Steadily gaining confidence, India has an appetite for boosting its international visitor numbers. Natalie Hami reports.
India does not disappoint. Home to a canvas of endless delights sure to stimulate the senses, a myriad of sounds, smells and sights pique the interest of global travellers wishing to uncover the treasures of this most eclectic destination.
For those set on immersing themselves in authentic Indian culture, director, Skyway International Travels, Mahalingaiah S Manu explained to TTG that there is a plethora of activities available.
“We are adding unique experiences for our customers when they travel with us. Some get to stay in farmhouses, home stays, [can enjoy] exclusive cultural shows or even dine in local clubs, attend a local marriage and visit famous yoga schools. We tailor these according to a guest’s needs,” he stated.
Meanwhile, those who are more inclined to active adventure can enjoy exploring the clear waters of the Andamans at Taj Exotica Resort and Spa, Andamans in the Bay of Bengal.
Area director – Bengal, Assam, Andamans, Bhutan and Nepal, and general manager – Taj Bengal, at Taj Group of Hotels, Manish Gupta told TTG that guests can indulge in deep sea fishing.
“The Andamans is a world-class destination for fishing and angling with an environmentally-friendly catch-and-release policy,” Gupta said. “With laid back to adrenaline-pumping itineraries for everyone, from passionate anglers to rookies, the crew at Taj Exotica Resort and Spa assists guests in setting-up fishing rods. Guests can learn the art of jigging and popping for red snappers, coral trout, swordfish and yellowfin tuna, among other fish, between Peel Island and Nicholson Island,” Gupta remarked.
A GRAND PLAN
Fully aware of India’s potential on the international tourism front, the destination’s industry heavyweights have been discussing a number of initiatives to ensure that it continues to climb the tourism ranks.
During the recent National Conference of Tourism Ministers in New Delhi, the Tourism Minister, Shri PrahladSingh Patel, urged for better coordination between the Centre and States to increase the number of tourists to India.
Highlighting the importance of perception, Patel noted that changing the perception of India in the mind of foreign tourists is paramount and will yield good results for the promotion of tourism. With that in mind, he asked the States to organise surveys in their respective regions to understand how foreign tourists perceive India and how to work to shed the destination of any negative impressions.
Patel added that stakeholders must make a concerted effort to realise the Prime Minister’s dream of doubling tourist figures, both foreign and domestic, over the next five years.
Chairman, Hotel and Restaurant Association of Odisha, Jitendra Kumar Mohanty reiterated a similar sentiment, explaining that the Odisha government is prioritising the challenges faced by the tourism industry.
“Odisha Tourism is formulating a master plan for attracting investment in the tourism destinations, while the new 2020 tourism policy will also attract many investors to take advantage of the abundant investment opportunities in the tourism sector.”
Meanwhile, India has moved up six places, from 40th to 34th position, in The Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2019, published by the World Economic Forum. India showed the greatest percentage improvement to its overall score, which has helped it become the only lower-middle income country in the top 35. However, the report stated that India still needs to enhance its enabling environment (98th), tourist service infrastructure (109th) and environmental sustainability (128th).
India’s steady steps to success have been spotted by numerous hotel groups, both local and global, that are eager to make their mark on the destination’s evolving tourism canvas.
One such global player is Hilton Hotels and Resorts, which is committed to India in the long-term and continues to grow both operational and management capabilities in the country.
Hilton India, country head and senior vice president, Navjit Ahluwalia told TTG: “We currently have a pipeline of 20 hotels in India and we aim to double our footprint over the next three to four years. We are strategically increasing our presence across key business centres and leisure destinations, and are aggressively pursuing opportunities to expand and bring world-class brands such as Waldorf to India.”
According to Ahluwalia, growth in the travel and tourism sector continues to be robust in India on the back of rising incomes and aspirations, which has triggered an opportunity for the tourism and hospitality sector to invest heavily in the region.
“Hilton is making significant investments in India as it continues to be a key strategic market for the business. We are focused on expanding our footprint, acquiring the right talent and signing off new hotels to scale our presence in the region,” Ahluwalia explained.
Meanwhile, hospitality giant, Marriott International, has announced its continued expansion plans in the Asia-Pacific region with its 2020 vision. Given India’s strong economy and rising middle-class, Marriott has its eye on the growing destination, expecting to reach over 30,000 rooms in India by the end of 2023.
Homegrown ITC Hotels is also gearing up to launch 3,000 rooms under its luxury WelComHotel brand over the next five years in Chennai, Corbett, Chail, Ahmedabad and Puri. The company also recently launched ITC Royal Bengal in Kolkata.
Finally, eager to bolster the destination’s luxury segment, in his capacity as chairman and managing director of Swosti Group, Mohanty told TTG that the hospitality and travel company is launching two beach resort projects, in Gopalpur on Sea and Puri. “We already have land at Puri and have acquired a patch of land at Gopalpur on Sea. Very soon Swosti Group will put up world-class luxury beach resorts at these places.”
In addition to beach resorts in Puri and Gopalpur, the company is also working on two leisure destination resorts at Satapada and Bhitarkanika, at a place called the Mini Amazon of India.