Domestic tourism has emerged as the driving force for recovery of the sector across the globe. The scenario in India is no different. Most of the leisure destinations across the country have started witnessing some sort of momentum. To further harness the ‘REAL’ potential of the hidden gems in India, the Union Ministry of Tourism, all state tourism ministries and private stakeholders are now focusing on segments like health & wellness tourism, medical tourism, adventure and rural tourism amongst others in a sustainable manner. The Ministry has already circulated Draft National Strategy & Roadmap for Development of Rural Tourism, MICE, Sustainable Tourism and Medical and Wellness Tourism.
To further stimulate the domestic market, the Ministry has recently revised Guidelines for Scheme of Market Development Assistance (MDA). With policies in place, not only can the destination attract domestic tourists, but also create a base to target the inbound market when tourism is back on track. To take a deeper dive into the current status of Domestic tourism, an e-conference during SATTE GenX titled, ‘India Tourism: Adding New Dimensions’ was organised by T3.
Moderated by E M Najeeb, Sr Vice President, IATO & Chairman, ATE Group of Companies, the e-conference witnessed eminent speakers from across the industry including Rupinder Brar, ADG, Ministry of Tourism; Dr. Venu V, Additional Chief Secretary of Higher Education and Tourism, Govt of Kerala; Subhash Goyal, Chairman, STIC Travel; PP Khanna, President, ADTOI brainstorming on these issues.
One of the major segments which India needs to capitalize on is the Adventure tourism segment. From vast coastlines to the Himalayas, India has an array of adventure to offer to the travellers.
Speaking about the potential Venu, said, “Eco-tourism and adventure tourism are the fastest growing segments in our tourism offerings. The adventure tourism market is close to US$ 700 Billion which is about 30 per cent of the total tourism economy in the world. In India as per reports our business is $ 190 million, which is a miniscule portion of the big, huge pie. We should be be right up there in this segment. We see a brilliant opportunity before us pre-covid we saw around 20-25 per cent domestic adventure tourism and 7-8 per cent international adventure tourism. Over the next 10 years, if we all put our efforts and synergise, the adventure tourism and the eco-tourism segments will offer us great footfall.”
One of the major hurdles in the current times have been the shortage of flights due to the pandemic restrictions. Costs of air tickets have ballooned due to the supply demand which is a deterrent for inbound and domestic tourism.
Sharing his views on the aviation sector, Goyal, said, “The aviation policy has to coordinate with the tourism policy. We need to open up our skies, we have air-services agreement with 105 countries and now only 28 countries are operating under the air-bubble agreement that also with hardly any flights. Today, over 60 countries have opened up to India and they are accepting both our vaccines, their tourists are allowed to come to India, but we are keeping our doors closed. This 2021 season is about to be over, but even if we announce now that we are opening up e-tourist visa and scheduling flights, October to march is the season, people will come back with a force. If this happens, within one yar we will reach the targets of 2019. This year there was a deficit of US$ 2.5 billion in our foreign exchange reserves, whereas in 2019 we earned approx. US$30 billion from tourism.”
The Ministry of Tourism, Govt. of India over the last 18 months have come up with new initiatives to boost demand for domestic tourism. MoT organised ‘Dekho Apna Desh’ webinar series to educate the travel trade segment.
Speaking about the initiatives Brar, said, “The opening of the skies is matter of concern for everyone and we are having constant meetings on the same. The intent is to open as soon as the rightest time with a regulated opening. For the ways for the industry to survive this pandemic was to create demands for domestic tourism. We started with implementing the protocols and introduced the SAATHI and NIDHI portals, introduced certification for the hospitality businesses. We also worked with the state governments o make sure the ease of travel between states. All these initiatives lead to a leap in domestic demand. Earlier we were letting the domestic market grow organically but can we look at it like a proper vertical in the times to come. We are also creating strong messaging for inbound travellers with offerings, thematic travel and unexplored locations.”
India has also grown over the years a medical tourism destination. The destination also needs to promote wellness tourism in the domestic market.
Khanna, added, “The domestic tourism has witnessed some momentum in the leisure destinations. India has a lot of potential which have not been explored. We should promote our hidden gems. The Ministry of Tourism has been working towards promoting India as a holistic tourism destination. We also need to create products to increase the length of stay of travellers. We have 40 UNESCO sites in India, but there is lack of infrastructure and connectivity is poor. We should also promote and exploit the potential of medical tourism in India. India is home to Ayurveda and Yoga, and we should showcase our wellness tourism products to the domestic market.”