NEW DELHI – Foreign tourists spend more time and money in India than its competing destinations like Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore.

Forex earnings of other Asian destinations (barring China) from tourists are lower than that of India even as India has been able to attract fewer number of tourists, according to tourism ministry data.

In 2007, around 5 million tourists arrived in India and spent nearly $11 billion, while Malaysia and Singapore could attract 20.2 million and 10.2 million foreigners respectively. Their foreign exchange earnings were $10.1 billion and $9.16 billion respectively, says an official data.

“We have always promoted the country as a destination of long stay. Foreign tourists, on an average, stay for 14-17 days in India as against 5-7 days in neighbouring countries,” a senior official in the tourism ministry said. India attracts the highest number of tourists from countries like the US, the UK, Bangladesh, Canada and France.

According to the tourism ministry data, about 8 lakh tourists from the US visited India in 2007, second only to the UK. Americans account nearly 15.72% of the total tourist arrivals.

Foreign tourist arrivals have grown in double digit in the last few months. In June this year, 3.44 lakh tourists arrived in India, up 11.1% over 3.10 lakh in the corresponding period the previous year.

The foreign exchange earnings in this lean month stood at Rs 3,174 crore. Industry sources believe that winter months are likely to see some increase in the foreign exchange revenues.

The Grand Group president & COO Farhat Jamal said, “India is a vast country and to be able to complete any circuit like south India, a tourist requires at least 4-5 days. In addition, hotel tariffs in India are higher than most of the other south-east Asian destinations.” As per industry estimates, Indian hotels are priced at least 40-50% higher, thanks to high real estate costs.

Added STIC Travels CEO Subhash Goyal, “As per industry estimates, the foreign tourist arrivals for 2008 would be up 13-14% compared to 2007. In addition, a tourist has to spend about 14 days, which entails higher spends.”