India is a large market for travel and tourism. It offers a diverse portfolio of niche tourism products - cruises, adventure, medical, wellness, sports, MICE, eco-tourism, film, rural and religious tourism. India has been recognised as a destination for spiritual tourism for domestic and international tourists.
Total contribution by travel and tourism sector to India’s GDP is expected to increase from US$ 136.3 billion in 2015 to US$ 275.2 billion in 2025. Travel and tourism is the third largest foreign exchange earner for India. In 2014, the country managed foreign exchange earnings of USD 19.7 billion from tourism.
The launch of several branding and marketing initiatives by the Government of India such as Incredible India! and Athiti Devo Bhava have provided a focused impetus to growth. The Indian government has also released a fresh category of visa - the medical visa or M visa, to encourage medical tourism in the country. India is expected to receive nearly half a million medical tourists by 2015, implying an annual growth of 30 per cent. In November 2014, Government of India launched Tourist Visa on Arrival (TVoA) which is enabled by Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA), known as the e–Tourist Visa scheme for 43 countries. The facility is likely to enable 7.5 percent growth in the tourism sector in 2015.
The Government has also been making serious efforts to boost investments in tourism sector. In the hotel and tourism sector, 100 per cent FDI is allowed through the automatic route. A five-year tax holiday has been offered for 2, 3 and 4 star category hotels located around UNESCO World Heritage sites (except Delhi and Mumbai). The investment in tourism sector is expected to be US$ 12.4 billion in the 12th Five Year Plan; of these, private investments are likely to total US$ 9.2 billion.