Infrastructure and thematic circuits are key to continued growth
With a plethora of exhibitors representing India at ITB Berlin 2017, the strength-in-numbers reflects the overall vigour of India’s tourism industry. Speaking to ITB Berlin News, Suman Billa, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Tourism, Government of India who is leading the country’s delegation, explained how international tourism has evolved in recent years
Foreign Tourist Arrivals to India are continuing their upward trend with arrivals in 2016 (8.89million, based on provisional figures) showing a 10.7% increase over the previous year, 8.03million in 2015. This makes India one of the fastest growing tourism economies in the world. Foreign Exchange earnings also increased by 15% last year. Germany continues to be in the top ten of the tourism generating countries for India.
More than 50% of your spending is on the development of tourism infrastructure. What are the most important recent developments in this respect?
Focusing on the development of tourist infrastructure, the ‘Swadesh Darshan’ – Integrated Development of Theme-Based Tourist Circuits Scheme – was launched in 2014- 15. Thirteen thematic circuits have been identified for Integrated development under this scheme (for example the Himalaya Circuit, the Desert Circuit, the Buddhist Circuit etc.) Recognising the fact that Pilgrimage Tourism is one of the major drivers of India’s domestic tourism sector, the ‘National Mission on Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual Augmentation Drive’ (PRASAD) was launched by the Ministry of Tourism in January 2015 for integrated development of pilgrimage tourist destinations. 51 projects worth INR.42.67billion have been sanctioned under the ‘Swadesh Darshan’ Scheme.
How is the e-tourist visa programme coming along, and what have been its results so far?
India enabled the e-tourist visa system in November 2014 with a few countries and now the facility is available to citizens of 161 countries. Also, the scope of the visa has been expanded to include visits for business, medical and cruise purposes, with the validity of the e-visas extended to 60 days and for two entries. The fact that more and more tourists are preferring to make use of the e-visa scheme means that more than one million visitors availed themselves of the e-visa in 2016.
IN INDIA WE EMBRACE THE PRINCIPLES OF ‘VASUDHAIVA KUTUMBAKAM’ (THE WORLD IS ONE FAMILY) AND THE ‘ATITHI DEVO BHAVA’ (GUEST IS GOD)
What actions are you taking this year to help the travel trade better sell your destination?
The policies of the Government of India under the leadership of Shri Narendra Modi, the Honourable Prime Minister, are designed to make it easier to do business with India and in India. The Ministry of Tourism is also committed to following this policy. Accordingly, we have taken proactive steps to ease travel to India including with the new e-visa policy and also steps like the Incredible India Infoline which is a toll-free number (from within India) to help with information and also to help travellers visiting the country.
What new things can we see at your stand at ITB Berlin?
The large participation under the Incredible India booth will have variety of products to offer. The India Pavilion showcases the varied and beautiful architectural traditions of India. The visitors can also have a unique Virtual Reality experience of travel to India. A colourful cultural programme is planned to take place and the popular Navratri and Holi festivals will be celebrated at the India pavilion. A highlight of the programme on the public days will be Indian singing stars Lovely and Monty performing their song “Wenn Du” for the first time to the public in a new Incredible India version. The show, which will also showcase Bollywood dance, can be seen on Saturday at 2pm.
What is your message to the world’s travel agents and tour operators present at ITB Berlin?
Our message to all the travel industry friends is that in India we embrace the principles of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ (The World is one Family) and the ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’ (Guest is God) – both from the ancient Sanskrit – and that we are ready to welcome all visitors with open arms