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Incredible India embraces competition in the Middle East

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Hazel Heyer  May 08, 2008

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (eTN) - India is poised to receive more guests this year and is embracing competition today more than ever before, delegates at this year’s edition of the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) were told.

Last year, India received 5 million tourists (a conservative number as per tourism experts), indicating a 12.4 percent increase over 2006 and earned $11.62 billion from tourism. During the period 2002 to 2007 foreign tourist arrivals to the country have grown at a cumulative annual growth rate of 15.86 percent touching almost five million in 2007, an increase of 12.4 percent as compared to 2006. Foreign exchange earnings from tourism registered a cumulative annual growth rate of 30.97 percent during the same period with the figures for 2007 closing at US$11956 million an impressive increase of 33.8 percent over the previous year. Domestic tourism continues to show encouraging trends, with over 461 million domestic tourist visits during 2006.

More interestingly, foreign tourist arrival numbers from the Middle East registered an impressive growth of 16 percent in the year 2007. Some 172,389 foreign tourists visited India from the Middle East in 2007. The trend continues and the tourist arrival figures in the first quarter of 2008 already have shown double-digit growth over the corresponding period last year. “India has a healthy growth of inbound as well as outbound travel. Numbers indicate excellent business opportunities for both inbound and outbound tour operators as well as tour operators in the receiving countries,” said Indian Culture and Tourism Minister Sint Kanti Singh at her first appearance at the ATM, which was held in Dubai from May 6 to 8.

With the economic development taking place in the country and the resulting availability of greater disposable income, India is also emerging as one of the leading source markets, with a great potential for international destination to attract a growing number of Indian tourists. Outbound tourism from India is increasing steadily with 8.34 million Indian tourists traveling overseas in the year 2007.

Singh said wide infrastructure development of international brands is growing at a phenomenal rate. Owing to the fact that overseas investors are allowed to invest up to 100 percent equity on repatriation basis in hotel and tourism related products. “We are aiming to have world-class airport infrastructure to cater to 10 million foreign and 60 million domestic tourists by 2010,” she said.

Visa on arrival facility is being introduced at Indian ports, with long-term multiple entry tourist visas of five years approved for nationals of 18 countries, allowing them to stay for 90 days.

Singh added, “We are making all preparations to host the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in 2010. The event is expected to attract an additional 10,000 visitors and 9000-10,000 sportsmen from all over the world. Capacity of hotel accommodation is being augmented for which income tax holidays have been granted to 2- to 4- star category hotels in certain areas.”

No major breaches in security has occurred of late, besides a few isolated incidents, however to ensure safety and security the state governments are requested to deploy tourist police at all important tourist destinations, as well as tourist guides most of whom are multi-lingual.

Singh added, “They are ready to face the competition with the rest of the established destinations and emerging markets.”

Traffic has increased from the Gulf countries with 64,000 tourists coming in 2006. Growth from the Middle East experienced a growth of 16 percent in 2007. Shri E.K. Bharat Bhushan, joint secretary and financial adviser for India, said: “There are 172,389 tourists from the Middle East region, 27,000 from the Emirates alone – which shows growth in inbound from the region is high generating a surge in per capita income and national economy. MICE tourism netted $280 billion for the entire world; India’s share is $4.8 billion showing a large contribution to the whole.

With positive indicators such as a stable 8 to 9 percent annual growth, rising foreign exchange reserves, a booming capital market and rapid rise in FDI, India has emerged as one of the fastest growing major economies in the world.

As far as competing with China’s tourism industry is concerned, Bhushan said India and China have a healthy competition. However, he alluded to the WTTC report that mentioned India will be the leading tourism economy sooner rather than later.

Incredible India embraces competition in the Middle East
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