The year 2016 witnessed a surge in domestic tourism with increasing number of Indians opting for experiential holidays to unexplored domestic destinations. While Jammu and Kashmir saw a decline in tourist figures due to political unrest, the biggest gainers were Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Goa and Kerala.
According to P.P. Khanna, President, Association of Domestic Tour Operators of India (ADTOI), domestic tourism has done well in 2016. “Most of the popular tourist destinations have received good number of visitors during the year with an increase of around 16-17 per cent over the last year, except in Kashmir valley due to disturbances during the latter part of the year. We are very hopeful for 2017 as demonetisation shall compel tourists to travel within India,” he says. Rajan Sehgal, Director, Arrivals Air Services, and ChairmanNorthern Region, TAAI, adds, “Domestic tourism is the main source of income left for a travel agent and it was doing well despite the traffic to Jammu and Kashmir being affected due to the unrest from last few months.”
Tushar Jain, Director, Bulk Trip, informs that travellers showed more interest in the North East, Kerala, Leh and Ladakh, Ooty, Coorg, Mysore and Goa. “These destinations have a good potential to draw travellers including families and honeymooners. People also had frequent visits to metro cities for business purposes,” he says. Other popular destinations for domestic travel this year were cities like Jaipur, Jodhpur and Udaipur in Rajasthan; Shimla, Kulu, Nainital and Mussoorie in Himachal Pradesh; Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Agra, Jammu and Kashmir and Kochi.
“There are lots of hidden but amazing tourist destinations like the valley of flowers in Uttarakhand; Gwalior, Orchha, Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh; Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh and they need awareness. The state tourism boards play an important role in this aspect,” says Sehgal. Khanna adds, “Since Kashmir valley is not a preferred destination now among domestic tourists, Jammu and Kashmir is developing Jammu and its adjoining areas as a hot-spot destination for tourists. Ladakh is already very popular with domestic tourists and it may emerge as the next hot-spot destination provided connectivity improves. Apart from this, the Buddhist Circuit is also an emerging sector.”
The average budget of a domestic traveller fluctuates depending up on the mode of travel and choice of accommodation. Jain says, “The average budget of a domestic traveller is between ` 15000-` 20000 per person. Travellers mostly prefer to have a domestic package including accommodation, transport, meals and standard tours.” Sehgal points out that till October 2016, there were low budget to luxury travellers with average budget ranging from ` 3,000-` 25,000 per person per day.
A common trend — to explore the unexplored — holds true for domestic travel as well. Khanna says, “Demonetisation and the upcoming Budget 2017-18, coupled with GST for tourism sector, will hopefully bring in a smooth transition in our economy leading to optimism in travel trade and domestic tourism shall also register its normal growth of 10-15 per cent.”
Sehgal feels that in order to boost domestic tourism, better connectivity, reasonable hotel rates with good quality, check on airfares, tourist-friendly trains and other means of transport facilities and most importantly safety and cleanliness is needed urgently. Khanna points out that the Ministry of Tourism and state tourism boards need to work more closely with ADTOI when conducting roadshows and forge joint promotion committees to boost this segment of travel. “The government has to keep domestic tourism in the minimum slab of GST. State tourism boards also need to offer incentive schemes for domestic travel agents and conduct roadshows,” he adds.
Some unexplored domestic destinations are Uttarakhand, Gwalior, Orchha, Khajuraho, Ladakh, among others.