“Tourism can be the game changer for India, owing to the country’s diversity,” said B Venkatesham, Secretary, Youth Advancement, Tourism & Culture Department, Government of Telangana. Speaking at the 9th Elets Knowledge Exchange, Goa held on May 11-12, 2019, Venkatesham stressed on the challenges of the tourism sector in India.
While moderating and speaking at the panel discussion on the theme ‘Leaders’ Panel on the Future of Governance in India’, Venkatesham talked about how a major part of the tourism sector is still untapped and how it can be addressed.
Dearth of international tourists despite resources
According to Venkatesham, one of the major drawbacks of the tourism sector is the low number of international tourists visiting India. Sharing some statistics, he said, “We are a land blessed with snow as well as sea. Still, the number of tourists visiting India is the lowest, which is approximately 11 million in year. On the other hand, smaller countries like Singapore or Hong Kong have a much higher tourist footfall. If we can have even 50 million foreign tourists in the country spending at least Rs 1 lakh, India would have much higher funds in the tourism sector along with fame in the world tourism sector.”
He further states the primary reason is the negative image portrayed by the foreign national tourists owing to the unpleasant experiences faced in the country such as harassment, over pricing of goods and services as compared to Indian customers, lack of cleanliness and hygiene among others.
Talking about the problems related to the infrastructure, Venkatesham said, “In a country of such huge landmass, we only have around 100 airports. On the other hand, a country like Brazil has 14,000 airports. Only 0.5 percent Indian population is travelling by air today. We have less than 75,000 hotel rooms which have three to seven stars across the country. Once these issues are sorted, there would be improvement in economy through tourism sector.”
Allocation of higher budget amount basic way to address the issue
While discussing the ways to solve the above mentioned issues, Venkatesham mentioned that there has to be policy level changes, for which the Government must allocate a higher budget. “The first step of addressing the challenge has to come from the Government of India by allocating a higher budget amount. The tourism sector receives around Rs 1500 crore in the centre out of Rs 22 lakh crore total budget. At the state government, the amount is even lesser.”
He added, “This sector has the potential to offer maximum employment to people across skills and calibers. Unless a higher amount is invested for improving the infrastructure of the country and the specific demands of the sector are met, the potential of Tourism in India will remain untapped.”
Venkatesham ended the address by sharing the significance of travelling. He stated that tourism not only develops an individual but a country or a society as a whole. Sharing an example, he said, “We, as a country, must realise the significance of tourism. This not only helps us get rid of the fundamentalism but gives us ideas of development as well. For instance, the concept of urbanisation appeared during the Gupta dynasty and was spread across kingdoms by the travellers. Travelling makes our mind liberated and humble which further leads to progressive ideas.”