It is no wonder that though our country is richly endowed historically and geographically, and a fortune is spent in trying to ‘sell’ it, the returns that accrue are not proportionately satisfactory. It is not enough for India to be the land of the Taj Mahal or the gateway to the Himalayas or the home of the Royal Bengal Tiger; it has first to be a country that is physically and psychologically comfortable to be in.
In the interim, whatever can be done to improve the prospects of tourism within the existing framework, should be done. Infrastructure should be upgraded, visa formalities streamlined, and congestion at airports eased. New possibilities for attracting tourists should be explored.
For example, it is well-known that westerners are generally extremely sports-minded. India has traditional sports like kabaddi, kho-kho, and kite-flying which are novel and exciting and, if promoted imaginatively, could give the foreign tourist a memorable experience that cannot be replicated anywhere else in the world.
The upper crust of Indian society may prefer to spend their holidays in London or New York, but the middle class will be happy to tour and visit the amazing diversity within the country. They may not be rolling in the stuff, but their numerical strength will more than offset that disadvantage. So let us lay out the red carpet for them. How this can best be done is for the professionals to put their heads together and decide.
In spite of terrorism being an international problem, India is perceived as a more likely terrorist target than many other countries. Regardless of this, travellers will want to travel. All they require is the knowledge that their security is in safe hands.
The fate of Indian tourism is not solely dependent on ministries, organisations and agencies directly linked with it, but are positively or negatively affected by how the nation functions as a whole. In the context of terrorism, for instance, it is important for travellers to have trust and confidence in the country’s security services. Once that is established, it should substantially help revive the oncoming tourist flow.
Revenue is vital to most Endeavour’s, but it is not the last word. One could launch an aggressive campaign on the merits of travelling in India, but as things stand, it would have to be cloaked in omissions, half-truths, and exaggerations, and though it may well work initially, in the long run it is bound to boomerang and harm the very cause that it set out to support. We therefore need to go about the matter with a little more discretion, on the lines I have already suggested.