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Tourism has always been a major social phenomenon of any society. It is motivated by the natural urge of every human being for new experience, adventure, education, knowledge and entertainment. In order to understand each other's cultures and values as well as to cater several other social, religious and business interests, it has resulted in development of many tourist and infrastructure facilities. This, along with the progress of proper transportation network globally, especially of airways and waterways, has encouraged people to venture out to the foreign lands. It has facilitated the trade and commerce between the different regions of a country and between the different countries. As a result, over the years, it has acquired the status of a service industry.

Tourism, being one of the largest industry, plays a key role in achieving the socio-economic goals of the development plans of a nation. It is an important service-oriented sector which has made rapid strides globally in terms of gross revenue and foreign exchange earnings. It is a composite of service providers, both public and private, which includes travel agents and tour operators; air, rail and sea transportation operators; guides; owners of hotels, guest houses and inns, restaurants and shops; etc. They are involved in meeting the diverse interests and requirements of domestic and international tourists. The tourism industry provides incentives to foster the quality of environment, generates more employment opportunities (particularly in remote and backward areas) as well as develops necessary infrastructure facilities like roads, telecom and medical services, in the economy.

In India, tourism industry holds special position as it not only have potential to grow at a high rate, but also stimulate other economic sectors through its backward and forward linkages and cross-sectional synergies with sectors like agriculture, horticulture, poultry, handicrafts, transport, construction, etc. That is, it can provide impetus to other industries in the country and generate enough wealth to help pay off the international debt. It is the third largest net earner of foreign exchange for the country. The travel and tourism sector contributes to the national integration; preserves natural and cultural environments; as well as enriches social and cultural lives of the people. It has the capacity to create substantial job opportunities, particularly for unskilled and semi-skilled workers as well as to alleviate the poverty in the country. That's why, it has been regarded as the core sectors of the Indian economy.

Given India's unique endowments of biodiversity, forests, rivers, mountains, historical places, temples and pilgrims, caves, museums, monuments and culture, the industry holds immense strength for obtaining higher growth rate. The challenges in the sector lie in successfully preserving these in their original form, and making them accessible to domestic and international travellers. India offers various categories of tourism products, such as adventure tourism; medical tourism (ayurveda and other forms of Indian medications), eco-tourism; rural tourism; cruise tourism; meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions (MICE) tourism; etc.

The Ministry of Tourism acts as the nodal agency for the development and promotion of tourism in the country. It plays a crucial role in formulating national policies and programmes as well as coordinating and supplementing the efforts of the State/Union Territory Governments and private sector in improving the quality of tourism infrastructure. It catalyses private investment, strengthens promotional and marketing efforts and helps in providing trained manpower resources. As regards the domestic market, the Ministry aims to popularise the culture and natural beauty of different regions, pilgrim sites and various new tourism products. The Ministry has a public sector undertaking, namely the 'India Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC)' for carrying out its various functions, along with the following autonomous institutions:-

The Ministry has been undertaking several policy measures and incentives so as to boost growth of the sector and attract the investors the world over. The most important being the National Tourism Policy (formulated in the year 2002), which aims to develop tourism in India in a systematic manner. It envisages a framework, within which the Government helps to create the basic infrastructure and legislative set up for tourism development, while the private sector helps to provide the quality products and offer active support services. The broad objectives of the policy are to:-

  • Position tourism as a major engine of economic growth;

  • Harness the direct and multiplier effects of tourism for employment generation, economic development and providing impetus to rural tourism;

  • Focus on domestic tourism as a major driver of tourism growth;

  • Position India as a global brand to take advantage of the burgeoning global travel trade and the vast untapped potential of India as a destination;

  • Acknowledge the critical role of private sector with Government working as a pro-active facilitator and catalyst;

  • Create and develop integrated tourism circuits based on India’s unique civilization, heritage and culture in partnership with States, private sector and other agencies; and

  • Ensure that the tourists to India gets physically invigorated, mentally rejuvenated, culturally enriched, spiritually elevated and 'feel India from within'.
With these objectives, the Ministry of Tourism has been broadly implementing/ implemented the following schemes/programmes:-

Besides, the Ministry has been running a scheme of giving 'National Tourism Awards' to various segments of the travel and tourism industry every year. These awards are presented to State Governments, classified hotels, heritage hotels, approved travel agents, tour operators and tourist transport operators, individuals and other private organizations in recognition of their performances in their respective fields. For instance, awards for best adventure tour operator, best domestic tour operator, most innovative tour operator, best MICE operator, best tourist transport operator, best hotels in the different categories, etc. Awards are also given to the meritorious students of the Institutes of Hotel Management as well as Indian Institute of Tourism and Travel Management. The selection of the awardees have been made by the Committees constituted for the purpose. The decision of the Ministry is final and binding.

There has been a remarkable growth, in the recent years, in foreign tourist arrivals to India due to the various efforts made by the Ministry, including promoting India through the 'Incredible lndia' campaign in overseas markets. Incredible India is a multi-pronged promotional campaign launched by the Ministry in order to position the country as a preferred tourist destination for the travellers the world over. As a result of all such efforts, India's share in international tourist arrivals, which was 0.46 per cent in 2004 has increased to 0.49 per cent during 2005; and further to an estimated 0.52 per cent in 2006 and 0.55 per cent in 2007. The foreign tourist arrivals has increased from a level of 3.46 million in 2004 to an estimated 5 million in 2007. Similarly, the foreign exchange earnings from tourism have also shown a phenomenal growth from US$ 6.17 billion (Rs. 27944 crore) in 2004 to an estimated US$ 11.96 billion (Rs. 49413 crore) in 2007. The share of India in world earnings from tourism registered an increase from 0.98 per cent in 2004 to 1.21 per cent in 2006. The number of domestic tourists in India have also grown phenomenally over this period, that is, from 366.23 million in 2004 to an estimated 462 million in 2006.

To give recognition to tourism as a source of income and employment generator in the economy, a 'Tourism Satellite Accounting (TSA)' has been developed. TSA enables the Ministry to quantify the benefits of tourism in terms of contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) and employment (both direct and indirect impacts). India is among the few countries in the world to develop TSA. As per the TSA study, the contribution of tourism in GDP of the country has been 5.90 per cent in 2003-04, while employment in tourism sector (both direct and indirect) has been 41.8 million in the same year, thus accounting for 8.78 per cent of total employment in the country.

'World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC)' is the forum for business leaders in the travel and tourism industry. It addresses challenges and opportunities that affect all sectors of the industry globally. It works to raise awareness of travel and tourism as one of the world's largest industries, employing approximately 231 million people and generating over 10.4 per cent of world GDP. It is firmly committed to realizing Indian tourism industry's potential for growth and ensuring maximum and sustainable benefits for everyone involved. According to the WTTC, tourism accounted for 9.9 per cent of global GDP, 11.0 per cent of the total world exports and 8.4 per cent of global employment in the year 2008.

Thus, Indian travel and tourism industry has been on rise and is gaining popularity amongst travellers all over the world. It is an engine of growth for Indian economy and helps to promote sustained development of infrastructure, such as airports, railways and roads, leading to connectivity of various tourist destinations. Besides, improvement and expansion of existing and new tourism products such as cultural and heritage tourism, rural tourism, adventure tourism, health and healing tourism, etc; promotion of 'Incredible India' campaigns; as well as active participation of State Governments therein establishes India's competitive advantage in the sector. This has enhanced the foreign exchange earnings of the country as well as improved its trade relations with other nations. All such measures and incentives, undertaken by public and private sectors, are a source of several investment opportunities in the industry.

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