Recognising the double digit growth in Foreign Tourist Arrivals (FTAs) in 2016, Vinod Zutshi, Secretary – Tourism, Government of India said that 2016 is going to be a landmark year in the tourism history of India.
“We have grown faster than the world growth. We have been exceeding the growth rate of global tourism since last 4-5 years, and this year it has been phenomenal. Till November, we have achieved 10.4 per cent growth compared to 4.4 per cent growth in 2015 and we are going to achieve close to 11 per cent in 2016. The domestic tourism is booming. 2015 saw 1.43 billion Domestic Tourist Visit (DTV). This year we will touch 1.65 to 1.70 billion DTV. The growth rate is 17-18 per cent in DTV compared to 14-15 per cent earlier. Aviation is growing with 22 per cent and medical tourism is by 24 per cent,” Zutshi said at the 5th Update and Outlook Meeting of Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) India Chapter in New Delhi.
He spoke on the initiatives taken by the Ministry in 2016. “Today, we have 161 countries for e-Visas. All the expectations and desires raised at various forums by industry regarding e-Visa has almost been addressed. Now, the concept of eTV moved to eVisa. The validity for eVisa has now been extended to 60 days and travelers can apply 120 days in advance to visit India. eBiz visa is also going electronic,” he said. Moreover, film visa regime has also been streamlined. “New protocols have been approved by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA) in the previous cabinet meeting and the system has been rationalised and made friendlier. The movie business today has a wide reach and speaks volume about the destination. Better Film Visa norms will further give a big boost to India tourism by opening it to new source markets and strengthening the image of the country,” he added.
According to him, one of the achievements of the Ministry was launching of the helpline. “We launched the SMS led campaign and we got very healthy feedback. We started this campaign in middle of November last year. We received close to 3.5 crores SMS in 11 months. We were getting 1,000 queries and after launching the SMS campaign, queries have increased by four times,” he informed.
Talking on visibility of India as a destination, Zutshi said that ever since I joined, I have been listening from travel industry that we are out of sight and out of mind. “So, we gave a great emphasis on promotions. The marketing and promotional campaign we launched has been unprecedented in the last 4-5 years. We have global news channels BBC, Discovery, TMC, NGC, CNN and CNBC amongst others running Incredible India campaign. We are covering almost all the leading travel channel as well. We are also focusing on channels that are country-specific, in the UK, France, Australia, Russia, along with travel channels and digital media. We have not left any major digital platform on which we are not campaigning aggressively,” he said and added that the first round was started in October. “We are going to launch the 2nd round in January for six months. We have planned our campaign in such a manner so that there will be continuity irrespective of the budget requirements,” he revealed.
Elaborating further, he informed that the Ministry has also made a beginning, after a brief hiatus, into the domestic market. “We have picked up certain things. Presently, we are running Indian Heritage Trail Campaign involving 36 heritage monuments which will continue some more times. We are bringing some more creative which are very noble and unique. We are also going to pick up some more themes from across the country. We have already been picking up NE and J&K themes to our DD channel. We are on the spree of making more films. Discovery has made eight films for us each film covering a state from the North East. BBC is making five films for us on various themes like MICE, medical, adventure and wildlife,” he added.
While marketing and promotion was given a major push, the Ministry also gave similar impetus to the tourism related infrastructure development. “Over the last two years under Swadesh Darshan and PRASAD, we have sanctioned project worth Rs 4000 crs. All these projects are in pipeline. We have started sanctions for new projects. We are going to double spend in 2016 compared to last years. This is a year where we are going to spend the entire budget money; rather, we will spend Rs 100 cr more,” he said adding that the Tourism Investor Summit was very well received by investors. “It is going to be annual feature,” he said.
Speaking on other initiatives, he said that cruise tourism has been given a boost in 2016. “We brought out the roadmap for cruise tourism. The Board for medical tourism is functioning very well. We have set up a task force on Adventure Tourism in October, 2016 for resolving issues related to development and promotion of adventure tourism in the country. We addressed almost all pending issues of adventure tourism in last meeting. We are looking at hosting ATTA conference. We are also going to launch trains having glass coaches on Visakhapatnam to Araku Valley route in Andhra Pradesh and in Kashmir on Banihal-Baramulla circuit by March 2017,” he said.
He also said that current mechanism of counting foreign tourist arrivals does not account for NRI’s arrival. “We are looking at consulting UNWTO to include the NRIs arrival also in FTAs,” he said and added that the new Tourism Policy is on anvil and hoped that the policy see the light of the in this fiscal only.