Tourism is the world’s largest industry, bigger than iron and steel industry or electronics or auto industries. According to an estimate the international tourism exceeded 663 million people in 1999 costing about 455 billion U.S. dollar and provided employment to about 200 million people which is about 10% of the total work force of the world. In the year 2005 figure of the arrival world over was about 808 million with India’s share of 3.92 million foreign tourists, barely 0.49% of the world figure although India has been ranked as the 4th most favored country in the world for holidays. In India tourism is the third largest foreign exchange earner after garments, gems and jewllery. Foreign exchange earnings from tourism in the year 2005 were up to the extent of 5.73 billion U.S. dollars.
As a result of “Incredible India Campaigns” the arrival of foreign tourists increased from 3457477 in 2004 to 4429915 in 2006 accompanied by an increase in foreign exchange earnings from Rs. 21,603 crore in 2004 to 29603 crore in 2006. During the month of January 2007 some 5,14,453 foreign tourists visited India. The common wealth games are scheduled to be held in India in 2010 and tourism industry is all set to harvest the benefit of the occasion. Several schemes are in hand to lure both domestic and foreign tourists who include “Incredible India” and “Atithi Devo Bhov” which are contributing a lot to encourage tourism and attract tourists to India. In order to build tourist infrastructure an amount of Rs. 423 crore of the previous year. In addition to this Rs. 150 crore have been allotted to the Ministery of Youth Affairs and Sports as also a sum of Rs.350 crore to Delhi. Government for Common Wealth Games 2010. There is a provision of Rs.50 crore for the Common Wealth Youth Games to be held in pune in 2008.
To build up the infrastructure of Tourism Industry fifty projects with an estimated cost of 298 million U.S. dollars have been market out. These include the construction of new grade separators, fly-over, bridges and improvement of the linking roads. Additional hotel sites are being proposed and the agencies involved therein have been advised to follow investor friendly land policies and single window approach to encourage hotel projects. Land owing agencies such as Railways, Deptt. Of Civil Aviation, D.D.A. and Ministry of Urban Development are the agencies taking interest in promoting hotel project.
There are about 12, 00,000 hotel rooms in the country out of which only 80,000 are of star category. It is estimated that nearly 60, ooo more hotel rooms shall be required within the next two or three years to meet the increasing demand of the foreign visitors. On an average a foreign tourist stays for about a month in India because of vast tourist potentials. The Tourism Ministry has proposed to create a Land Bank for building hotels in public-private partnership. The railways have also decided to utilize their land for hotels to set up 100 hotels across the country within next two years. The New National Tourism Policy is motivated by the mythological concept “Atithi Devo Bhav” and revolves round a framework – Government-led, private sector driven and community welfare oriented. The Tenth Plan approach to the sector aimed at ensuring that that the tourist to India gets “physically invigorated, mentally rejuvenated, culturally enriched, spiritually elevated and feel India within him.
Government of India is very keen for the development of tourist infrastructure in the North Eastern Region in view of the immense tourist potential prevailing thereon. The rich natural beauty, serenity and exotic flora and fauna in the eight states of the region are invaluable resources for the development of tourism. The Ministry for Tourism has taken a number of steps including the setting up of a full fledge institute of Hotel Management and Catering Technology in Shillong and opening up of a chapter of a Chapter of Institute of Tourism and Travel Management at Guwahati.
Tourist may be motivated to undertake tours either according to their personal likings or for some specific purpose such as research studies or enquires but mostly these are aimed at personal recreation by sight seeing and the like. By far, the most important type is Ecotourism which may be defined as a tour to natural areas that conserve the environment and lead to the welfare of the local people. In India we have 98 National Parks such as Corbett, Bandhavgarh and Ranthambore, 492 Wild life sanctuaries e.g. Bharatpur, Gir and Sarika, Exsit Conservation Areas which include Biological gardens and Zoological parks, coral reefs found in Remeshwaram, Andaman and Nicobars and Lakshwadeep, Biosphere reserves such as Nilgiris, Nanda Devi and Gulf of Manar and Deserts like Thar in Rajasthan and Cold deserts of Ladakh.
Rural tourism is a new concept in India but in Europe and other parts of the world it has been practiced since long as people want their children to have first hand knowledge and experience of rural life. Countries having agriculture economy e.g. Australia, Canada and the USA have Housing tourist spots in country side. Rural tourism may include heritage tourism, Farm tourism, pilgrim tourism, adventure tourism, nature tourism or folkways and ancient culture tourism. Specific potential areas for rural tourism is India may be Gujrat, backwater of Keral, The Pubjabi cuisine, The Hills of U.P., Shanti Niketan in West Bangal, dances and Folk songs of Orissa, The Nithyagram of Karnataka, The tribals of Bihar, Natural beauty of Meghalaya, folk dances of Andhra Pradesh, Teej festival of Rajstan, mask dances of Sikkim, the Holi of Nandagaon Barsana.
Crafts and Culture of the Indian villages not only helps the tourism industry but also creates rural entrepreneurship and economic growth. There are a number of areas identified by the government for the indigenous Tourism Projects across the country as tourist spots such as Pochampalli in Nalgonda and Shrikalahaste in Chitor district in Andhra Pradesh, Durgapur in Golahat and Sualkuchi in Kamrup district of Assam, Nepura in Nalanda district in Bihar.
The village destinations are market based known for their rich tradition, crafts and culture. Some states are taking their own initiatives to promote rural tourism, their main objective being to generate employment opportunities. It is estimated that one million of tourists create a revenue of Rs. 4300 crore and one million of additional investment provides 47 direct job opportunities and one direct job opportunity creates another 11 indirect jobs.
Historical monuments like Taj Mahal of Agra, Red Fort of Delhi and many others have their own attraction and these have been attracting tourists since long. Religious monuments and temples, mosques and churches, Gurdwaras, Budhist establishment and Jain temples are no less fascinating for the tourists. Seats of ancient culture and civilization and pieces of art like caves of Ajanta and Ellora, khajuraho temples, Nalanda and Takshshila are places of deep interest. The natural beauty of Kashmir valley and the Shikaras of Dull lake attract people from all over the world. Then the more recent ones like Rajghat and Shantivan in Delhi are a must for the foreign official and unofficial visitors. Cities like Varanasi have their own importance from all points of view- historical, cultural and religious.
Above all, the Tourism Ministry is set to tap the great potential of attraction tourists visiting India. Mrs. Ambika soni, the Tourism and Culture Minister, govt. of India speaking at the India Health Conclave 2007 had underlined the need for promoting “Incredible India” Campaign through medical visas special meant for medical tourists visiting India. She disclosed that Government of India was offering a number of packages to encourage and attract medical tourists to pay a return visit. Nearly 1, 50, 000 medical tourists to had visited Indian in 2006. According to her, keeping in view the 2010 common wealth games and 2014 Afro-Asian Games it is most opportune time to set boom to the Tourism Industry. According to an estimate medical Tourism may be safely estimated to bring 333 million dollars which can be go up to 2 billion dollars by the year 2012 as a result of inflow of foreign tourists.
All out efforts must be made for development of tourism industry all over the country as there is hardly any state which does not possess some or the other site for the tourists. This is very necessary for the rapid development of our developing economy as the industry has great potential for generating employment at all levels, skilled and unskilled alike and is mainly directed towards earning foreign exchange, an urgent need of the day.