The Union Minister of State for Tourism, Alphons Kannanthanam, believes that with his ministry’s aggressive marketing campaigns, the number of foreign tourist arrivals and revenue generated from the same can be doubled over the next three years. Calling Indian tourism transformational, he appeals to everyone to visit the country to experience the various colours of life. Here is an extract from the interview:
In 2017, we received a total of 16.5 million tourists. Keeping the non-resident Indians aside, the number of foreign tourist arrivals (FTAs) was 10.1 million, registering a growth of 15.67 per cent over 2016. Thus we crossed the 10 million mark of FTAs. The forex earnings from foreign tourists in 2017 amounted to $27 billion or Rs 180,000 crore, registering a growth of 20.8 per cent over the previous year. Domestic tourism has also done well, registering a growth of about 15 per cent in 2017 over 2016. The tourism sector contributed seven per cent to India’s GDP and 14 per cent to the job market. Of all employed persons in India, 14 per cent are employed under the tourism sector which amounts to nearly 82 million. Over the last four years, the sector has created 14.92 million additional jobs. However, I am not happy with these figures. My target is to double the inflow of FTAs and revenue from tourism over the next three years.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been our biggest ambassador in promoting tourism and uplifting India’s reputation in the world. We are positing ourselves in the international market in a different light and flooding the market with innovative ideas regarding India through mainstream and social media. We are conducting roadshows in various markets like the US, Russia, China and Australia. China is the biggest outbound market with 144 million travellers every year. If India can get even 10 per cent of these tourists, it would be phenomenal. Thus we are planning to do major promotions in China.
Six 60-second promotional videos have been made in many languages to promote various themes of Indian tourism. Of these, four have been released in the overseas markets on yoga, wildlife, ayurveda and luxury. These videos have been massive hits with over 25 million views within 24 hours of their launch. The Indian embassies and high commissions abroad are also being involved in overseas marketing of tourism.
The Incredible India 2.0 campaign has been launched on a pilot basis in various markets and proved to be a success. The new website has innovative content and is more interactive and comprehensive. It will prove to be a valuable guide to all tourists. We are partnering with Google for virtual reality elements for the website. Soon, we are also going to launch our mobile App.
The Ministry has received funds to the tune of Rs 600 crore out of which Rs 453 crore have been set aside for overseas promotions and the rest are for marketing in India. With a focus on 15 themes of tourism, the Ministry has undertaken 67 projects with an outlay of Rs 6,537 crore under the Swadesh Darshan scheme. It has taken up 23 projects worth Rs 600 crore under the PRASAD scheme. The funds are being used to develop infrastructure at heritage sites and religious places besides developing eco-tourism and tribal tourism circuits. Nearly 30 of these projects are expected to be completed by the end of December and the rest shall be completed by March 2019.
The Ministry has identified 12 iconic sites based on the largest tourist footfall. State-of-the-art infrastructure will be developed at these sites. Currently, after consultation with the stakeholders at each of these sites, a consultant will be appointed and then these will be converted to projects and taken forward.
The “Adopt a Heritage” scheme is also a way to bring Indians closer to their heritage where they can adopt a monument and take up its upkeep and further development. Expression of Interest has been submitted by various NGOs, private players and individuals and the projects have taken off after a go-ahead from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The Northeast is an untapped region. Our aim is to take up at least two projects in each of the states in the region.
We are promoting the Buddhist Circuit in a big way. As part of this initiative, we will be hosting a Buddhist conclave in New Delhi from August 26 to 28. We will develop Sarnath as a hub for this circuit but to develop the complete circuit, we are in talks with the World Bank to finance the project, subject to the approval of the Finance Ministry. The Ministry is also investing funds in the Udan scheme to accelerate air connectivity to key destinations like Khajuraho, Aurangabad and Hampi. We are willing to fund the losses incurred if these routes do not show profit. We have also allocated Rs 100 crore to develop infrastructure for cruise tourism at Mumbai, Margao, Kochi and Chennai. Last year 139 ships called at Indian ports and 1,74,000 Indians went on cruise holidays. However, globally there are 26 million cruisers and this segment offers very high revenues. Our aim is to get more ships to home-berth at Indian ports.
Globally when tourism receipts are considered, the largest revenues are contributed by night tourism. Though the tourists visit the monuments in the day, the entrance fee from them is nominal. It is entertainment that generates big money. We need to create a safe and open environment where we can entertain the guests at night. These can include light and sound shows at monuments, cafes, pubs and restaurants that should be open throughout the night.
Photo: Alwin Singh