Arvind Singh, Secretary, MOT, GoI, is optimistic about the growth of Indian tourism in the wake of G20. India will consolidate the gains from transportation and connectivity in infrastructure, growing economic power and marked improvement in the tourism framework in the country, he says.
Arvind Singh, Secretary, Ministry of Tourism (MOT), Government of India (GoI), in his address at the seminar organized by Foundation for Aviation & Sustainable Tourism (FAST), said that inbound tourism and hospitality sectors were the “worst hit” during the pandemic. “It wasn’t considered a lucrative sector. However, people are getting back into the sector and gaining confidence because they are seeing the numbers, and especially the domestic sector has revived strongly,” he said.
Infrastructure & tourism
Citing examples of how changing infrastructure is making destinations across the country tourist-friendly, he said, “In Varanasi, infrastructure development has resulted in 10 times increase in footfall compared to pre-COVID levels, according to statistics shared by the UP (Uttar Pradesh) government. Jammu & Kashmir has seen the highest ever footfall in 75 years of independence.”
He added, “Similar stories of booked hotels, booked flights and choc-a-bloc highways are coming from all centres, which are 4-5 hours from the metros. It’s very difficult to find accommodation at weekends.”
However, he said, international inbound travel has not revived much because of various reasons —the war in Europe, high international fares, and strength of flights not being up to the pre-COVID level. “That’s a dampener for international inbound, but I am sure with the numbers going up, industry booming, tailwinds to be provided by G20, and many steps being taken up, I am sure international inbound traffic will be back to pre-COVID numbers this year,” he said.
Singh mentioned that the Indian tourism sector has an unparalleled opportunity to share its success stories on a global stage with the G20 Presidency. “With 59 centres for 200 G20 meetings, India is the only country where many such locations are being used. This shows that we have the strength to host international conferences and conventions at these places. Already, 100 meetings out of 200 have taken place,” he explained.
MOT’s G20 events
He informed, “During the Presidency, we at MOT have planned to organize several events, engaging not only government stakeholders but also the travel trade and hospitality sector. We have already organized two G20 TWG meetings—at Rann of Kutch and Siliguri. The next TWG (Tourism Working Group) (TWG) meeting will be held in Srinagar in J&K. After that, we are hopeful that the G20 Tourism Ministers’ conference, which will be held in June, would focus on sustainable tourism to support the environment and create opportunities for local business. The two deliverables for the ministerial meeting would be the ministerial communique, which highlights the consensus of G20 nations about the future of recovery and revival of the tourism sector; and an additional mission – Travel for Life – in line with the Mission for Life that India started with the UN Secretary-General recently. Hence, we plan to promote green tourism, open 50 new tourism destinations and soon launch a publicity campaign in overseas markets during our presidency.”
The Kashmir TWG meeting will be held at Sher-e-Kashmir Convention Centre in Srinagar. Sharing details, he said, “We will do a side event on film tourism at Srinagar. Hence, we want to show India’s and Kashmir’s potential as film tourism destinations and we hope to get leading people from the film industry, practitioners, state governments to highlight their best practices in film policies. We will also take them for a technical excursion to Gulmarg the next day to show them the facilities. It will be a compact visit. It is a major international event that will happen in Srinagar, Kashmir for the first time.”
Numbers don’t lie
Singh shared that the travel and tourism sector in India generated 17.04 million jobs directly and indirectly in 2021-22 despite being a difficult year. “Hopefully in the future, the numbers will go up. Within the Asia-Pacific region, India is one of the countries, which has shown the fastest rebound. As per the WTTC report, travel and tourism GDP is set to grow globally at an average of 5.8 per cent annually between 2022 and 2032, outpacing the growth of the overall economy by 2.7 per cent,” he said, adding that, “The global economy will grow at almost half the rate of travel and tourism in the next 10 years and despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, we received 6.19 million foreign travellers in 2022. This growth rate was over 300 per cent because we had received only 1.52 million tourists in the previous year.”
Infrastructure is key
He said that infrastructure is driving tourism to a great extent. “We are aware that in the last few years, tourism development has been aided by the government’s incessant focus on enhancing rail, road and air connectivity to ensure that accessibility to tourism destinations is easy from all corners of the country. Connectivity to remote areas of the country, hilly regions, J&K, and the Northeast is happening,” he shared. “We have recommended 59 tourism air routes to the Ministry of Civil Aviation, of which 51 have already been operationalized under UDAN. We launched the Visit India Year 2023, which kicked off on 31 January. More than one lakh G20 foreign delegates will visit the country and witness the diversity of India’s culture, its monuments, and festivals,” he added.
Singh said that the Global Tourism Investors’ Summit (GTIS) 2023, scheduled to be held in New Delhi, is going to attract not only global investment but also investment from the domestic sector.
WTTC CEO Forum
He shared that MOT, in collaboration with the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), will organize the WTTC CEOs forum coinciding with the ministerial meeting in Goa on 21 June this year. “We expect about 100 Global CEOs to be there in Goa and discuss strategies with the G20 ministers to take tourism to the next level in all parts of the world, including India. Already, WTTC has confirmations from about 100 CEOs for attending the meeting,” he said.
Post-budget webinar result
When asked about the outcomes of the discussions at the post-Budget webinar conducted by MOT, he said, “It will form part of the national tourism policy and other action points that we will take place in the coming year. For example, work on the 50 new destinations will flow in this year and results will follow.”