At a time when unemployment has hit a three-year high and several other economic indicators point to a slowdown, a recent study by the World Economic Forum provides some succour.
It says India’s tourism sector is doing better than before, with the country’s ranking climbing six slots to the 34th position.
The growth is aided by what India has always been famous for in the West—price competitiveness, or in other words, being a cheap destination that has rich natural and cultural resources.
In fact, among the top 25% of all countries ranked in the WEF report, India witnessed the greatest improvement since 2017.
This can partially be attributed to the Centre’s policies. Last December, the Union government issued new rules governing India’s coastlines, which allow temporary tourism facilities like shacks, toilet blocks and drinking water facilities in what were earlier ‘no-development’ zones. Tourism contributes a substantial 10% to India’s GDP, generating about $250 billion.
Also, with Ladakh having become a Union Territory, analysts estimate tourist inflow to increase substantially in the region.
However, environmental and livelihood concerns continue to plague the sector. While the hospitality industry has ravaged mountains and coastlines across the country - primarily due to over-exploitation - archaic legislations have restrained the industry’s growth.
A recent study by the UN blamed over-exploitation of the Western Ghats for the megafloods witnessed in Kerala and parts of Karnataka for two consecutive years.
Tourism is the single largest factor behind the over-exploitation of the sensitive Western Ghats ecosystem. There will be tourism only as long as the ‘rich natural and cultural resources’ exist.
Legislators and industry players must, hence, promote eco-tourism in the true sense.
The most successful example in this regard is Bhutan. While most countries subsidise tourism, Bhutan charges a sustainable development fee from tourists. This helps keep the Himalayan nation an evergreen attraction.