Infrastructure gains can boost Indian tourism

India’s tourism industry is growing fast as the middle class takes advantage of its spending power, but a senior travel executive has warned that the country’s infrastructure ne to improve if the sector is to fully exploit the available opportunities.

Deep Kalra, founder and chairman / group CEO of Indian travel company MakeMyTrip, addressed this topic at the recent India Digital Summit held in New Delhi.

“The notion of travel has changed in India,” he said. “It’s now about enjoying yourself, spending all your money on it, and of course, taking tons of pictures and sharing them with your friends is an accepted way to show-off.”

As a result, tourism is one of a few sectors that have consistently grown faster than GDP as a whole over the past few years. Last week, the Union Minister of State for Culture and Tourism reported that tourism was worth US$234bn in 2018 – a 19% year-on-year increase – with the bulk of that (87%) coming from domestic tourists.

“We are in a really blessed place right now,” said Kalra. “I don’t think we need to do much to grow.”

But there is a lot that can be done to channel that growth, he suggested, for both domestic and overseas tourists. (For more, read WARC’s report: MakeMyTrip embraces India’s tourism boom.)

“Because we have a shortage of rooms, hotel prices in India are pretty high, and that’s the reason so many people end up travelling overseas,” he argued. In-bound tourists, on the other hand, tend to be “bipolar” in that they either stay in five-star hotels or are backpackers.

More airports are required, he added, while the railway system ne an overhaul with new tracks and faster and better trains.

The recent Interim Union Budget offers some encouragement in this regard, with Rs 1448 crore earmarked for tourism infrastructure development.

“Allocation of these funds towards improvement of railway networks, roads and tourist destinations will help increase the economy driven by tourism,” Aloke Bajpai, CEO and co-founder of travel website ixigo, told Travel Daily.

Steps being taken to implement public wifi in railway stations across the country “creates immense opportunities for players like us”, he added.

Sourced from WARC, All India Radio, Travel Daily