Changing the face of Indian Tourism
Incredible India! The tagline of our Indian Tourism… Yes, Incredibly, Indian tourism offers a wide array of unique travel destinations, services, medical aides, and education. Historically, India boasts of an ancient culture that left behind exquisite monuments and temples, archaeological sites and an heirloom of artefacts. India is also endowed with natural beauties and unique features – right from the beaches to the majestic mountains and hill stations, from rainforests to scintillating deserts, from bird sanctuaries to natural reservoirs, – the list is endless. In spite of the beautifully conceptualized global advertising campaign about Incredible India, India still has a meagre 0.64% of the total tourist arrivals worldwide. It is evident that the culturally rich central theme “Atithi Devo Bhavah” coupled with our historical and natural resources is unable to make the most of the opportunity created by the world tourism industry.
According to UNWTO, over the past six decades, tourism has experienced continued expansion and diversification, becoming one of the largest and fastest-growing economic sectors, with the receipts of International tourism worldwide reaching to US$ 1159 billion in 2013. The business volume of tourism equals or even surpasses that of oil exports or automobiles. Tourism is a high potential industry the world over and there are several economies which are directly dependent on the tourism industry.’
Tourism in China has hugely expanded over the last few decades, making China the fourth most visited country in the world with over 56 million (5.1%) arrivals and a whopping business of a US$ 52 billion. China’s tourism strategy depicts a high sense of discipline and hygiene, and single-minded objective of a great tourists’ experience. Thailand is also amongst the top-10 tourism destination in the world. Thailand attributes its success to low unemployment rate (7th lowest in the world), 90% of population above poverty line, relatively developed economy and obviously its unique balance of city and nature experiences. Singapore alone has managed to attract 15.6 million international tourists bringing in massive receipts of US $ 18,953 Million in 2013. The critical success factor in Singapore Tourism is cleanliness, beautiful cityscape and tourist experiences, and visa policy. India on the other hand, despite its diversities and vast tourism resources, managed to receive only seven million tourists (0.64 %), which brought home US$ 18,397 million in 2013. Even with this miniscule share of the world tourism industry, tourism generates 6.6 % of India’s GDP and 32 million Indians are directly employed by this sector. The astonishing high value returns availed by our Asian counterparts just emphasize India’s opportunity loss. So where are we lagging?
The answer is in a simple yet very complex condition called, cleanliness. Lack of adequate sanitation and food safety leads to cross contamination which causes severe diseases. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that between 20 and 50% of international travellers suffer from diarrhoea, due to ingestion of contaminated (mostly faecal) food or water infected with E coli. India along with other developing nations is burdened with the stigma of causing diarrhoea to travellers, which is ironically called ‘Delhi-belly’. How can we expect international tourists to patronize India, without standard cleanliness and hygiene, neat atmosphere, safe food & water, and secure accommodation?
India needs to develop the facilities by revamping public utilities and keeping them clean, focusing on safe food & water, training cleaning staff and preserving the environment. This complex task needs to solve one more issue, which is creating a dignity and quality of life for the cleaning staff and their families. Training staff repeatedly on standards of cleaning & hygiene and application of chemicals can be very instrumental in motivating and providing them dignity. At the face value, this job may appear unreasonably complex. However, it can be executed at a nominal cost by adopting a partnering approach, especially between the users and the vendors; for example, between 5-star hotels and manufacturers of commercial cleaning solutions. The latter can regularly train the cleaning and kitchen staff of hotels with the intention of sustainability and objective of attaining optimum results from their cleaning solutions.
To make the ‘Clean India’ drive sustainable, we would also require interventions by experts of cleaning and hygiene industry at various levels to keep places frequented by tourists clean. Experts can be commissioned to conduct effective and regular interventions in terms of training and audits or assessments of public places & kitchens. Results of the assessments can be utilised to highlight and encourage best performers and set new standards.
Our Prime Minister’s target of complete sanitation in the next five years is aiming to change situation and behaviour of India. A significant investment in cleanliness, hygiene training, maintenance and human resource linked to Swach Bharat Abhiyan will certainly support the Incredible India Campaign. Not only this, it can be a direct influence on the medical tourism, increasing its scope even further.
The days are not too far when we will send off tourists with fond memories of a cleaner and welcoming India, adorned with cultural heritage, aesthetic artefacts, rich flora & fauna
and natural scenic beauties.