Tourism is a high potential industry the world over and there are several economies which are totally based on the tourism industry for their survival. The amount of money involved and high value returns could be mindboggling but India has not been able to successfully develop an infrastructure conducive to the promotion of the tourism industry.
Hospitality and Tourism industry is still at infantile stage in our country with tourist arrival, in the global context, a meager 0.3% of the total tourists arrival worldwide. This meager input is inclusive of the visitors from neighboring countries, business travelers and friends, relatives on a visit to their homeland. If this percentage is discounted then we are left with barely nothing but looking at the other side, domestic tourism potential is enormous in volume.
This industry has long been misunderstood as big, glamorous and highly profitable, which is not quite correct. This is in actuality a highly capital and labour intensive industry where the gestation period is unusually long, totally dependent on facilities like connectivity, law and order situation, proper roads, air-connections, railway stations and other tourist favorable situations. Human Resource management plays a prominent role in this labour intensive industry.
The conversion of heritage buildings into hotels and adoption of monuments are the top priority scheme which has been taken up by the Tourism Ministry in the recent past. The move has been the saviour of several palatial buildings of former kings and nobles which were lying in a dilapidated state due to lack of fund and maintenance. The move has been made possible with the invitation to private sector enterprises to invest in these properties. This will not only restore the previous glory of these fabulous buildings but also be a big boost for tourism. Several of them have already been converted into resorts and five star hotels. The foreign tourists are attracted to these heritage buildings, where they can have the same ambience used by royalty, an experience to be treasured a life time.
The destinations which have attracted the maximum foreign and domestic tourists due to their uniqueness are monuments like Taj Mahal, Konark Temple, Varanasi Temples and Ghats, Sarnath, Bodh Goya, higher altitude locations and hill stations for their scenic beauty and skiing facilities, coastal beaches and islands. These are places which do not need any special efforts to attract tourists, what needs to be packaged is the rest of the country, its unique civilization and culture, its religion and teachings. This is a far more difficult proposition.
Some of the states have been comparatively more positive in their approaches than the others. States like Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Kashmir, Rajasthan and Kerala have been trying to enhanced further influx of tourists. The highway tourism of Haryanahas been quite fruitful. UP has several of these facilities, infact the maximum number of tourists have the Taj Mahal at Agra on their itenary. We have some quality hotels at Agra like the Amar Vilas and Jaypee Palace. The cities of Varanasi, Lucknow and Agra are well connected by rail, road and air. The Buddhist destinations attract tourists from Japans and other Oriental countries. Religion and monuments based centres are the cities which need to be developed on the lines of Shirdi and Tirupati. The country has several such places like the Prayag in Allahabad, Kali Mandir at Bihar, Calcutta, Jagannath Mandir at Puri, Orissa.
Unfortunately, the agencies which should advice tourists in foreign countries including our Embassies and High Commissions do not provide the necessary details on these spots. Infact important places, considered the holiest of holy, like Prayag of the famous Sangam and Kumbh Mela, Bharadwaj Muni Ashram, Naag Basuki Mandir, Anand Bhagwan, Khushro Bagh etc do not exist on the mans of foreign travel agencies. It is obvious that our efforts are lacking somewhere.
Ayurveda Therapy is the latest fad with foreigners. Getting treated permanently for ailments without the use of high concentration medicines by natural therapy is now being sought after by all. Yoga packages are now being included in several tourism packages. This included with Ayurveda holds a lot of promise for tourism in our country. The interest shown by foreign tourists in learning the nuances of Yoga is encouraging. The importance of Yoga and its utility in the present context is now a universal fact. Yoga with Ayurveda is special contribution of our culture inherited from our ancient scriptures. All foreign tourists who plan a tour of our country make these centres their favorite destinations.
All facilities and infrastructures need to be upgraded to international standards if we want a definite increase in the number of days spent by the tourists.
There is a steady growth in respect of Buddhism, worldwide and this is future being popularized by several international celebrities embracing the religion. Infrastructural development in the Buddhist sector has seen much improvement but there needs to be greater effort to tap the increased potential of the market in Japan, South East Asia, the Orient and now the Western countries. Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Nepal have joined hands in cooperative effort to promote their destinations.
Our national Airlines- Air India, Air India and our Embassies in foreign countries should work in tandem, to change the image of our country in the eyes of the prospective tourists in Western countries. Even today a major percentage of citizens in these developed countries have an image of our country, as a nation of naked fakirs, beggars, elephants and rope tricks. This is the projection made by their media, a distorted picture deliberately projected for certain biased reasons, reflecting their attitude.
The younger generation of these countries studying in universities must be invited in groups, to our visit our country and see for themselves, the Modern India with teeming metros, the latest facilities and a conscious effort at further improvement. These are the persons who can be provided discounted package, who will really appreciate our culture, our respect for elders, our traditions and our heredity. All this because, the fast moving life they lead, leaves no scope for the finer nuances of life. These are the people who will go back and the real picture of a developed country with cultural heritage, huge and aesthetic monuments and, truly natural scenic beauty.
We have to develop the facilities to impress them and leave them infatuated with a country which really welcomes them, a country which considers guests as their most revered visitors. But for all this we need to improve our public utilities and keep them immaculately clean. This is itself is a tall order but it needs to be done. Visitors to Singapore are impressed with this factor, the most. Spotlessly clean streets and sparkling facilities clearly depict a high sense of discipline and hygiene. We should put ourselves in the position of tourists. We would like to avail of accommodation and traveling facilities which give value for money, which have comfortable rooms and toilet, warm and cold water running, fresh linen and food and neat atmosphere. This is the general norm in the developed countries, and how can we expect to make them our regular visitors without this level of cleanliness and hygiene.
The inglorious projections which our country receives abroad is primarily for lack of these facilities. The tourist who want to tour the country by road is faced with pot holes and shabbily maintained ones. The road leading to Varanasi Airport is the best possible example of this in 2002. Together with this add the problem of beggars, every where it is the give and give more ! Shopkeepers who are out to fleece treble or four times at the glimpse of a fair or yellow skin. Total lack of ethics: Where is the world famous culture of ours, which goes out guests feel at home? Unless there is a change of attitude not be able to cross the turnover beyond decimal point.