With the government forecasting that revenues from the tourism sector will rise about seven-fold by 2047, a new policy aims at making India a sustainable, tourist-friendly destination through various green initiatives, skill development, and engaging with the private sector.
Top sources in the government said the tourism policy forecasts that the sector’s contribution will grow to $1 trillion by 2047 and the industry needs to prepare itself to make the sector sustainable.
“From $150 million currently, the industry is set to grow several times and the policy has a plan to keep the industry sustainable through various green initiatives as well as skill development and other initiatives,” a government official added.
When contacted, Tourism Secretary Arvind Singh said these aspects will require Cabinet approval. “There are various aspects in the tourism policy that have been discussed and it would require further approvals including from the Union Cabinet,” he told The Indian Express.
As part of the green initiative, hotels will also need to bring in changes to ensure that the impact on the environment is minimal, the official added.
The hospitality industry has welcomed the focus on sustainability. “The Indian tourism and hospitality industry has certainly become more conscious of the benefits of sustainable tourism in the post-Covid era. We work tirelessly to reduce our environmental impact by employing sustainable best practices in maintenance, services, water consumption, and using environmentally friendly products aiming for zero waste,” said Kush Kapoor, CEO of Roseate Hotels and Resorts.
Another government official said the sector would require training not only for people employed in the sector but also sensitizing the tourists.
“Even today, residents at a lot of tourism destinations have started to complain about filth and nuisances that some tourists create. We would not want to reach a level where these tourism destinations start to block tourists. This would also constitute sustainability that the policy talks about,” said another government official.
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Tourism industry says that sustainability will make the industry future-ready.
“Popular destinations such as Himachal, Leh- Ladakh and Uttarakhand are also concerned about preserving their local community, cultural fabric and the local biodiversity and ecosystems. Additionally, there is increasing demand for outdoor-adventure that promotes eco-tourism such as wildlife safaris, biking, camping, monsoon treks, water rafting, etc,” said Rajeev Kale, President HolidaysMICE, Visa at Thomas Cook (India) Limited.
“The pandemic has created a new found sensitivity around sustainability and sustainable tourism has become a need of the hour. Customers are displaying increased concern towards the environment and newer trends around sustainable and regenerative travel are now emerging,” said Daniel D’Souza, president-holidays at SOTC Travel.
The policy also talks about skill development and employment generation by the sector. “The other key component of the policy is to rope in people for creation of tourism infrastructure like homestays etc. Proposal also includes getting an MSME tag for the sector that would help fetch easier access to credit,” said one of the two officials quoted above .
As COVID shut the world for tourists, Indians traveled within the country, thus, benefiting the local tourism sector. However, inbound foreign tourists continue to elude India and the government’s offer of five lakh free tourist visas were also not fully subscribed.
As part of its help to the tourism sector, India had announced to issue 500,000 free tourist visas but only 300,000 were subscribed till the end of March this year – the deadline for the scheme.
“Post-COVID, India’s inbound tourists have mainly been driven by Indians coming to visit friends and family. The visa quota was not fully subscribed due to the COVID wave,” said one of the officials quoted above.