The coronavirus pandemic has impacted every sector, but perhaps, the travel, tourism and hospitality sectors have been most affected. Which is why, with the proper compliances, safety and sanitisation measures, and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for responsible reopening being issued, these sectors should now resume. The time for recovery is around the corner.
In his Independence Day speech last year, Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi emphasised the importance of making India a global hub for tourism, urging each citizen to visit 15 tourist destinations in India by 2022. With an inward focus on travel, we must convert this into an opportunity and advance our domestic tourism and hospitality sectors.
Travel, tourism, and hospitality have an immense multiplier effect on the economy. These are sectors that can exponentially create jobs, and India needs high-quality job creation now. Travel and tourism has employed more than 42 million people in India or accounted approximately for 8.1% of the total employment opportunities. Last year, it contributed 9.3% to India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and received 5.9% of total investments. It can accelerate the path to 9-10% annual growth and add millions of high-quality jobs each year. This is necessary, given that 72% of India’s population is below 32 years, and the average age is 29. Tourism is the perfect fit for the future generation.
India is ranked third in the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC)’s Travel and Tourism Power Ranking, which assesses 185 countries on the basis of four key sector ingredients: Total travel and tourism GDP, foreign visitor spending, domestic spending, and travel and tourism capital investment. India is now ranked behind only China and the United States (US). The World Economic Forum conducts a biennial study across 14 vital parameters, and India has improved by 12 places over the last two years, now ranking 40th out of 136 countries in terms of travel and tourism competitiveness.
This is encouraging and makes the sector an essential cog to the New India growth story. The sector is relatively untapped. An added aspect of the travel and tourism sector is that not only does the sector provide high-quality jobs and countless synergies, it also enhances investment into India, accelerates development, and showcases India’s unique treasures.
Systematic tourism promotion campaigns will be important in the near future. There are two that I have helmed, which brought the spotlight on India’s attraction for tourists. Incredible India and God’s Own Country blended potential with awareness, allowing Indian entrepreneurs, global entities, domestic and foreign tourists, and the government machinery to work together and accelerate growth in the sector. A domestic-focused Incredible India 2.0 that showcases what the nation offers to Indians could be the post-pandemic plan for the sector. India, after all, has amazing diversity, from 38 Unesco World Heritage sites to the Himalayas to pristine beaches, and plenty of other natural assets. Besides that, India’s achievement in tiger population conservation has led to a rise in the tiger population to 2,967 in 2018 from 2,226 in 2014. This is an increase of 741 tigers or nearly 25%, making India home to around 70% of the world’s tiger population.