There is the Taj Mahal, the Nilgiri mountain ranges, the ruins of Hampi, the Konark Sun Temple, and many, many other tourist sites that dot nearly every kilometre of India’s majestic landscape.
And yet, curiously, India receives fewer foreign tourists than the tiny island of Macau. And fewer even than the city of Barcelona.
Wait a minute, something’s wrong.
Four of the world’s 35 biodiversity hotspots lie in India. It is also home to 37 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. And yet, not enough tourists are visiting India.
What’s going wrong?
Well, it’s a combination of factors that we have all come to know well -- the lack of adequate connectivity, not enough hotels available, the searing pollution, its reputation for being unsafe for women, the cumbersome visa process. You know the rest.
Some of these factors are obviously exaggerated and overplayed, but perception counts for a lot in these areas.
But perhaps the most concerning factor, and one that is not all that discussed, is the poor Indian attitude towards its cultural and heritage sites.
It wouldn’t be uncommon for the big-city folks in India to have London, Paris, New York and what not on their bucket lists, but not Assam or Odisha.
When the country itself doesn’t celebrate its culture, how can it expect others around the world to give it that privilege?
So what can India do? There is one state that is actually doing a good job on the tourism front -- Rajasthan. Tourism accounts for as much as over 15 per cent of the state GDP. Enterprising rural elites there have converted their ancestral homes into boutique hotels. The economic benefits, as a result, are accruing to rural households, who in turn get an incentive to preserve their heritage.
India can definitely take a leaf out of Rajasthan’s tourism book.
The idea is simple -- open the doors wide to tourists everywhere. Let them come in, and make it easier for them to do so. That will help boost India’s soft power and grow its economy even more.
And, in the process, if it can help generate enough revenue to lift millions out of poverty, who would complain?
Read this story from our April 2019 issue to know more: What Indian Tourism Is, And What Indian Tourism Can Be
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