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Potential for the travel and tourism industry in India is enormous. However, at the same time, the industry faces numerous challenges, of which the most critical is lack of proper infrastructure.

Challenges

Various challenges/issues faced by the domestic travel and tourism industry in India:

Lack of proper infrastructure

Infrastructure needs for the travel and tourism industry range from physical infrastructure such as ports of entry to modes of transport to urban infrastructure such as access roads, electricity, water supply, sewerage and telecommunication. The sectors related to the travel and tourism industry include airlines, surface transport, accommodation (hotels), and infrastructure and facilitation systems, among others.

Access and connectivity

To harness India’s tourism potential, several efforts are being taken for opening new destinations and exploring niche segments. However, infrastructure facilities such as air, rail, road connectivity, and hospitality services at these destinations and the connecting cities are inadequate. This remains a major hurdle for development of tourism. Roadways form a vital network in the tourist industry with almost 70% tourists in India travelling by road. Moreover, many tourist circuits depend on roads. Despite numerous efforts to improve road infrastructure, connectivity remains a major problem. There is a greater need for strengthened road and rail network, development of more expressways, and tourist-specific routes to improve connectivity to various locations across different regions.

Aviation infrastructure is also critical since it is a major mode of entry for inbound tourism. Passenger traffic is expected to increase in the coming years; however infrastructure facilities at airports are cause for concern. Expansion and development of airports at major gateway cities is underway to cater to the increasing passenger traffic. However, in addition, airport facilities at important secondary cities and tourist destinations also need to be improved to be able to handle greater passenger traffic.

Amenities

Amenities available at various tourist locations and en route need to be improved. These include basic amenities such as drinking water, well maintained and clean waiting rooms and toilets, first aid and wayside amenities (to meet the requirement of the tourists travelling to tourist destinations) such as lounge, cafeteria, and parking facilities, among others.

India scores poorly in terms of availability of these infrastructure facilities. Inadequate infrastructure facilities affect inbound tourism and also could lead to an increase in the outflow of domestic tourists from India to other competitive neighboring countries. Hence, for the industry to register healthy growth, issues concerning all the related sectors need to be addressed.

Human resource

Availability of skilled manpower is a major challenge faced by the travel and tourism industry, one of the largest employment generators in the country. To sustain growth in the travel and tourism industry, trained manpower/ workforce is required at every level — managerial, supervisory, skilled or semi-skilled. Challenges faced at each level are different. At mid and senior management levels, the industry faces talent crunch and at the front-line staff level, although human resources are adequate, a boom in other service industries such as banking, retail, airline and BPO have resulted in shortage of manpower at this level for the travel and tourism industry. Thus, we have a demand-supply mismatch with respect to manpower in the travel & tourism and hospitality sector in India. A study conducted by Ministry of Tourism suggests that existing supply of human resources do not cater to even 40% of the demand. Thus, the industry has no alternative but to fill the void with untrained resources. Such a high proportion of untrained manpower would adversely affect quality of services offered to the tourists.

Attrition, shortage of tourism training infrastructure, qualified trainers, and lack of proper strategies and policies for human resource development also affect the industry. The industry needs to address these problems at the earliest.

Service level

In addition to tour operators and hotel staff, tourists interact with persons from different backgrounds, occupations and experience. Such people include staff at bus/railway station, immigration staff at airports, taxi/coach operators, ticketing/ travel agencies, small hotels, dhabas/roadside eateries, staff at heritage sites, and tour guides, among others. The degree of service offered by these various stakeholders has a significant impact on determining the tourist’s overall experience of India as a tourist destination. The government has taken initiatives to promote responsible tourism by sensitising key stakeholders of the tourism industry through training and orientation, to develop a sense of responsibility towards tourists and inspire confidence of foreign tourists in India as a preferred destination. One such major initiative is the “Atithi Devo Bhava” campaign. More such efforts are required to improve the degree of service across various operators.

Marketing and promotion

Marketing and promotion of India as a major tourist destination is critical for the industry to achieve its potential. Lack of adequate budgetary support for promotion and marketing, compared with competing tourist destinations, is a major reason for India lagging behind as a tourist destination. Marketing under the “Incredible India” campaign helped place India as a good tourist destination on the global tourism map. Indian tourism products are promoted primarily by the Ministry of Tourism with the involvement of state governments through the State Tourism Development Corporations. Newer tourism concepts, which include cruise tourism, adventure tourism, agri tourism or rural tourism, are emerging in India and these require support to develop and flourish. Hence, greater marketing push for these different products is required. To remain competitive in the fiercely competitive field, India needs to change its traditional marketing approach to a more competitive and modern approach. There is a need to develop a unique market position and the brand positioning statement should capture the essence of the country’s tourism products: i.e., they should be able to convey an image of the product to a potential customer.

Taxation

Travel and tourism in India is a high-taxed industry, which makes India expensive as a tourist destination. This is affecting the growth of the industry in India and India is losing out to other low-cost destinations. Inbound tourism is the one most affected. Various taxes are levied across the entire industry right from tour operators, transporters, airline industry to hotels and these include service tax, luxury tax, tax on transportation, tax on aviation turbine fuel (airline industry), and various taxes on transportation. In addition, these tax rates tend to vary across different states in the country.

Security

Security has been a major problem as well for growth of tourism for a number of years. Terrorist attacks or political unrest in different parts of the country have adversely affected sentiments of foreign tourists. Terror attacks at Mumbai in November 2008 dealt a strong blow to tourism in the country. The terror attacks raised concerns of safety. In addition, insurgency in different parts of the country also mars India’s image as a safe destination. Following the terror attacks in Mumbai, security at tourist spots, airports and hotels has been beefed up to regain confidence of tourists. However, the government needs to take a proactive approach in addressing these issues and in averting the potential impact on the industry.

Cyber crime is another major challenge the travel industry faces. Use of Internet in the travel and tourism industry has increased rapidly in recent years and has emerged as one of major segments for online spends. However, some of the biggest frauds have been detected in this segment and the issue of online security has assumed significant importance. While the online travel industry has registered robust growth, major concerns relating to security of online transactions persist. The industry needs to take measures to make the process of online bookings more secure and transparent and also needs to create awareness regarding this.

Regulatory issues

For inbound international tourists, visa procedures are seen as a hindrance. A number of countries competing with India for tourists provide visa on arrival. India should provide visa on arrival for more countries or for certain categories of tourists for a specific duration.

A number of projects in the tourism infrastructure segment and in the hotels industry are delayed due to non-attainment of licenses and approvals on time. The government recently cleared the long-standing proposal for single window clearance for hotel projects to hasten the process of infrastructure development. Implementation of this proposal would help development of tourism and hospitality infrastructure in the country. There is a greater need for speedier clearances and approvals for all projects related to the industry.

Opportunities

India’s size and massive natural, geographic, cultural and artistic diversity offers enormous opportunities for the travel and tourism industry. The promotion and aggressive marketing measures undertaken by the government is expected to aid influx of tourists. The industry would also benefit from introduction of new forms of tourism and development of niche segments.

Medical tourism in India has gained considerable popularity in recent years. India has a major cost advantage in this field compared with other countries. In addition to cost advantages, Indian healthcare industry offers state-of-theart equipment, technological advancement, qualified and experienced medical personnel and a blend of modern and traditional medicines. Thus, medical tourism has immense potential in India.

Opportunities also exist in ecotourism, adventure tourism, and cruise tourism. Eco-tourism is increasing in popularity, evident in the development of eco-friendly hotels and tour packages. With increasing environment awareness and consciousness among tourists and given efforts undertaken by the government and private players, the ecotourism segment is expected to record handsome growth in the coming years.

India holds immense potential in adventure and cruise tourism. India’s greatest adventure tourism assets are Himalayas and its mighty rivers. The peak period for adventure tourism is the “lean period” of cultural tourism. Development of adventure tourism can make India a round-the-year tourist destination. The cruise industry is one of the most promising industries in India. However, strong efforts need to be made to develop this industry. Other forms of tourism such as agri tourism, pilgrimage tourism, heritage tourism, and MICE tourism also hold enormous potential.

Prospects

Healthy economic growth recorded in past few years, especially in the services industry, has led to increase in business travel. Higher disposable income and affordability have increased domestic leisure travel in India. Foreign tourist arrivals in India have also grown. The industry’s performance was hit in 2009 due to the global economic slowdown, terror attacks in Mumbai (November 2008) and H1N1 virus. However, the industry has shown signs of recovery in the first half of 2010. This is a clear indicator that the long-term prospects for the Indian travel and tourism industry are bright. India is expected to witness increased tourist activity both in the business and leisure segments in the coming years. International inbound traffic is expected to grow rapidly with increasing investment and trade activity. India has been identified as one of the fastest-growing countries in terms of tourism demand.

The travel and tourism demand is expected to reach US$ 266.1 bn (` 14,601.7 bn) by 2019. During 2004–2009 travel and tourism demand in India increased at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16.4% to US$ 91.7 bn (` 4,412.7 bn) and foreign exchange earnings from tourism increased ~13% to US$ 11.39 bn.