Encouraged by an impressive rise in international inbound numbers, the tourism ministry is eyeing an ambitious target of doubling foreign tourist arrivals (FTAs) and foreign exchange earnings in the next three years. The decision to push for doubling numbers comes after India registered over one crore (10 million) international tourist footfalls in 2017 – numbers push past 17 million, if NRI travellers are taken in to account – adding INR 1,75,000 crore (27 billion USD) to the national economy. The inbound registered a healthy 15.2 percent growth in numbers, compared to the previous year. Growth in tourist numbers has shot up foreign exchange revenue by 20.2 percent.

The tourism ministry plans to work closer coordination with state governments to achieve the daunting target, tourism minister K J Alphons noted. “To make this possible we are working with the state governments and with the industry, as they have a big role to play. So, we are all working together and make this possible,” he said, speaking to the media in a private event in Mumbai.

Commenting on crossing the ten million mark, tourism minister has earlier reflected that the sector was “doing well” but much more could be achieved. “I think our sector is doing very well. But am I happy with the numbers? I want these numbers to increase dramatically because India is an incredible place and we have everything for everybody. So, we are trying to bring in lot more people,” he had said.

The northeast is expected to receive more attention on the tourism front as eyeing more international tourists, the ministry is likely to market golf courses in the region to attract golf aficionados. The ministry also plans to rope in professional polo players from Manipur to popularise the game in international markets.

Government officials believe that ministry’s focus on infrastructure augmentation programs and circuit development schemes like Swadesh Darshan have paid off and played an important role in the change in fortunes. 11 Swadesh Darshan schemes have been sanctioned in the financial year 2017-18 alone. As many as 67 schemes have been sanctioned since the PM’s initiative took off a couple of years ago. 

Growth in tourism numbers aside, India has commendably jumped up 25 places in the Tourism Competitive Index since 2013 – from 65th spot to 40th in 2017.

Taking stock of the tourism landscape, it is an uncontested development that the tourism industry, in the recent years, has turned its attention towards the domestic segment. The shift could either be attributed to the growing economic clout of the Indian middle-class or industry’s disenchantment of sorts with the international inbound. While the domestic segment is likely to remain central to the business interest of industry stakeholders, growth in international inbound is a welcome development and bodes well for the country.