tourism Mart for promotion of tourism in North Eastern States. Promotional activities in tourist generating markets overseas through the India Tourism Offices abroad with active participation in travel fairs and exhibitions; organising Road Shows, “Know India” seminars & workshops are also being undertaken by the Modi government.