Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a strong pitch for domestic tourism in his Independence Day speech on Thursday, urging citizens to visit at least 15 local destinations by 2022.
This, he said he hoped, would raise the profile of domestic tourist attractions and encourage more foreign visitors to India. Sector executives welcomed the move but said government needed to lower taxes to encourage more domestic travel.
The prime minister's call comes against the backdrop of slow growth in foreign tourist arrivals. Foreign tourist arrivals grew 1.9 per cent in the first four months of 2019 after subdued growth in 2018. Between January and April, India received 3.93 million foreign tourists.
"I know people travel abroad for holidays, but can we think of visiting at least 15 tourist destinations across India before 2022," the PM said. He added that people should visit Indian destinations even if there were no hotels or infrastructure there, as these visits would lead to better facilities.
"Domestic tourism is growing and air connectivity has improved with the regional connectivity scheme, but the government needs to do more to support the sector. While the Prime Minister is for tourism growth, other departments do not seem to be aligned to his vision. We need to lower taxes on hotels and aviation turbine fuel. Companies are organising their conventions and events in Thailand instead of Goa or Kerala due to high taxes. We are creating jobs in other countries instead of India," said Subhash Goyal, chairman of Stic Travel Group.
Rajeev Kale, president and country head (Holidays), Thomas Cook India said domestic tourism will have a multiplier effect on job creation, skill development and boost allied sectors like aviation and hospitality.
The Tourism ministry is already working on a master plan to develop 17 iconic tourism sites. The plan was announced in union budget and covers infrastructure, operations and maintenance of sites and marketing.
"The massive investment of Rs 100 trillion in developing modern infrastructure, will drive both productivity and consumption, which is good news for the travel and tourism industry," said Deep Kalra, founder and group CEO of MakeMyTrip.
Kalra added that the company has recently partnered with Archaeological Survey of India to help make it convenient for travellers to plan and book their visit to over 116 ASI monuments and sites across India through an easy online booking process.
(with inputs from PTI)