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Improving infrastructure for tourism

The figures of foreign and domestic tourists in the country might reflect a growth in the tourism industry, but sadly, the situation is not all that bright. While the year 2008 recorded more than 920 million tourists all over the world, India attracted only 5.4 million i.e. less than 0.6% of the world figure. In the same year, the revenue generated from tourism amounted to about US$ 944 billion whereas India could procure only 1.24% of it. That explains why India stood at the 41st position globally in tourist arrivals. Why are we lagging behind? The reasons are many.

Lack and Misuse of Infrastructure: At most of the places of tourists attraction, the basic infrastructure is poor. Roads connecting the existing and potential tourist spots are in bad shape. Except a few isolated examples, tourism promotion is rarely considered an issue while planning and constructing the roads or providing infrastructure. Even on highways, traffic jams are quite common and the average speed of vehicles does not exceed 30/40km an hour. Various checkpoints and other factors increase the travel time further. Villages, towns and markets are right adjacent to the roads, obstructing them for travellers. During religious and other celebrations, tourists get trapped on roads and are unable to reach their destinations comfortably and on time. And with such experiences, they may not return. That might prove to be a deterrent to the development of tourism. Though there has been improvement in the conditions of vehicles in the metros and larger cities, in small places the vehicles are rickety, overcrowded, have torn seats, damaged windows, noisy engines which lead to severe discomfort for the traveller.

India boasts of the largest network of rail links in the world, but there are very few fast trains. There are problems of late running of trains lack of clean toilets, drinking water and hygienic food. The local passengers (who buy cheap monthly tickets) travel short distances on the long distance and express trains adding to the discomfort of the passengers with reserved seats and berths.

Despite being expensive, air travel is preferred by many because of the obvious conveniences. But frequent cancellations and delays in flights cause hardships for the air passengers too. It certainly affects the tourism industry.

Lack of administration and control: Except very high-end hotels and prominent guest houses other types of accommodations in the country are unsafe. Tourists or visitors, especially international tourists, lodging at such places are often exploited and are fleeced. That certainly is not a good sign for tourism growth.

General apathy towards outsiders: Right from the taxi operator, auto-rickshaw drivers, rickshaw-puller to service provider, shopkeeper and hotel owner try to exploit outsiders. Tourists are often asked double or triple the amount of the product they buy or service they seek. Even in Delhi, a taxi or auto-rickshaw driver does not carry passengers on metre charge basis. Recently, in some large cities, radio-taxis have been introduced, they are few and expensive. All these spell disaster to tourism.

Proper upkeep of tourist sites: Rarely our tourist sites are maintained properly. Often, garbage is dumped in the vicinity of the structures/monuments. Large numbers of squatters are found inside and around the sites. The shops and kiosks all around make it difficult to walk in these areas. Tourists, especially foreigners, are hounded by beggars. At religious sites, beggars and various ‘middlemen’ fleece the visitors in the name of organising religious rituals. Such problems scare tourists away.

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