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 Mr. 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.
In WTTC’s Economic Impact 2019 report, India’s Travel & Tourism GDP contribution grew by 4.9%, which was the third highest after China and Philippines. Additionally, the report also highlights that between 2014-2019, India witnessed the strongest growth in the number of jobs created (6.36 million), followed by China (5.47 million) and the Philippines (2.53 million).
The Ministry of Tourism has created a policy for development and promotion of caravan and caravan camping parks. On January 25, 2021, Union Tourism and Culture Minister Mr. Prahlad Singh Patel announced plan to develop an international-level infrastructure in Kargil (Ladakh) to promote adventure tourism and winter sports.
The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has introduced a new scheme called ‘All India Tourist Vehicles Authorisation and Permit Rules, 2021’, in which a tourist vehicle operator can register online for All India Tourist Authorisation/Permit. This permit will be issued within 30 days of submitting the application.
In 2020, the travel & tourism industry’s contribution to the GDP was US$ 121.9 billion; this is expected to reach US$ 512 billion by 2028. In India, the industry’s direct contribution to the GDP is expected to record an annual growth rate of 10.35% between 2019 and 2028.
In 2020, the Indian tourism sector accounted for 31.8 million jobs, which was 7.3% of the total employment in the country. By 2029, it is expected to account for about 53 million jobs. International Tourists arrival is expected to reach 30.5 billion by 2028. e-Visa facility was offered to 171 countries as of March 2021.
During 2019, foreign tourist arrivals (FTAs) in India stood at 10.89 million, achieving a growth rate of 3.20% y-o-y. During 2019, FEEs from tourism increased 4.8% y-o-y to Rs. 1,94,881 crore (US$ 29.96 billion). In 2019, arrivals through e-Tourist Visa increased by 23.6% y-o-y to 2.9 million. In 2020, FTAs decreased by 75.5% YoY to 2.68 million and arrivals through e-Tourist Visa (Jan-Nov) decreased by 67.2% YoY to 0.84 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 Ministry of Tourism launched the NIDHI portal to understand the geographical spread of the hospitality sector, its size, structure and existing capacity in the country. NIDHI will serve as a common data repository for the Ministry of Tourism, State Departments of Tourism and Industry; this will enable the Central and State Governments to deliver better support and services including policies and strategies for the tourism sector. As of December 31, 2020, 34,399 accommodation units have been registered on the portal.
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 1% share in world's international tourist arrivals by 2020 and 2% share by 2025.
Amid the relaxation provided by the government after the COVID lockdown, the Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO) has urged the government to finalise a roadmap for resumption of international flights and facilitate e-visas and tourist visas. The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) runs a series of Bharat Darshan tourist trains aimed at taking people to various pilgrimages across the country.
Subsequently in November end, India introduced a graded relaxation of its visa and travel restrictions for more categories of foreign nationals and Indian nationals.
Post the pandemic crisis, the government plans to tap into regional tourism by opening doors for South Asian country tourists.
The Government is also making serious efforts to boost investment in the tourism sector. In the hotel and tourism sector, 100% 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).
Government is planning to boost the tourism in India by leveraging on the lighthouses in the country. 71 lighthouses have been identified in India which will be developed as tourist spots. The lighthouses will feature museums, amphi-theatres, open air theatres, cafeterias, children’s parks, eco-friendly cottages and landscaping according to its capacity. India is often termed as the hotspot for bio-diversity and its rich natural heritage is unparalleled in many ways. As of December 2020, the country comprised ~104 national parks and 566 sanctuaries.
The Government of India also announced to develop 17 iconic tourist sites in India into world-class destinations as per Union Budget 2019-20. Ministry of Tourism launched DekhoApnaDesh webinar in April 2020 to provide information on the many destinations and the sheer depth and expanse of the culture and heritage of Incredible India. Until May 25, 2021, 86 webinars have been conducted under the series.
On November 4, 2020, the Union Minister of State (IC) for Tourism & Culture Mr. Prahlad Singh Patel inaugurated the “Tourist Facilitation Centre” facility constructed under the project “Development of Guruvayur, Kerala” (under the PRASHAD Scheme of the Ministry of Tourism).
In May 2021, the Union Minister of State (IC) for Tourism & Culture Mr. Prahlad Singh Patel participated in the G20 tourism ministers' meeting to collaborate with member countries in protecting tourism businesses, jobs and taking initiatives to frame policy guidelines to support the sustainable and resilient recovery of travel and tourism.
The Ministry of Tourism developed an initiative called SAATHI (System for Assessment, Awareness & Training for Hospitality Industry) by partnering with the Quality Council of India (QCI) in October 2020. The initiative will effectively implement guidelines/SOPs issued with reference to COVID-19 for safe operations of hotels, restaurants, B&Bs and other units.
Ministry of Tourism has introduced the Incredible India Tourist Facilitator (IITF) and Incredible India Tourist Guide (IITG) Certification Programme, aimed at creating an online learning platform of well-trained tourist facilitators and guides across the country. The IITF concept is aimed to promote micro-tourism, i.e., tourism in less explored areas of the country.
As per the Federation of Hotel & Restaurant Associations of India (FHRAI), in FY21, the Indian hotel industry has taken a hit of >Rs. 1.30 lakh crore (US$ 17.81 billion) in revenue due to impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.