- India is one of the world’s oldest civilisations which offers a kaleidoscope of cultural experiences.
- Tourism has become one of the most important economic sectors in countries like India, producing significant national income and creating high employment opportunities. It has become the country’s fastest-growing service industry with excellent potential for expansion and diversification.
Tourism- A Catalyst to Economic Growth
- Under the Swadesh Darshan scheme, the Ministry of Tourism is developing thematic circuits in the country in a planned and prioritised manner. Under the scheme, 15 thematic circuits have been identified for development. It includes North-East Circuit, Buddhist Circuit, Himalayan Circuit, Coastal Circuit, Krishna Circuit, Desert Circuit, Tribal Circuit, Rural Circuit, etc.
- The Ministry of Tourism has also launched the PRASHAD scheme which focuses on developing and identifying pilgrimage sites across India for enriching the religious tourism experience.
- The Ministry also launched the “Adopt a Heritage Apni Dharohar Apni Pehchan” project which aims at ensuring quality & inclusive provision of amenities and facilities across heritage, natural, & tourist sites through active participation of private and public sector organizations and individuals. These organizations would be known as “Monument Mitras” for their collaboration initiative.
- The Ministry of Tourism has formulated a National Strategy and Roadmap for Development of Rural Tourism in the Country. The Strategy suggests identifying clusters of villages having high potential for tourism development in different parts of the country. The themes for rural tourism can include local crafts and cuisines, folk music, shows, dramas, agritourism, organic farming, yoga and meditation centres, lakes, etc.
- The Strategy is based on an overarching theme of sustainable and responsible tourism, which will be supported by six strategic pillars namely model policies and best practices for rural tourism, digital technologies for rural tourism, development of rural tourism clusters, marketing support for rural tourism, capacity building, Governance, and institutional support.
- Another significant milestone was the provision of e-Visas for nationals of 170 countries in five subcategories i.e. Tourist visas, e-Business visas, e-Medical visas, e-Medical Attendant visas, and e-Conference visas.
- Given Lakshadweep’s enormous ecotourism and fisheries potential, India can become a role model for ecotourism and sustainable fisheries without jeopardising the fragile and sensitive biodiversity of the region.
Importance of Tourism
- In addition to the economic benefits, tourism has promoted cultural interaction between Indian citizens and people of other countries and fostered regional cooperation. The sector has also played a pivotal role in enhancing India’s soft power.
- The tourism sector contributes immensely to foreign exchange reserves in the country and provides employment opportunities, both in the formal and informal sectors. The sector now contributes 4.7 percent to GDP, 7.3 percent to total employment, and 2.5 percent to total exports.
- The fact that the Services sector contributes 55 percent to the Indian economy, makes the tourism industry even more crucial for the country’s overall economic growth.
- Despite having a diverse culture and rich architectural heritage, India holds only a 1.2 percent share of the international tourism market.
- Countries like the UK and USA have only 34 and 24 World Heritage sites, respectively, but their foreign exchange earnings from Tourism are much higher than India, which has 40 World Heritage sites.
- Against this backdrop, India must adopt innovative approaches to boost and promote different tourism segments such as niche tourism, wellness tourism, adventure tourism, and spiritual tourism.
A Special Focus on Rural Tourism
- Over the past few decades, the country’s tourism industry has grown exponentially, but rural tourism has never been given full attention. Rural India, which is rich in arts, crafts, and culture, has the potential to become a tourist hotspot.
- The government needs to focus on handholding with states based on a few significant parameters in rural India for tourism development. It includes:
- Air/Rail/Road Connectivity
- Infrastructure development
- Identifying and linking heritage spots in the given destinations
- Facilities like signage in English and other foreign languages
- Tax issues – One India, one tax system for tourist vehicles, protects the tourists from facing multiple taxations
- Connectivity to promote local tourism products, arts, and crafts to a national and global audience
- Focus on digital media for promotional activities.
- Developing and promoting indigenous products through tourism can produce revenue and employment in rural regions and empower local communities, youth, and women, allowing Aatma Nirbhar Bharat to realise its mission.
- It will help reduce the migration from rural areas, prevent poverty and promote sustainable development.
- The government should acknowledge the importance of rural tourism in India and provide stakeholders with a sustainable environment.
- Professional training should be imparted to the eligible people with the aim of making them duly qualified and competent with the requisite professional skills and help them to take up jobs as heritage tour guides in the tourism industry.
- A certified guide license will further increase the credibility of a tourist guide in the eyes of the tourists, enhance the overall experience of tourists who visit the country, and generate employment opportunities in the tourism industry.
- Furthermore, the government should provide appropriate funding and cost-effective infrastructure to encourage the growth of rural tourism.
- Tourism in rural regions can only be maintained if a comprehensive, inclusive planning strategy based on a multi-action, multi stakeholder participatory approach is adopted and implemented.