The President of India, Smt. Droupadi Murmu, recently shed a vibrant spotlight on the phenomenal strides that the tourism sector had taken in the last decade. With the government's rock-solid commitment to progress, she passionately highlighted the remarkable achievements, ground-breaking initiatives, and the audacious vision that shaped the future. As she celebrated the unprecedented surge in India's tourism, a powerhouse not just for exploration but a significant youth employment hub.
The driving forces behind this tourism whirlwind, as eloquently articulated by the President, were India's ascending global stature that has sparked worldwide curiosity. The magic ingredient? Enhanced connectivity, strategically woven through the construction of airports across the nation, acting as a pivotal catalyst. And the cherry on top? The enchanting regions of the North East, Andaman-Nicobar, and Lakshadweep, which were now witnessing an influx of travelers, setting records and creating travel tales that resonate globally. Buckle up for India's tourism odyssey!
President Murmu shed light on the government's emphasis on pilgrimage destinations and historical sites. Pilgrimage in India has become more accessible, and heritage tourism is capturing global interest. Astonishing numbers were shared, with millions visiting iconic sites like Kashi, Mahakaal, and Kedar Dham. She highlighted the unprecedented expansion of facilities at pilgrimage sites in every corner of India, uniting the East, West, North, and South in a cultural renaissance.
Madhavan Menon, Executive Chairman, Thomas Cook India Ltd., enthusiastically hailed the government’s initiative, “We welcome the special focus on Domestic Tourism which represents a vibrant growth driver via the government’s plan of long-term interest free loans to States; development of iconic tourism centres by States along with marketing on global standards. Noteworthy is the reference to Spiritual Tourism and projects for port connectivity, tourism infrastructure and amenities on islands including Lakshdweep – aimed at development of India’s hidden gems and employment opportunities.”
Expanding India's role as a global destination for meetings and exhibitions, President Murmu mentioned the creation of facilities like Bharat Mandapam and Yashobhoomi. The President envisioned tourism as a major source of employment in the near future.
Kush Kapoor, CEO, Roseate Hotels & Resorts elaborated, “”FM has underscored a strategic move to reshape India’s MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions) landscape by encouraging states to develop iconic tourist centers. The commitment to promoting these centers through long-term interest-free loans signifies a visionary approach, fostering a thriving ecosystem for local entrepreneurs. The recognition of G20 meetings as a showcase of India’s diversity is a powerful endorsement.”
The Interim Budget 2024, unveiled by the Finance Minister, brought forth key initiatives supporting the tourism sector's growth. The railway and aviation sectors took center stage, aligning with the broader vision for economic development. "Building of airports at various places is also advantageous. Now, Northeast is witnessing record tourist arrivals. Now there is heightened excitement about Andaman-Nicobar and Lakshadweep islands," President Murmu had said prior to the unveiling on the Budget 2024 yesterday.
Under the PM Gati Shakti initiative, three major economic railway corridor programs were unveiled to enhance logistics efficiency and reduce costs. These include energy, mineral, and cement corridors, port connectivity corridors, and high traffic density corridors. The conversion of 40,000 rail bogies to Vande Bharat standards was announced, marking a significant leap in rail travel standards.
"We are enthused by the government's optimistic emphasis on making significant investments in the nation's tourism industry," said William Hall, Vice-President of Marketing & Digital, RCI EMEA, APAC & India.
India's aviation sector also received a significant boost with the doubling of airports to 149, the addition of 517 new routes carrying 1.3 crore passengers, and orders for over 1000 new aircraft. The government's commitment to the comprehensive development of iconic tourist centers, a rating framework based on quality, and long-term interest-free loans for states align with the tourism sector's aspirations.
According to the ICRA report, the Budget focused on addressing some of the structural bottlenecks for the hospitality and tourism sector. It underlined the positive impact of the budget on air connectivity and tourism promotion. The emphasis on business and conference tourism, coupled with the recovery in domestic passenger traffic, reflected a promising outlook for the industry.
Vishal Suri, Managing Director, SOTC Travel Limited, explained, “The interim budget has maintained status-quo on direct and indirect taxes thus keeping its impact neutral. The government has set focus on the overall travel and tourism sector via infrastructure development, green energy, sustainability and looked at diverse initiatives for domestic tourism via a strategic approach for each segment - aviation, ports (waterways) and rail to strengthen regional connectivity to Tier II and III cities.”
Industry Voices Echo Optimism
"It is India first budget. A confident budget of a confident government that focuses on the objective of ensuring that India becomes a 5 trillion-dollar economy by 2025 and a developed nation by 2047.I commend the FM for her unwavering commitment to sabka saath, sabka vikas, sabka vishwas," enthused Ajay Singh, CMD, SpiceJet and President, ASSOCHAM. “I commend especially the increase in infrastructure spending that will have a multiplier effect on our economy. I commend the evident railway corridors, and the one lakh crore fund for research and development and the startup sector. The emphasis on clean energy, technology and digital infrastructure will make India a world leader.”
Industry leaders applauded the budget's focus on infrastructure spending, railway corridors, and startup sectors. The hospitality sector hailed the measures supporting demand upcycle, emphasizing the positive impact on hotel demand and the overall guest experience.
"Establishing a rating system based on the caliber of amenities and offerings will assist the hospitality industry in enhancing its services, and attracting more tourists," added Hall.
Leaders from various sectors, including Singh, Hall and Vishal Kamat, Executive Director, Kamat Hotels India Ltd, echoed their optimism about the budget's potential to position India as a global leader.
"The recent budget announcement brings positive news for the tourism and hospitality sector," said Somesh Agarwal, Chairman and MD, Radisson Blu Palace Resort & Spa, Udaipur.
The budget's recognition of challenges posed by over-tourism and its initiatives towards responsible tourism were applauded. Industry players like Radisson Blu Palace Resort & Spa emphasized the importance of balancing development with the preservation of cultural and spiritual integrity. “The development of iconic tourist spots is expected to contribute significantly to the local economy by drawing in visitors, creating job opportunities, and promoting business expansion. This will have a positive impact on numerous local economies. Additionally, the initiative is anticipated to result in enhancements to infrastructure, transportation, and various amenities, providing benefits to both tourists and local residents. An increase in tourism provides opportunities for cultural exchange. Visitors will engage with local customs, traditions, and arts, fostering a mutual understanding and appreciation of cities,” he added.
The Interim Budget 2024 emerged as a transformative milestone for India's tourism sector. From railways to aviation, pilgrimage to heritage, the budget has unveiled a roadmap for a decade of growth, employment, and global prominence in the tourism arena. As the nation embarks on this exciting journey, it's evident that the synergies between government initiatives and industry dynamism will chart a course towards India's emergence as a tourism powerhouse.