Published on : Friday, November 17, 2017
Travel And Tour World spoke to Reshmi Verma, Secretary Government of India, Ministry of Tourism at the WTM London 2017. Ms. Verma elaborates about the USP of India as a fascinating tourist destination for international globetrotters, emphasizing on the significance of spiritual and adventure tourism here.
Travel And Tour World: Can you tell us about your strategy of tourism in the next 12 months for India as an interesting destination?
Reshmi Verma: We are doing pretty well in this sphere.
I think there is a lot of interest for India as a tourist destination. The tourist footfall this year has been growing at 15.6% which is much more than what we had last year and is also much more as compared to international travel that has been growing at 6%. So it has been an encouraging year so far.
We continue to reinforce our unique selling proposition (USP) that is the ‘spiritual aspect’ of India in combination with the rich cultural heritage of the country. We wish to showcase to the world that India has a unique experience to offer as a spiritual tourist destination. When we talk of spiritualism, it is not only about the regeneration of body, but the complete regeneration of body, mind and soul. Naturally, if you visit India, you return with a better mind and also a better human being.
Apart from this, in 2018 we also focus on ‘adventure tourism’ because there is a lot of potential in our country in this regard as we have about 70% of Himalayas in our nation.
Furthermore, we have a long crystalline floor which gives us opportunities for water sports and skiing in winter. We also have river rafting options, having of the highest rivers in Ladakh which is great destination for river rafting. This encourages man to come here for mountaineering, trekking and many other adventure sports.
Travel And Tour World: What is the response from new markets coming to your country, for instance, from China?
Reshmi Verma: We look at Russia, China and Japan as our key markets as the tourist inflow from these nations has been growing every year and there also has been a great interest in various tourism products of India. Now we possess market specific thematic campaigns going on like ‘Incredible India 2.0 campaign’ and we have done our analysis on all our key markets and emerging markets. Looking at their interests and requirements we are conducting thematic campaigns.
Travel And Tour World: The e-visa now is in place for a while. How are you learning key lessons about how to develop it further?
Reshmi Verma: In fact e-visa has been a great game changer as far as people are concerned and can be attributed to a growth in tourism in India to a large extent, as it is offered to 162 countries. Now we have e-visa offered for MICE tourism and medical tourism as well. This gives an opportunity to tourists to apply online without hassles and is also much cheaper than regular visa. Additionally currently we are allowing double entry also tourists can stay for three months in our country. In fact 40% of our traffic is coming from e-visa. We have also extended e-visa for cruise tourists and that is also going a long way in developing domestic tourism in India.
Travel And Tour World: Can you explain the concept of digital penetration in terms of the Indian tourism industry?
Reshmi Verma: So far we had focused on electronic media and print media. But this year our main focus is digital media and marketing through digital media to promote tourism in India. Our campaign is running through digital platforms and we are able to reach out to larger amount of people with the same amount of money. We are also pushing in a lot of videos through these social platforms and that has started creating a good deal of awareness.
Travel And Tour World: India is huge country what is the challenge in marketing such a large country with so much diversity?
Reshmi Verma: India is a huge country with diverse cultures and there are a variety of products to offer. In fact India has something to offer for every kind of tourist and every age group We have tourist destinations for everyone we are now focusing on better connectivity between various regions in India so that people visiting India can visit more than one place in India and this would motivate them to stay for a longer duration in India and enjoy the experience.
Travel And Tour World: India was once famous for long train journeys, how has that changed and how to make travel in India more accessible?
Reshmi Verma: We have a number of airlines operating in different domestic sectors and connectivity between places has improved tremendously. Now we are focusing on smaller destinations and also we have policies to promote regional connectivity. For instance we are opening up smaller air slips to private players for helping tourists avail chopper services or small aircrafts. Therefore our domestic connectivity has not only improved in the last few years, but so has the infrastructure of airports.
Travel And Tour World: Can you give example of some remote areas now opening up in your country that have developed great connectivity?
Reshmi Verma: We have a number of flights going to North East and many other unconnected regions. In fact in Uttarakhand region we have a new chopper service that is regular and it connects four key religious places so within one day you can go to all the places. The facility is operated by private players.