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 recognized as a destination for spiritual tourism for domestic and international tourists. In his Independence speech from Red Fort, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged people to visit 15 domestic tourist destinations in India by 2022 to promote tourism. India ranked 34 in the Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2019 published by the World Economic Forum.
Total contribution by travel and tourism sector to India’s GDP is expected to increase from Rs 15.24 lakh crore (US$ 234.03 billion) in 2017 to Rs 32.05 lakh crore (US$ 492.21 billion) in 2028. Total earning from the sector in India is targeted to reach US$ 50 billion by 2022.
As of 2019, 4.2 crore jobs were created in the tourism sector in India, which was 8.1 per cent of the total employment in the country. International Tourists arrival is expected to reach 30.5 billion by 2028. e-Visa facility was offered to 169 countries as of December 2019.
During 2019, foreign tourist arrivals (FTAs) in India stood at 10.89 million, achieving a growth rate of 3.20 per cent y-o-y. During 2019, FEEs from tourism increased 4.8 per cent y-o-y to Rs 1,94,881 crore (US$ 29.96 billion). In 2019, arrivals through e-Tourist Visa increased by 23.6 per cent y-o-y to 2.9 million.
Under the Swadesh Darshan scheme, 77 projects have been sanctioned of worth Rs 6,035.70 crore (US$ 863.60 million). In Union Budget 2020-21, the Government has allotted Rs 1,200 crore (US$ 171.70 million) for the development of tourist circuits under Swadesh Darshan for Northeast.
The launch of several branding and marketing initiatives by the Government of India such as ‘Incredible India!’ and ‘Athiti Devo Bhava’ has 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. The Government is working to achieve one per cent share in world's international tourist arrivals by 2020 and two per cent share by 2025.
In October 2018, Statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, also known as ‘Statue of Unity’, was inaugurated as a tourist attraction. It is the tallest statue in the World standing at a height of 182 metres. It is expected to boost the tourism sector in the country and put India on the world tourism map. In February 2019, the visiting hours were increased by additional two hours and the place was equipped with E-bike tours. Over 29 lakh tourists visited the Statue of Unity since it was inaugurated, resulting in a revenue of Rs 82.51 crore (US$ 11.81 million).
The Government is also making serious efforts to boost investment in the tourism sector. In the hotel and tourism sector, 100 per cent FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) 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).
Hotel and Tourism sector received cumulative FDI inflow of US$ 15.28 billion between April 2000 and March 2020.
In Union Budget 2019-20, the Government introduced a Tax Refund for Tourists (TRT) scheme in line with countries like Singapore to encourage tourists to spend more in India and boost tourism. The Government of India also announced to develop 17 iconic tourist sites in India into world-class destinations as per Union Budget 2019-20.