India, a country with a rich heritage and culture faces a numerous challenges in assessing the country's tourism potential as a sustainable development tool to fuel the economic and social growth. Travel and tourism\'s effect on the financial and social advancement of a nation can be huge; paving the way for business and trade, creating an abundance of opportunities for employments and entrepreneurship. Tourism is a window to showcase one's culture to the world while preserving its heritage. Globally, tourism has flourished into one of the fastest growing industry, securing fourth place in the growing economy, with the ability to shape the developing nations while the impact can be in both positive and negative ways. India with its rich heritage and culture has huge potential to be one of the significant contributors to the Indian economy, adding to a substantial extent of the National Income and producing immense business openings. The Macmillan Dictionary defines tourism as the business of providing services for people who are travelling for their holiday (“Home”) The first planned pre independence efforts towards promoting tourism in India were made in 1945, a committee under the Chairmanship of Sir John Sargent, then an Educational Adviser to the Government of India. Though the development of tourism was part of Five year plan there was no much economic growth from tourism. The Sixth Plan marked the beginning of a new era when tourism began to be considered as a major instrument for national integration , social and economic development and international understanding (“Home”). First Prime minister of India post-independence, Pandit Jawharlal Nehru often remarked, “Welcome a tourist and send back a friend”. That was the essence of India's approach to tourism ( Khan 57). As the Government of India made their attempt to promote tourism, India with its rich history of many rulers and dynasties ruling different parts of India had contributed to the India's rich heritage. They had built various rich palaces, enchanting gardens, tombs, grand forts and temples of various architectures displaying unparalleled craftsmanship of the people of the bygone ages. India, as a composite culture with a diverse geographical locales rich in heritage and culture, is a delight to tourists. As the trade and commerce developed so did the dimensions of tourism. The Spice trade and the silk route trade were instrumental in opening up the India's richness in terms of wealth, culture and nature to the world , which was the first official tourism to India. With the cultural heritage and natural scenic beauty, the railways established by East India company during the pre-independence, in addition to the modernization of the ports, development, of hill stations added to the growth of the Indian tourism industry in the 19th and early parts of the 20th century. Actual growth of tourism was witnessed only after 80's of the post-independence era. One reason that the Indian government should pay more attention to tourism is that it one of the major contributor to the Indian economy. The travel and tourism as a service industry contributed a total of 124.8 Billion USD in India in 2015 which is about 6.23% to the national GDP, while providing 23.5 million jobs in that year. In 2015, India witnessed a 8.03 million international tourist arrivals and 562 million domestic tourism visits. According to World Travel and Tourism Council India has a potential opportunity to increase to US$275.5 billion by 2018 at a 9.4% annual growth rate in the tourism industry. The government of India in 2002 launched a marketing campaign in the name of IncredibleIndia (styled as Incredıble!ndıa) to develop and promote tourism in India for the audience of the global appeal (“ Statistics of India Tourism”) India, being a home for one of the Seven Wonders of the World, presents medical, business ,rural and sports tourism along with the cultural and heritage Tourisms. India Tourism, with so many threshold looming opportunities is impacted by hurdles like poor infrastructure, poor transportation and poor connectivity to the tourist destination, lapses in Tourists security and safety, lack of basic hygiene at the service areas, lack of aggressive marketing and poor maintenance of heritage sites. Crime and Security Some may raise concerns about Indian tourism because of the issues related to security. With too many recent crimes against women especially the Nirbhaya incident stained the reputation of India and the India tourism. There has been several instances where the foreign women travelers have been harassed, or raped and murdered have come to international tourists attention. With these incidents in the international radar many women around the world consider India as unsafe place to travel. In 2015, China and Japan have issued travel warnings for female travelers not to travel to India, even as a group, unless it is absolutely necessary. The 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks was a big blow to Indian tourism industry. Jammu and Kashmir known as the ‘Paradise of Earth' and North East of India known for its scenic beauty has been cutoff for tourists due to insurgency for almost a decade. While the situations are returning to normalcy the tourists are still bringing forth the question of safety and security. With some of the countries issuing the travel advisories against the country, the tight security measures at the tourists spots, airports and hotels have to be beefed up to regain the confidence of the international travelers. A new legislation was passed by Parliament , after the Nirbhaya incident in March 2013 further protecting women against sexual violence. The legislation criminalizes stalking, voyeurism, and sexual harassment, and imposes the death penalty on repeat offenders and for rape attacks that lead to the victim\'s death. The Union Tourism Ministry is intending to introduce \"tourist cards\" to ensure the safety of international guests. The card would help local authorities keep track of the movements of foreign tourists to ensuring e their safety and also check them from indulging in any unlawful activities. In addition , the card, which would act as an identification document, will bear finger-impressions and a photograph of the tourist, who would not have to carry his or her fear passport everywhere during the stay in the country. The card would also enable tourists to avail special discounts and other facilities in India (“Feature”). Infrastructure, Transport and connectivity Another biggest concern raised by the tourists are around the infrastructure, the traffic , and connectivity to the tourist's final destination. It is needless to say that development in Infrastructure holds the key to success for any industry and the economy as a whole. For a better success of a India tourism infrastructure has a vital role to play. As per the TTCI rankings of 2011 , out of 139 countries , India's Air transport infrastructure and the ground transport Infrastructure secured 39th and 43rd position respectively. The mobile tele density of India is 74.15% and that of the world is 86%. Poor Roads , no proper hotel for tourists are major concern for international tourists. According to TTCI report of 2011, India is ranked 8th out of 139 countries with its natural resources as it is blessed with vast natural resources ranging from Himalayas, Ganges, Western ghats, Kerala backwaters and Thar desert in Rajasthan. But this blessing has yet to be optimally utilized as India is lacking on the grounds of tourism infrastructure (89th out of 139 as per TTCI report 2011). Lack of integration between domestic and international tourism, lack of coordination between modes of transport and communication is eating up people's time and money, unproductively. Success of tourism depends to a large extent on better access to infrastructure, with a consumer centric approach. Under the new National Tourism Policy some of the initiatives to promote better infrastructure and connectivity are Development/upgradation of passenger terminals at important airports, Improvement of road connectivity leading to tourist sites/destinations. Use of clean energy sources for street lighting, repair and refuel facilities, external infrastructure such as water supply, sewage, drainage, Wayside amenities with emergency vehicle breakdown, electricity and roads, Helipads, heliports, airstrips, ropeways, First-aid centers, Communication system, Mobile Services with better Internet Connectivity and Hotspots for Wi-Fi. Cleanliness and hygiene in the tourist places is another major concern for government of India to worry about. India tourism lacks basic hygiene in some of the tourist places like water, food and toilets. However Government of India launched a Major cleanliness campaign under the Swachh Bharat movement for protecting and preserving the sanctity of monuments of national heritage. The tourism ministry has also launched a special e-poster with Prime Minister\'s message requesting the tourists and the people of the nation to wholeheartedly engage themselves in the cleanliness of their surroundings and help create a Swachh Bharat, Swachh Smarak. Some of the marketing initiatives that tourism department of India are addressing are by providing adequate facilities at tourist sites like good environment, tourism information, etc. While tourism is an economy booster, it can also causes some unwanted changes in the social and political climate. At times, tourism leads to the destruction of the social fabric of a community. Due to the culture differences between the tourists and the local communities, there is always a tension that exists. Flow of tourists to ecologically sensitive areas could result in destruction of rare and rare species due to trampling, killing, disturbance of breeding habitats. However, when you deeply analyze the role of tourism , it caters a lot of benefits to the host community which includes a betters means of transports, health care facilities, sports center, better economy growth with job opportunities in addition to preserving several places which are of historical importance by declaring them as heritage sites A traditional tourism is definitely a booster to economic growth but a major breakthrough in the international tourism, is the alternative tourism, a new option for India too. This includes health tourism, Rural tourism (in the vintage of global village!), sports and games tourism etc. Kerala, ‘the land of gods own country' has done a very creative thinking by creating “monsoon tourism”. Monsoon tourism is really a rich and attractive avenue that not only helps reduce seasonality of tourism but also ensure optimum use of tourist facilities and services. India with its rich gamut of vast rural and urban areas has some illuminating challenges. One of the alternate tourism is the medical tourism which offers cost effective treatments with best medical facilities which is substantially low compared to the treatments offered in developed countries. Besides personalized nursing care, India's scenic beauty is a plus to the medical tourism to rejuvenate. India is great example of blend of east and west when it comes to medicine with the integration of modern medicine with the traditional medical concepts Ayurveda, Unani and Homeopathy with complimentary therapies like Yoga, Acupuncture and Aroma therapies progress the process of healing. Tour operators are now offering attractive packages in collaboration with city hospitals for a perfect health vacation. Thus the land of nirvana becomes the favored place for medical treatment. In the alternate tourism, one of the fastest growing tourism is rural tourism. India has 7 million villages, where 74% country's population reside making it a goldmine for rural tourism. The development of a strong platform around the concept of Rural Tourism is useful for a country like India. When it comes to diversity there are ample proof to suggest that what Indian villages can offer would be second to none in terms of uniqueness and the resulting experience. Rural tourism initiatives in India are connecting the present to the past, making history, culture, tradition and craft relevant in a contemporary context (Singh 253). Tourism is emerging as leading sector in the world economy. In India traditional tourism along with the alternate tourism needs to be promoted extensively so that tourism can preserve and sustain the diversity of the country's natural and cultural environments. Tourism being a multidimensional service industry should continue working with partners in state and central government and private sectors to make India tourism, a world class experience in the tourism industry.
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