In an exclusive with ITB Berlin News, India’s Minister of State for Tourism, KJ Alphons, said that he country is experiencing a boom in domestic and international tourism, with 10.2 million visitors received in 2017, up 15.6% on 2016. We started by asking him more about India’s tourism industry in 2017.
India’s ranking in the World Economic Forum’s Travel and Tourism Competitive Index (TTCI) moved from 65th position in 2013 to 52nd position in 2015. In 2017, India has moved up by another 12 positions and is ranked at 40th position. In all, in last four years India has cumulatively improved its ranking by 25 places which is a significant achievement.
The e-visa facility is now gives entry through 24 airports as well as five seaports
How is the introduction of e-Visa affecting visitor number, and what are the next steps in easing entry for tourists?
The introduction of e-visa has been the biggest game changer for the Indian Tourism Industry. This was first introduced in November 2014 for 43 countries. We now have a more liberalised e-visa regime is in place. The window period for application under the e-visa scheme has been increased from 30 days to 120 days to allow tourists plan their trip better.
The stay duration has also been increased from 30 days to 60 days with double entry on e-tourist and e-business visas and triple entry on e-medical visas. This will bring cheer to citizens from 163 nations around the world planning to visit India.
The e-visa facility is now gives entry through 24 airports as well as five seaports (Cochin, Goa, Mangalore, Mumbai and Chennai) to tap cruise tourists from different countries. The requirement of doing bio-metric visas for cruise passengers in the five seaports has been deferred till 2020.
How is the Ministry of Tourism working to develop infrastructure?
The Ministry of Tourism is according priority for holistic development of tourism destinations into world class destinations using a cluster approach including development of infrastructure, amenities, interpretation centres and skill development by achieving synergy and convergence with other Central Ministries, State Governments and industry stakeholders. The Ministry of Tourism has recently launched the ‘Adopt A Heritage’ project. Heritage sites are being offered for adoption by the public sector, private sector and individuals to become ‘Monument Mitras’ for developing amenities and facilities at these sites under this programme.
The “National Mission on Pilgrimage and Spiritual, Heritage Augmentation Drive” (PRASHAD) has been launched by the Ministry of Tourism with the objective of holistic development of 25 pilgrimage and heritage destinations. The Ministry of Tourism is also in the process of taking up a proposal for the grant of infrastructure status to investment in the hotel industry of more than 500 million rupees (€6.3 million) and in towns with less than 500,000 population.
Which source markets are growing the fastest and which are the most interesting for you?
India is primarily a long haul destination for many of its source markets. The USA has been consistently growing. The growth trends are also evident from Europe. We see a lot of potential for growth from the ASEAN region considering the proximity of the ASEAN countries to India and also due the common shared cultures between India and ASEAN. Middle East, East Europe, Russia and CIS countries and Latin American countries are other areas where we propose to engage with in coming times.
How important is ITB Berlin as a global platform for India?
We see ITB Berlin as a platform to showcase the country’s tourism product to the global tourism fraternity. This is evident from the fact that India is taking a large space for the India Pavilion in which over 50 co-exhibitors comprising tour operators, hoteliers etc. from different parts of India will participate. Additionally, over 25 Indian stakeholders are participating with booking space outside the India Pavilion.
We will position India as a premium destination in all the growing segments, including religious, wellness tourism, adventure tourism, heritage sites and yoga.
The year 2018 is also the ‘Year of Adventure Tourism’ for India. We will project India as a year round “must visit, must re-revisit, destination. The tourism sector in India is growing at a good pace, we will capitalise on this trend and promote India aggressively at ITB Berlin.
Photo: Kj Alphons – India’s Minister of State for Tourism