Tuesday, 10 July 2018

How Incredible is Incredible India?

According to Indian tradition, tourism was first conceived as Tirthatan then as Deshatan and finally as Paryatan with the purpose of encouraging intermingling of people belonging to different cultures and traditions. Tourism also helps people to acquaint themselves with eating habits of natives and understands the way of varied life of the host countrymen. During visits to Incredible India, foreign tourists celebrate Indian festivals apart from visiting monuments and other similar sites in the city.

A glimpse of the Incredibleness of Incredible India
A glimpse of the Incredibleness of Incredible India

A tourist visits a country like India for various reasons. India is ‘all seasons’ tourist destination and the objective of travel has a wide range like:
  •          Visiting monuments and historical places (Like Taj Mahal)
  •          Business meeting
  •          Purpose of Faith tourism
  •          Medical treatment
  •          Yoga / spiritual retreat (in Rishikesh)
  •          Beaches (in Goa)
  •          Nature trails (in Andaman and Nicobar islands)
  •          Snow clad mountains of Himalayas
  •          Backwaters (of Kerala)
  •          White sands of Rann of Kutch
  •          Shopping and buying souvenirs
  •          Recreation
  •          Visiting friends and relatives
  •          Observing Indian traditions and customs on Indian festivals like Holi, Diwali etc

Today, the travelers discover everything online and chalk out a customized itinerary. Though the feedback and reviews available on the Internet are believed to be authentic, one cannot rule out the possibility of fudging data for vested interests. In hotels, the workers are professionals and will not be able to provide the traveler with detailed information due to the paucity of time and their defined scope of work. 

Experience Incredible India in a BnB

When a tourist comes to India, he finds that commercial accommodation is quite expensive because there are various taxes and tariffs applicable in commercial hotels. These taxes even amount to 20 to 25% of the actual cost of the room while in other Asian countries including China, Thailand etc and in western countries, the total taxes are not more than 5% to 6%. Therefore, the accommodation in regular Indian/Delhi hotel is quite expensive while on the other hand, the accommodation with same facilities in BNB stays in India has difference of 25 to 30% rates per night if one stays in BNB stay and therefore, the tourist can save a lot of money from their accommodation. This money saved from accommodation budget can be spent by these tourists in purchasing souvenirs, booking a heritage walk or visiting other places. 

A warm BnB in Jodhpur, Rajasthan

A hospitable BnB in South Delhi

Moreover, in the present scenario of rapid urbanization in India and the rising aspirations of Indian middle class, it is seen that both husband and wife are working and at times, they are working at odd hours. This has led to a gradual fading away of the joint family system in India and therefore, staying with family and friends is not practicable. On the other hand, in a BnB, the traveler is on his/her own. He/she can interact with the BnB host as much as he/she wants and can maintain his privacy. Furthermore, the guest can expect an optimum level of attention, emotional support, and bonding with the BnB host which makes it a win-win situation for the traveler as well as the BnB host.

I shall be posting multiple versions of Incredible India in my future and my findings and observations are elucidated in my recently published book titled, 'Indian BnBs: An emerging disruptor in the Hospitality sector'.

My book, 'Indian BnBs: An emerging disruptor in the Hospitality sector'
My book, 'Indian BnBs: An emerging disruptor in the Hospitality sector'

If you wish to grab a copy, send a mail on ambuj@bnbnation.com

Monday, 11 June 2018

Book on Indian BnBs: Hospitality sector overview

"So you hail from the city that I shall be visiting soon, huh"- he confirmed with her and continued "Do you know a good place to stay in the city?" 

"You mean a hotel??!"- she enquired. 

You generally notice that ‘Hotel” is used whenever ‘accomodation’ criteria are discussed, be it amongst tourism stakeholders or academia pursuing tourism courses/vacations studies.
With homestays and other experiential accommodation especially BnBNation (www.bnbnation.com) Airbnb etc. coming into the picture monopoly of hotels is going to be over. 

Beautiful and homely Bed and Breakfast accommodation in Delhi NCR
Beautiful and homely Bed and Breakfast accommodation in Delhi NCR

Furthermore, in U.K., the homestays provide almost 40% off accommodation for inbound tourists. The hotel industry, at least in India, is unable to cope up with the demand of incoming tourists mainly in the budget category. You may be thinking that hotels are generally lying vacant or there is less occupancy there, you may be right but it is true for 4 or 5 star or equivalent category hotels where occupancy rates may be less than 60% ( lesser occupancy makes hotel construction, an unviable proposition for hoteliers). The main problem is of non-availability of budgets /economy hotels or 1 to 3-star or equivalent category.

Current scenario of Indian Hospitality sector

In the year 2012, India was short of about 1,90,000 hotels rooms while inbound tourist arrival (8% per year growth) was more than world tourist arrival (3%to to 4% per year growth). Above it, domestic visitors in India are growing at the rate of 15% and there are already 1.25 billion such tourists visiting other places in India. These tourists too are not staying with friends and/or relatives. Thus, there is more demand for budget accommodation but the question that comes to the mind is where are the rooms?!

Another scenario is that today’s tourists including foreign individual tourist is not keen to stay in 4 or 5-star hotels but prefer good quality authentic haveli type of stay. Are haveli type homestays available in India? When did you stay in a haveli last time? Do you remember? 

A type of Haveli BnB in Rajasthan offers a beautiful view of Jaisalmer
A type of Haveli BnB in Rajasthan offers a beautiful view of Jaisalmer

Homely haveli BnB accommodation in Rajasthan
Homely haveli BnB accommodation in Rajasthan

Haveli type BnB accommodation in Rajasthan
Haveli type BnB accommodation in Rajasthan

Havelis are only available for stay in Rajasthan and a few are available in Delhi. As per my experience as one of the authors of the book (Secy. Tourism Andaman Nicobar Island or MD & CEO of DTTDC), there was exclusive demand from country’s tourist operators” to provide havelis”. We have a long list of foreign tourists who visit India and want to stay in Haveli type accommodations.

My co-authored book titled, Indian BnBs: An emerging disruptor in the Hospitality sector. It is co-authored by co founders of BnBNation
My co-authored book titled, Indian BnBs: An emerging disruptor in the Hospitality sector. It is co-authored by co founders of BnBNation

In India, we are unable to meet demand in the response of adequate supply. So, what is the solution? The need of the hour is to construct and reconstruct the heritage of India by taking care of our tangible and intangible heritage sources. 

BnBs as an alternate mode of accommodation

Among the alternatives in the accommodation, the sector is BnBs / homestays, which are carved out of existing rooms in the homes. At present, there are about 10,000 rooms all over India are registered to be used as  “stays option for tourists”. 

India is always bubbling with activity be it a fair, religious event, conference, sports extravaganza like the IPL or for medical facilities etc. Such events and activities attract larger footfall. Naturally, organizers and stakeholders are in search of homes where incoming guests/spectators/participants would be accommodated. Such homes converted into BnBs/Homestays could be a very useful way of matching demand and supply of rooms. No authority or agency can create temporary hotels to meet the intermittent demand of rooms in the wake of such fair/festivals/tourist meets.

So as tourism expert, I can foresee the future of homestays as a disruptor in accommodation aka hospitality industry. This demand is being met by international players like Airbnb which court controversy on and off. It is claimed by Airbnb that there are already 75000 rooms listing in Indian cities through hardly 5%  or so are registered or authentic. Can you stay in a home who is not accountable to the government? Thus, registration of BnBs is a necessary prerequisite.
Staying in a BnB has its own set of benefits such as cultural exchange and since the bond between the guest and the host gets deeper as time passes, the guest not only gains a friend in a foreign country but earns a loving and caring Indian family. 

The bond of love is intangible and deeper than a monetary transaction! 

Are you ready to embrace a new experience, a new culture and a new home? 

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Book on Indian BnBs: A perspective on Environmental feasibility in the Hospitality sector

Wishing you a very Happy World Environment day 2018! This blog is an attempt to bring to light the various issues that the Mother Earth is facing and how we can all focus on them from a Tourism and Hospitality perspective. In addition to this, I shall also throw light on my co-authored book, ‘Indian BnBs: An emerging disruptor in the Hospitality sector’ and present how Bed and Breakfast accommodations (BnBs) are environmentally friendly!

About World Environment Day 2018

World Environment Day is a UN Environment-led global event which takes place on June 5 each year. It is celebrated by thousands of communities worldwide. It marks a day when 7.6 billion (as on June 2018) people spread across the globe are expected to take ownership of their environment and to actively engage in the protection of our Earth.

World Environment Day 2018: Beat Plastic Pollution

The theme of this year’s World Environment Day 2018 is “Beat Plastic Pollution”. The objective is to urge all stakeholders ie. Every single person on the Earth to come together and explore sustainable alternatives to energy production and consumption.

As a Tourism and Hospitality expert and academician, I shall throw light on how you as a tourism stakeholder can reduce the stress on Mother Earth. Whenever we think of travel and tourism, the first thing that comes to the mind is the relaxation of mind and enjoying a few moments in luxury. However, do you know the Environmental cost attached with the term of ‘Luxury’?

Hotels vs BnBs: Environmental sustainability check

Hotels are the luxurious way of living with a waiter serving you like you were of royal lineage and everything available at the ring of a phone. Is such a luxurious treatment costing anything on the environment or is the environment is in full charity mode since decades?
My co-authored book, Indian BnBs: An Emerging disruptor in the Hospitality sector throws light on the environmental feasibility of hotels and how such an issue can be overcome through alternate accommodation option like Bed and Breakfast accommodations (BnBs).

Book "Indian BnBs: An emerging disruptor in the Hospitality sector"

In India, not only hotels are in shortage, there are other bigger problems to meet the demand for more hotels in Indian cities. It is mentioned in my book that availability of any additional room in 5 stars or 3 star or equivalent category costs INR 10 million and INR 3.5 million respectively. Thus, huge investment is required in this sector. High-cost impediment is clubbed with other rigmaroles like seeking 62 Licences/permissions right from building plan, firefighting, FSSAI certificates, bar license etc. Land is too scarce in cities and our latest land acquisition policies make it further difficult to think about new hotel to come up.

BnBs as an alternate mode of accommodation

Among the alternatives in the accommodation, sector are BnBs / homestays, which are carved out of existing rooms in the homes. At present, there are about 10,000 rooms all over India are registered to be used as  “ stays option for tourists”. India is always bubbling with activity be it a fair, religious event, conference, sports extravaganza like the IPL or for medical facilities etc. Such events and activities attract larger footfall. Naturally, organizers and stakeholders are in search of homes where incoming guests /spectators/participants would be accommodated. Such homes converted into BnBs/Homestays could be a very useful way of matching demand and supply of rooms. No authority or agency can create temporary hotels to meet the intermittent demand of rooms in the wake of such fair/festivals/tourist meets.

A homely Bed and Breakfast (BnB) in Delhi

So as tourism expert, I can foresee the future of homestays as a disruptor in accommodation aka hospitality industry. This demand is being met by international players like Airbnb which court controversy on and off. It is claimed by Airbnb that there are already 75000 rooms listing in Indian cities through hardly 5%  or so are registered or authentic. Can you stay in a home who is not accountable to the government? Thus, registration of BnBs is a necessary prerequisite.
Question is how BnBs will disrupt hotels? Sooner or later market share of BnBs is going to increase in India.

In next 3-4  years, tourism development authorities /corporations in states and UTs are expected to handhold BnBs’ registration process to provide convenience and develop confidence amongst aspiring home owners to convert some of their rooms into BnBs. Kerala, Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka are already taking leads while northeast states are also catching up with rest of India.
India has to go a long way to meet rooms requirement and further longer way to get existing vacant rooms to be converted into “ authentic BnBs”.

Here’s wishing luck to Indian Hospitality sector and to the BnB owners!

Friday, 14 April 2017

Utility of PPP model in Tourism Infrastructure and Capacity building

PPP refers to Public Private Partnership. In India, PPP has had a mixed experience. 
According to the performance, it is divided into 3 categories:
  1. Overall successful
  2. Failure for both the parties
  3. Failure for one of the parties e.g Nhava Sheva Port in Mumbai and NOIDA DND Toll road
Despite its assessment as a ‘Not so good’ tag as per Planning Commission of India, PPP pundits analyse that Private participation as a partner is here to stay. The primary cause is that neither the Government is short of funds nor is it shirking from its responsibilities. In fact, Government is seeking better management through PPP and it understands that addressing ‘Time overrun’ and optimum use of Government resources including transferring risk to the private partner to a reasonable extent. State of the art technology and ‘Value for money’ are another factors that keep compelling policy makers in Government to keep faith in the PPP mode. 

PPP model: Public Private Partnership
PPP is a popular model of governance all over the world

Factors that have hindered PPP in the past: 

Some factors have hindered PPP Projects in the past are as follows:
  • Blame game between Government and private partner on delays on land acquisition etc. and interpretation of clauses in concession agreement.
  • Requests by private partner for frequent increase in user charges or seeking compensation on unforseen escalation of costs.
  • No institutionalised mechanism (at least, hither to) for mid term correction in concession agreement.
Despite some negative points and past failure of some PPP projects mainly in the Highway sector, PPP could be addressed by way of mid-course correction of projects with the newly created institutional mechanism.

Why is PPP model a necessity?

Let us look back into the past and see the reasons for the necessity of the PPP model. The governments in Developed/Developing/Underdeveloped countries may not be short of funds but it can hardly afford to invest public money by procuring latest technology which shall be used by its own workforce, which is not known for its optimum efficiency. There is no doubt that following  factors warrent urgent attention to improve Governance for bringing in development agenda;
  • Deficit in infrastructure
  • Inefficient service delivery 
  • Unprofessional approach. 
Here, it is to be kept in view that the private sector may bring in capital, technology, better management and can share the substantial risk of market forces etc. So, a sensible division of roles, fair sharing of responsibilities and market risks be appropriately borne by the private sectors. The expected results are “availability”, “quality” and “efficiency of services” along with “efficiency of capital utilisation”. If properly implemented, there will be “transformation from a subsidised economy to commercial economy and output based contracting”. In this way, Government resources could be better utilised with better technology, innovation and global best practices under PPP regime.

PPP model
This was the status of PPP procurement timelines in 2013 at the global level.
 Advocates against PPP model will certainly argue that PPP model resorts to more expensive (user charges etc.) or would lead to privatisation in disguise and that public employees shall lose their jobs and that it is backdoor sale of government assets. However, these arguments can be rebutted with citations based on International success stories learning and improving based on earlier mistakes, mid-term correction/review, though in a limited way. Thus, there is a need to hold a workshop for the government officials by semi government organisations like PHD Chamber of Commerce, FICCI, CII, ASSOCHAM etc so that PPP model can be made a highly successful and mutually beneficial model for all stakeholders!

 Now, question arises whether the regulator should be under the sole control of concession authority or should work like an umpire. Since last letter of P in PPP embraces Partnership, the concession authority should treat Private player/concessionaire as a partner and agree to appoint a neutral ‘Regulator’ in a transparent process.

(The creative inputs are given by Ambuj Saxena, co-founder of www.bnbnation.com)

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Impact of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan on Tourism sector in India

By Dr. G G Saxena and Ambuj Saxena

“No, I can’t stay here a minute longer. It smells too bad!!” Linda said to her husband who was by now tired of trying to convince her otherwise. Linda’s husband opened a part of the room curtain, looked at the garbage that was spewn outside the hotel premises, he further looked at a distance, a slum dweller emptying his bowels in the open. Then, he looked around in the room at the cozy fireplace, romantic whirlpool tub, plush king-sized bed and the private balcony. These modern amenities seemed meagre when compared to the pile of dirt and unhealthy sanitation practices practiced by people around them. Within half an hour, Linda and her husband collected their baggage and checked out of the accommodation and started searching for a Bed and Breakfast accommodation with a clean environment and modern amenities in the room in that order.

Swachh Bharat- clean India
Swachh Bharat- Clean India

A tourist likes to explore the city as well as the place of stay. He/she wanders out to try new cuisine or catch an event or to know more about the cultural heritage of the city. Here, cleanliness is assumed to be a given. A foreign traveler’s psyche is affected by the kind of accommodation offered as well as the locality of the accommodation. The place of stay leaves a lifelong imprint of the country/state/place in the mind of the tourist. It helps recommend to the others about what to expect and what not to expect from the place.

Travel for fulfilment
Travel for fulfilment

India is a land of natural and cultural diversity. India ranks 8th in natural resources and 24th in cultural resources globally. However, it ranks a dismal 42nd in Foreign Tourist Arrival (FTA) with 0.68% share of Global FTA. This blog attempts to solve this riddle by analysis cum evaluation of government’s efforts towards the same and provide a way forward to increase FTA in India.

Why does India suffer from lack of Sanitation?

This is partly a problem of poor infrastructure of household toilets, community toilets, non-availability of water in the rural hinterland. A sizeable population of India is living below the poverty line and lacks the basic amenities such as water, house, food, toilets etc.

Partly, it is a behavioral problem. If we compare India with sub-Sahara African 
nations, most of the sub-Sahara African nations are way behind India in terms of macroeconomic indicators such as GDP etc yet these nations do not have such enormous open defecation problems. Researches have suggested that apart from poor infrastructure, India’s rigid caste system has acted as a catalyst to the problem of increase in open defecation. Toilet’s Pit emptying is assumed to be done by lower cast people and looked down upon by upper caste hindus’. Thus, merely setting up of toilets does not offer a comprehensive solution to the issue of open defecation. It needs participation of a large number of NGO’s and due diligence by the district administrative workforce to cause change in behavior and encourage use of toilets. For example, in Rajasthan, district administration workforce has formed effective links with the local community to alter behavior and to meet the water needs by District authorities incentivized the participating villages to compete with each other to make villages open defecation free at the earliest.

Spiraling effects of lack of Sanitation in India

In view of the above, in 2014, World Bank had called India the hotbed of open defecation. India accounts for 60% global population that defecates in the open. The practice of Open Defecation is harmful to the entire community as it pollutes the underground water and increases the risk of water-borne diseases such as Diarrhea etc. In 2014, 300 million cases and 0.3 million deaths due to diarrhea were reported in children under 5 years of age (RGI 2014). 

Symptoms and Impact of Diarrhea | Source: www.nhp.gov.in
Symptoms and Impact of Diarrhea | Source: www.nhp.gov.in

In the face of low penetration of health insurance in India (only about 20% population is covered), citizens are left to fend for themselves to spend their precious savings on healthcare costs. This leads to catastrophic health expenditure by the poor citizens. It has been estimated that 70% of urban households’ total out-of-pocket expenditure is on health while it is 80% for rural households.

Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and its objectives

In light of the above situation, PM Modi had announced Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (SBA) on 15th August 2014 from the ramparts of Red Fort. Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is a pan India cleanliness campaign that aims to make India Open Defecation Free by 2nd Oct 2019 ie. On 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. It may be remembered that Gandhiji did not feel shy of cleaning the surroundings and toilets being used by others. Thus, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (SBA) is inspired from the noble deeds of Father of the nation. Even the logo of campaign has the spectacles depicting that of Gandhiji. Thus, SBA includes building household toilets, community toilets, addressing solid waste management as well as liquid waste management.

Sachin Tendulkar, Amitabh Bachchan, Saina Nehwal and other celebrities participating in Swachh Bharat Abhiyan
Sachin Tendulkar, Amitabh Bachchan, Saina Nehwal and other celebrities participating in Swachh Bharat Abhiyan

Under the Indian Constitution, Public health and sanitation is mentioned in Entry 6 of State list and Water is mentioned in entry 17 of the same list. However, water also finds a mention in Entry 56 of Union List. So it requires effective coordination between States and centre to fulfill the objectives of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.

Logo- Swachh Bharat Abhiyan
Logo- Swachh Bharat Abhiyan

The Swachh Bharat Mission has the following 7 key objectives:
    1.       Elimination of Open Defecation
    2.       Eradication of Manual scavenging
    3.       Modern and scientific municipal solid waste management
    4.       Behavioral change regarding healthy sanitation practices
    5.       Awareness about sanitation and its linkage to public health.
    6.       Capacity augmentation of Urban Local Bodies
   7.   Enabling environment for private sector participation in CAPEX (Capital Expenditure) and OPEX (Operation and maintenance expenditure)

Additionally, the financial structure has also been clearly spelled out. It requires cooperation from the states as well as private sector participation for sharing financial requirements as well as planning and execution of the campaign in adequate measure. Swachh Bharat Cess is being levied to partly meet finances of the campaign.
Thus, policymakers have done their part in making the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan policy now it remains to be seen that the due results take place through effective district administration and efficient coordination amongst government and private stakeholders.

This was mentioned in my earlier post as well. Thus, 2 years into the campaign, it needs to be seen if India can be made Open Defecation Free by 2nd October 2019 as planned by the incumbent central government.

Swachh Bharat Abhiyan- Making India Open Defecation Free
Swachh Bharat Abhiyan- Making India Open Defecation Free

Accomplishments of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan:

It is reported that out of 6,40,000 villages in India, 54,000 villages have been made open defecation free.

NSSO conducted survey of 73,176 rural households, 41,538 urban households in 3788 villages and 2907 urban blocks in May 2015. Following were the findings:
    ·         13% villages have community toilets
    ·         42% urban wards have community toilets.
    ·         36% urban area wards have proper liquid waste management system
    ·         36% villages have pakki naali and 19% have katchi naali
    ·         78% urban area wards have a system of street cleaning
   ·      95% persons in rural areas are using sanitary toilets in their household or  community
   ·        98% persons in urban areas are using sanitary toilets in their household or community

There are other parameters on which the performance of SBA can be judged. It can be safely concluded that within 2 years of the scheme, there have been significant gains with respect to infrastructure augmentation as well as behavioral change. However, the efforts need to be multiplied manifold to achieve the target of Open defecation free India in the remaining 3 years. It requires a greater level of dedication and commitment to the noble cause not just from Governments at the centre and states but also proactive engagement by private sector under corporate social responsibility, other non-governmental organizations and participation of each and every citizen. This has also been stated by the various Brand Ambassadors of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. Thus, we should all take a pledge:

1. I shall not spit in public and discourage others from doing so.
2. I shall not litter in public and discourage others from doing so.
3. I shall not urinate in open areas and discourage others from doing so.
4. I shall not encroach area.
5. I shall not write anything on monuments of historic significance and discourage others from doing so.
6. I shall use Swachh Bharat Abhiyan stamps whenever I send correspondence to other places.

If each of us follow the pledge, we shall serve ourselves and the community.
Most importantly, we will be able to sleep satisfactorily.

Swachh Bharat Abhiyan stamps
Swachh Bharat Abhiyan stamps

Swachh Sarvekshan

Ministry of Urban Development conducted a survey of 73 cities with over 10 lakh population under Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, called the Swachh Sarvekshan. The parameters were as follows:

    ·         How cities propose to stop ODF
    ·         How cities plan to integrate solid waste management
   ·         Communication strategies adopted by cities for behavioral change through information dissemination and education
    ·         Systems adopted for sweeping, door-to-door collection and transportation of waste
    ·         Efficiency in processing and waste disposal
    ·         Deployment of public and community toilets
    ·         Progress in construction of individual household toilets

The 5 most clean cities were:
    1.       Mysuru (Karnataka)
    2.       Chandigarh
    3.       Tiruchirapalli (Tamil Nadu)
    4.       New Delhi
    5.       Vishakhapatna (Andhra Pradesh)

There were other cities out of the 73 surveyed that were found lacking in the Swachh Sarvekshan parameters and ended at the bottom of the ranking ladder such as :Meerut (Uttar Pradesh), Patna (Bihar), Itanagar (Arunachal Pradesh), Asansol (West Bengal) and Dhanbad (Jharkhand).

Bhopal city makes an interesting case in the success stories of SBA. Citizen groups in Bhopal city have not only voluntarily taken up the task to clean slum areas but are also decorating the walls of the slums and making visually attractive graffiti.

Swachh Paryatan mobile app has been launched by Min. of Tourism wherein, domestic and foreign tourists can flag issues related to cleanliness in and around 25 ASI protected monuments.
Swachh Paryatan App home screen
Swachh Paryatan App home screen
Swachh Paryatan App screen 2
Swachh Paryatan App screen 2

These include Humayun’s tomb, Red Fort and Qutub minar in Delhi, Taj Mahal in Agra, Rani ki vav in Gujarat, Kumbhalgarh fort in Rajasthan, Hampi in Karnataka, Konark temple in Odisha, Thanjaur-Brihadesvara temple in Tamil Nadu etc. If the feedback given by the users is acted upon promptly, it can lead to cleaner heritage sites of India.
[The app can be downloaded at https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=in.org.degs.swachhparyatanapp]

This blog is the second part in the series of Government schemes directly/indirectly affecting tourism in India. The first part was analysis of impact of E-Tourist Visa scheme on Tourism sector in India.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Impact of e-Tourism Visa scheme on Tourism sector in India

World Tourism Day is celebrated on 27 September to foster awareness among the national and international community of the importance of tourism and its social, cultural, political and economic value. The theme of this year’s World Tourism day is Tourism for All: Promoting Universal Accessibility with Thailand as the host nation.

World Tourism Day 2016- Universal Accessibility
World Tourism Day 2016

Tourism is an engine for growth of a nation. As per Government of India website, on every Rs. 1 million spent on tourism, employment for 78 citizens is generated. With the same amount of investment, Manufacturing sector generates 45 jobs and agriculture generates 18 jobs. India ranks 42nd in Global FTA with 0.68% share of Global FTA, though India ranks 8th in natural resources and 24th in cultural resources globally. 

Taj Mahal: UNESCO World Heritage site
Taj Mahal- the Jewel of muslim art in India
Source: wikipedia

It can be understood that safety, security, hygiene, sanitation, last mile connectivity, rigid visa regime could have been the factors behind the dismal share in global FTA. Since Narendra Modi led NDA government came to power in May 2014, we have witnessed various high voltage campaigns and schemes across various sectors of the economy such as Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Make in India, Digital India, Startup India, Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana etc. In the tourism sector, E-Tourist visa, Hunar se Zaika, Smart city, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan etc have the potential to positively affect the Indian economy in direct and indirect ways. Through this blog, we shall bring to your notice whether such tourism sectors schemes are doing as well as they had promised. This is important as there has always existed in the gap between policy announcement and its execution. For example, Govt of India had targeted 1 billion FTA by end of 12th Five Year plan which needed an increase in annual growth rate from 8% to 12% from 2012 onwards. However, such ambitious targets were not achieved. In this post, we shall talk about the impact of e-tourist visa on the tourism sector.

Impact of E-Tourist visa scheme:
E-tourist visa scheme was started on 27th November 2014 and met with great success of 1200% increase in FTA through this scheme. It offers convenience to the incoming tourists with flexibility to plan their trips to India.

E-Tourist Visa Scheme
e-Tourist Visa scheme launched in 2014

Since its inception almost 7.5 lakh E-tourist visas have been issued and 4.4 lakh tourists arrived on E-visa. The year 2015 witnessed a growth of 4.5% FTA and a growth of 9% in Foreign Exchange Earnings (in terms of Rupees and not dollars).
Here is a comparison of the number of Foreign Tourist Arrival (FTA) in India for the years 2014 and 2015.

FTA in 2014
FTA in 2015
%age change in FTA 2014-15
7.5 million
8 million

On the whole, we can see that there has not been a great gap in the FTA before and after the scheme was launched. This is partly because there are only 16 airports where this facility can be availed. Though this scheme is now available to 150 countries. There is no option of renewing the visa or extending it due to which foreign tourists who are here for a prolonged treatment are not able to stay for a long time.

Nonetheless this has been a good initiative and can be extended to more airports and major ports in the years to come. It has shown promise and is a bright spot in the growth story of tourism in India. It is bound to have a spread effect on the entire tourism sector including Bed and Breakfast accommodations which foster cultural exchange between Bed and Breakfast host and guest.
Kindly share your views in the comment box about the scheme and how it can be made more lucrative for India’s tourism sector.

In the next part, I shall discuss the impact of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan on the tourism sector in India.           

Friday, 24 October 2014

Religious Tourism in India

Definition of religious tourism

Religious tourism can be defined as travel with the core motive of experiencing religious forms or ancillary products such as art, culture, etc. India is an ancient civilization and boasts of rich cultural and religious heritage. In this blog, we shall analyze the International scenario of religious tourism and the scope of religious tourism in India. It is also referred to as Faith tourism.

International scenario of Religious tourism:

As a sector, religious tourism is not well researched and documented. But in countries such as Saudi Arabia and Israel, religious tourism is the most significant type of Tourism and consequently, the Authorities measure it as a clearly defined activity.

Saudi Arabia:

More than 7 million pilgrims visit Saudi Arabia's holy sites every year with religious tourists spending about USD 10,000 per visit. The revenue from the pilgrims to the holy city of Makkah, Madinah and other religious sites in the kingdom, accounts for about 3% of the kingdom's Gross Domestic product.

Mecca- Saudi Arabia
Mecca- Saudi Arabia


In 2013, more than 3.5 million tourists visited Israel. Twenty-two percent defined the goal of their visit to Israel as a pilgrimage which accounts for almost 0.77 million religious tourists.

Jerusalem- Israel
Jerusalem- Israel

Religious tourism in India:

India is a land of pilgrimages. India has the unique distinction of being the birth-place of four important religions of the world – Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. Practically, all religions – Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism , Sikhism and Sufism have their major and minor pilgrimage centers in different parts of the country. 

Varanasi- Banaras

Sun Temple- Konark
Sun Temple- Konark

Mata Vaishnodevi
Mata Vaishnodevi 

Apart from the holy rivers and the Teerth Sthanas, India also houses the Shakti Peeths, the Jyotirlingas as well as the four sacred shrines of Adi Shankaracharya in the four corners of the country. Some important circuits based on the importance of the religious places can be identified.

According to a recent annual report by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), 2014 is expected to be a year of "Above-average growth" for travel and tourism in India. WTTC's annual Economic Impact report 2014 for India shows Travel and tourism's economic contribution is expected to grow by 7.3% this year, outperforming the general economy by 2.5 percentage points. Revenue from domestic tourism is expected to increase by 8.2% this year compared to 5.1% in 2013, the report noted. 

Initiatives taken by the Government to boost Religious Tourism in India: 

With a view to overcome challenges, facilitate travel to and stay at religious places, the Ministry of Tourism has already identified 35 destinations in phase I and shall cover another 89 destinations in phase II.
The historic places associated with these religions are spread all over the country. Both foreign and domestic tourists would like to visit more than one place of their religion if proper planning and requisite facilitate are made available to them. These religious circuits would cover Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, Sikh and Sufi circuits.

Integrated Tourism Circuits:

Buddhist Circuit:


Buddhist circuit 1
Buddhist circuit 1

Buddhist circuit 2
Buddhist circuit 2

Buddhist circuit 3
Buddhist circuit 3

Jain Tourist Circuit:

Jain temple
Jain temple

Jain Tourist circuit 1
Jain Tourist circuit 1

Jain Tourist circuit 2
Jain Tourist circuit 2

Jain Tourist circuit 3
Jain Tourist circuit 3

Jain Tourist circuit 4
Jain Tourist circuit 4

Sufi Tourist Circuit:

Sufi religion via http://www.happehtheory.com
Sufi religion via http://www.happehtheory.com

Sufi Tourist circuit 1
Sufi Tourist circuit 1

Sufi Tourist circuit 2
Sufi Tourist circuit 2

Hinduism Tourist Circuit:


Hinduism tourist circuit 1
Hinduism tourist circuit 1

Hinduism tourist circuit 2
Hinduism tourist circuit 2

Hinduism tourist circuit 3
Hinduism tourist circuit 3

Sarv Dharam Tourist Circuit:

Sarv Dharam tourist circuit 1
Sarv Dharam tourist circuit 1

Sarv Dharam tourist circuit 2
Sarv Dharam tourist circuit 2

There are other Religious tourist circuits in the pipeline as well such as National mission on pilgrimage, rejuvenation and spiritual augmentation drive (Prasad) and a national heritage city development and augmentation yojana (Hriday). “Hriday” will be launched in Mathura, Amritsar, Gaya, Kanchipuram, Vellankani and Ajmer this year. He further added that “Sarnath-Gaya-Varanasi Buddhist” circuit would be developed with “world-class tourist amenities” to attract tourists from all over the world. He also said that services provided by Indian tour operators to foreign tourists in relation to a tour wholly conducted outside India will be taken out of the tax net to promote tourism. 

Scope of Bed and Breakfast scheme in Religious Tourism in India: 

During my PhD thesis on Bed and Breakfast accommodation in Delhi, survey revealed that tourists who come for a pilgrimage or for visit to monuments or business or outdoor activities do not necessary need the facilities which are only available in regular hotels like spa, round the clock restaurant, gym etc.  However, these Tourists certainly need exchange of thoughts and one on one information with the host.  These tourists might prefer staying in a Bed and Breakfast accommodation.

Bed and Breakfast
Bed and Breakfast 

I reviewed 48 BnB Units in which total 16389 Domestic tourists stayed. It is surprising to observe that there is a large group of domestic tourists numbering 5614 out of total of 16389 preferred to stay in cheaper accommodation having tariff range of Rs. 1000/- to Rs.2000/-. They are generally the pilgrims who come to Delhi to have darshan of shrines and hails to get an accommodation in dharmshalas and sarais.  

Ideally if a religious tourist wishes to visit Akshardham temple, then he would seek a nearby BnB accommodation in East Delhi. Such B&B owners should be sure that they have special arrangement of the followers of that faith like Swami Narain group and the rooms should be so decorated that it looks as if these are the rooms only meant for the followers of that faith.  Similarly, if it is near some mosque or some dargah like Nizamuddin Aulia dargah, then B&B owner may draw special attention of those persons who come for prayers for Salim Chisti Sahib.  For this purpose, they may make mention as to what are other important religious or suffiana facilities are available nearby.  Similarly, other owners who have a famous Gurudwara nearby may attract tourists belonging to Sikh religion and so on.

Concluding Remarks:

It is very unfortunate that in some of the religious places, hygiene and sanitation are not up to the mark. The tour guides and touts are not generally tourist friendly. In a few religious destinations, there is no last mile connectivity up to the shrines. It is upto the local municipalities of the cities to deploy appropriate manpower for cleanliness and educate the stakeholders near the shrines to make tourists comfortable. There is a silver lining that the Swachchta Abhiyan and Smart cities concept is likely to provide convenience and encourage inter-alia religious tourists particularly NRI’s and other foreign tourists to visit Indian shrines.

Though Govt of India has taken the right steps towards building a religious ecosystem in India but it remains to be seen how the policies are developed and the benefits thereof. As someone passionate about the tourism industry, I am keeping my fingers crossed hoping for the best results.


Report of the Working Group on tourism, 12th Five Year plan, Ministry of Tourism, Govt of India.

"Role of Bed and Breakfast scheme of Delhi in Development of Tourism in Delhi" Ph.D Thesis by Dr. G G Saxena

Diverse Beliefs: Tourism of Faith; Religious Tourism gains ground; Report by FICCI and YES Bank Ltd.