Not so long ago India was the travel destination for hippies and people on a spiritual journey. Rebels of all sorts headed for one of the world’s most fascinating, colourful and varied countries while most of us flew to everyday destinations across Europe and luxurious resorts in the Caribbean and West Indies. But things are changing fast, and India is becoming the destination of choice for more British travellers every year.
The latest WEF Index reveals a boom in tourism to India
The latest World Economic Forum travel and tourism competitiveness index came out recently, revealing India up 12 places to 40th place out of 136 nations. It was the single biggest increase ever made by any country in the top 50, lending weight to the idea of an ‘Asian century’ of travel and tourism.
Since the year 2000 more of us visit India each year than ever before. The country saw 8.89 million tourists arrive in 2016 compared to just 2.65 million in 2000. It sounds like a lot of people, and it is, but when you compare it to, say France, with 84.5 million annual visitors, it’s clear India has a long way to go.
In 2015 India earned more than $23 billion from international tourism, compared to just $3.5 billion in the year 2000. It also looks like the average revenue per tourist is high at $2,610 compared to a European average of around $500, mostly because people who make the effort to fly as far as India tend to stay there for longer.
India still has tourist sector issues to solve
It’s certainly an amazing destination, exotic and unusual. And India is currently one of the most affordable travel destinations But travelling to India – and travelling around it once you’re there – also comes with disadvantages in the form of heavily bureaucratic visa regulations, poor travel infrastructure, bad sanitation, rickety law enforcement and valid concerns about the safety of female travellers. As a five-star tourist you’re protected from all this to a certain extent, but never completely.
At the same time, the profile of the people who visit India is changing. Foreign travel is no longer a luxury for wealthy Westerners alone. People from fast-emerging economies in Africa, Asia and the Middle East are joining the exodus, finally able to afford holidays in exotic long haul locations.
Where do India’s new tourists come from?
India currently receives the most visitors from the USA, closely followed by travellers from Bangladesh. Western Europe accounts for just over 23% of tourists and North America for just under 19%. South Asia is the biggie, sending just under a quarter of India’s total foreign holidaymakers. At the same time, the numbers of people visiting India from South-East Asia, East Asia and West Asia, Eastern Europe, Australasia, Africa, Central and South America are all increasing year on year.
Ringing the changes
The Indian government is, by all accounts, aware that they need to ring dramatic changes to provide the levels of quality, comfort and safety that most foreign tourists expect. It is already simplifying the country’s horribly complex visa rules, a move which is expected to result in another dramatic tourist boom.
In the meantime if you’re planning a holiday to India, bear in mind it is still, in many places, relatively primitive with facilities to match. Good travel insurance is an absolute must, and it’s vital to have all the recommended vaccinations before you leave. We can help with that.