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By 2020, Tourism in India could contribute Rs 8,50,000 crores to the GDP. (Source- WTTC).

In other words, every man, woman and child could become richer by Rs 7,000. India has yet to realise its full potential from tourism. The Travel and Tourism industry holds tremendous potential for India's economy. It can provide impetus to other industries, create millions of new jobs and generate enough wealth to help pay off the international debt. That is why we have included Tourism amongst the Core Sectors of the Indian Economy.

Incredible India !!

India is probably the only country that offers various categories of tourism. These include history tourism, adventure tourism, medical tourism (ayurveda and other forms of Indian medications), spiritual tourism, beach tourism (India has the longest coastline in the East) etc.

Explore India - choose the locales of your choice, and see what each state has to offer. Lose yourself in the wonder that is India. Meander through lands steeped in chivalry and pageantry that begin before recorded history. Explore modern cities that have grown organically from the roots of a multi-hued past. Make a pilgrimage to holy shrines that echo with tales of antiquity. Frolic on a vast array of golden beaches that dot an enviable coastline, washed by two seas and an ocean. Sport with adventure in style. Let the jungle lure you to a fascinating world at a diverse array of wildlife sanctuaries and national parks....... this is the wonder that is India.

India on the World Map

The Indian tourism industry has not had it so good since the early 1990s. Though the India economy had slowed, it was still growing faster than the rest of the world. In 2009, the country is seen rising 6.5 percent, compared to the world output, which is seen falling 0.4 percent.With Indian economy growing at around 7% per annum and rise in disposable incomes of Indians, an increasing number of people are going on holiday trips within the country and abroad resulting in the tourism industry growing wings.

It is fast turning into a volume game where an ever-burgeoning number of participants are pushing up revenues of industry players (hotels, tour operators, airlines, shipping lines, etc). Thus, the tourism sector is expected to perform very well in future and the industry offers an interesting investment opportunity for long-term investors.

The Indian tourism sector is seen generating $42.8 billion by 2017, a 42 percent surge from 2007, according to an industry research note by auditing and consulting firm Deloitte Touche.Despite the challenges being faced in terms of a slowing economy, sluggish demand and security concerns, the country was fighting back and tourism developments were taking place, it said."Although there will inevitably be some short- to medium-term set backs, the long-term outlook remains positive," it said."Despite the deepening world economic crisis, India's economy remains in decent shape and is still experiencing some of the strongest growth rates in the world," the Deloitte report said.

Despite the numerous problems, tourism industry was the second-largest foreign exchange earner for India. Realising the potential in India, international and domestic hotel chains were rushing to cash in on it.

According to the global authority for hotel real estate, Lodging Econometrics, there were 73,793 hotel rooms in the pipeline of which 11,207 were due to open in 2009 and 22,522 in 2010, it said.

International tourists account for a little over 5 million visitors, while domestic market is seen at more than 500 million.Limited infrastructure pose a constraint to the free flow of tourists, but the Indian government is addressing the issue through upgradation of existing airports and building new ones.

Medical tourism was poised for rapid development in the future and India is busy developing first-class facilities to attract this multi-billion dollar niche market.The government has already relaxed the criteria to receive a visa for medical tourism.

It is also considering other incentives such as offering air travel and accommodation for foreign tourists who visit India for the third time. It may also pick up the bill for tour operators promoting domestic and medical tourism and is mulling income tax exemption for hoteliers if they invest 50 percent of profits into infrastructure.

Tourist arrivals in the country slowed throughout 2008, after rising 13 percent year-on-year from 2005-2007, due to a slowdown in the main source markets for India, the U.S. and U.K., which account for more than 15 percent of all inbound tourists.

India : An Idea who’s time has come

Conde Nast ranked her amongst the top 10 tourist destinations. JBIC ranked her as the fifth most attractive investment destination. The World Social Forum, AdAsia, World Bamboo Congress, Commonwealth Games, Laureus World Sports Academy Global Submit, F1 alongwith some of the biggest expos and conferences of the world chose her to play host.

Presenting India to you Readers. The subcontinent to whose splendor, diversity and world-class facilities the world has finally woken up to. Away from threats, untouched by SARS and politically stable India is the flavor of the season. Take a fresh look at her flourishing economy (double digit growth in third quarter of 2003- 2004), geographically strategic location, faith fortified by major software firms to make it a global backup hub for software, the staggering figure of over 366 national/international level expos and about 100 congress already scheduled for leap year 2004 (of which over 50 in January alone), her forex reserves, her rising Sensex, rapidly growing consumer markets, presence of world's finest and choicest brands and the exceptional growth in interest from FIIs, to understand why India offers a feel good factor. Truly, India is one of the most exciting emerging markets in the world.

The Scene Till Now

Some major international events like 9/11, US-led war against terror and SARS hit the tourism industry over the past few years. Cutting down of routes by domestic airlines and increase in airfares last year also led to a fall in the movement of people in the country. The Mumbai terror attacks, targetting two premium hotels, also tarnished the country's reputation, drastically reducing hotel occupancy levels, and affecting year-end travel. The adverse travel advisories by many countries to their citizens too contributed to a significant slowdown in tourism in India.

There were other negatives too. Consider this- Expenses per night of stay for a tourist in India during the SE Asian currency crisis was $100 whereas it was around $35-40 in the SE Asian countries. This hurt Indian tourism. Though this discrepancy has come down, still there is some gap. Some of the reasons for this are high luxury and entertainment taxes and high landing charges applicable in Indian airports.

Costs are also high because tourism is a state subject. Each state separately spends on tourism and tourism related activities, whereas if these funds were spent in a cohesive manner by a nodal agency to showcase the entire country as one destination, the results would probably have been far more spectacular. Currently, the centre is only allocating finances for tourism projects. But the government is trying to convince states on the benefits of bringing tourism under the aegis of the Central government on to the concurrent subject on to the concurrent list.

Government Policy Initiatives

Keenly aware of the unfolding boom in the tourism industry, the government is lending a hand to the growth of the industry. In the Union Budget for 2003-04, government has extended infrastructure status to tourism, thus opening the doors to cheap, long-term funds to help finance tourism infrastructure.

Outlay for tourism for the Tenth Five Year Plan is Rs. 2900 Crore. For the financial year 2003-04 the outlay is Rs 325 crore. This is up sharply from Rs 150 crore allocated in the previous financial year. State governments such as Kerala lay a lot of stress on boosting tourism. The state has an outlay of Rs. 74.25 crore for the financial year 2003-04.

The Government of India has extended the benefits of Section 10(23G) of the Income Tax Act, 1961 to institutions financing hotels of three-star category and above. A top level executive of Travel Finance Corporation of India (TFCI) is all smiles as he says, "This has benefited TFCI as the company has a major part of its portfolio in the exempted category." And this smile is now strongly percolating down to all tourism industry players in the country.

The divestment of government’s stake in government run hotels is another step in the right direction. Professionals are increasingly stepping in to take over this service-oriented industry. Global best practices, cost cuts and service with a smile are fast turning a norm.

Going Forward- Destination India

India is now chalking up one of its strongest growth charts in a long time. As the Indian economy continues to open up in an effort to integrate with the world economy, benefits of doing business with and in India are increasing. With the results, hundreds of thousands of jobs are moving to the Indian shores from the West. This brings in its wake transit travelers, business travelers, business meets and holiday seekers.

This is resulting in greater room occupancies and average room revenues (ARRs) in the country. ARRs have moved up from Rs. 3200-3400 last year to Rs 4000-4200 this year. Room occupancy rates have shot up from 75-80% in 2002 to over 90% now. Infact, in Bangalore it is now estimated at 100%.

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