Tourism Growth depends on Infrastructure Development
In a country rich with history and culture, the biggest single area of improvement for travel and tourism is infrastructure. Talking to Shubhra Saini, the Minister of State for Tourism (Independent Charge), K.J. Alphons expressed that improved connectivity can enhance India’s tourism sector in a major way.
The lack of basic infrastructure in the smaller cities and towns has led to an imbalance in the tourist flow to a handful of popular tourist spots. Apart from road, rail and air connectivity local real estate development such as accommodation, restaurants, convention centres and shopping plazasform a major part of tourism infrastructure of a place. Even residential real estate market picks up in some of the non-conventional realty markets because of the employment opportunities created by the hospitality and tourism industry. The case in point is small towns like Neemrana, Udaipur, Jodhpur, Alwar, where local economy benefitted because of their tourism potential.
Sadly, there are some states which are yet to take tourism seriously and understand its impact on the economic growth of the region. The Tourism Ministry can be a facilitator, but the initiative has to come from the state governments.
We have a shortage of around 200,000 hotel rooms in various categories. One of the problems in urban areas is the shortage of land and the cost of land. Madhaya Pradesh has come up with a lucrative policy, where land is given at a long term lease at a much lower upfront cost to enable the private player to develop the required hospitalityinfrastructure. The lease money is received over a period of time and in phases but the model helps generated income through employment, taxation and impetus to local farmers, horticulture, small traders and other local raw material suppliers.
Another important aspect is to put in place sufficient regulations for service providers. On my visit to KulluManali, I witnessed paragliding and rafting operators coaxing the tourists for a ride. But how many of them are licensed to do that is what local tourism authorities are required to keep a check on. Kerala is one state in India, which provides best of the amenities for tourists, Rajasthan has also picked up well recently. What we need today across India is the “Ethics of Tourism” in the DNA of every Indian and self-regulation among tourism industry stakeholders.
Building Resources & Capabilities
It has been the endeavour of the Ministry of Tourism to put in place a system of training and professional education capable of generating manpower to meet the needs of the tourism and hospitality industry. As of now, there are 29 Institutes of Hotel Management (IHMs), comprising 21 Central IHMs and 8 State IHMs, and 5 Food Craft Institutes (FCIs), which have come up with the support of the Ministry.
We are also taking steps to address the lack of trained guides and heritage tour guides and under the scheme for capacity building of service providers are imparting professional training including language courses in Korean, Mandarin etc. We are also asking the state governments to create special tourist police cell. These policemen need to know multiple languages or should have an interpreter with them. Also they should be given soft skills training to deal with international tourists in the right and effective manner.
The Ministry is proactively promoting Cruise tourism in states like Mumbai, Goa, Kochi and Chennaiand have asked the finance ministry to completely exempt cruise tourism from the ambit of GST. We also want international cruises to start from India, as the home port.
The private sector collaboration is a crucial aspect in the steady growth of tourism sector. Additionally, integration of Swachh Bharat Mission towards developing civic and modern tourism amenities across heritage sites will propel the Indian tourism sector. The Union Budget 2018focus on strengthening infrastructure, improving connectivity and rural development will give the further boost to the sector.