India is a vast South Asian country with diverse terrain – from Himalayan peaks to Indian Ocean coastline – and history reaching back 5 millennia. In the north, Mughal Empire landmarks include Delhi’s Red Fort complex and massive Jama Masjid mosque, plus Agra’s iconic Taj Mahal mausoleum. Pilgrims bathe in the Ganges in Varanasi, and Rishikesh is a yoga centre and base for Himalayan trekking.
Tourism in India is economically important and is growing rapidly. The World Travel & Tourism Council calculated that tourism generated ₹8.31 lakh crore (US$120 billion) or 6.3% of the nation’s GDP in 2015 and supported 37.315 million jobs, 8.7% of its total employment. The sector is predicted to grow at an average annual rate of 7.5% to ₹18.36 lakh crore (US$270 billion) by 2025 (7.2% of GDP). In October 2015, India’s medical tourism sector was estimated to be worth US$3 billion. It is projected to grow to $7–8 billion by 2020. In 2014, 184,298 foreign patients traveled to India to seek medical treatment.
About 80.27 lakh (8.027 million) foreign tourists arrived in India in 2015 compared to 76.79 lakh (7.679 million) in 2014, recording a growth of 4.5%. Domestic tourist visits to all states and Union Territories numbered 1,036.35 million in 2012, an increase of 16.5% from 2011. In 2014, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh were the most popular states for tourists. Chennai, Delhi, Mumbai and Agra have been the four most visited cities of India by foreign tourists during the year 2011. Worldwide, Chennai is ranked 38 by the number of foreign tourists, while Mumbai is ranked at 50, Delhi at 52 and Agra at 66 and Kolkata at 99.
The Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2015 ranks India 52nd out of 141 countries overall. The report ranks the price competitiveness of India’s tourism sector 8th out of 141 countries. It mentions that India has quite good air transport (ranked 35th), particularly given the country’s stage of development, and reasonable ground transport infrastructure (ranked 50th). The country also scores high on natural and cultural resources (ranked 12th). Some other aspects of its tourism infrastructure remain somewhat underdeveloped however. The nation has very few hotel rooms per capita by international comparison and low ATM penetration. The World Tourism Organization reported that India’s receipts from tourism during 2012 ranked 16th in the world, and 7th among Asian and Pacific countries.
The Ministry of Tourism designs national policies for the development and promotion of tourism. In the process, the Ministry consults and collaborates with other stakeholders in the sector including various Central Ministries/agencies, state governments, Union Territories and the representatives of the private sector. Concerted efforts are being made to promote new forms of tourism such as rural, cruise, medical and eco-tourism. The Ministry also maintains the Incredible India campaign.
Good To Know
In order to boost tourism numbers, the Indian Government decided to implement a new visa policy, allowing visitors to obtain a visa on arrival at 16 designated international airports by obtaining an Electronic Travel Authorisation online before arrival without the need to visit an Indian consulate or visa centre. As a result of this, 56,477 tourist arrived on e-Tourist Visa during the month of October, 2015, as compared to 2,705 during the month of October, 2014 marking to a growth of 1987.9%. During January–October, 2015 a total of 2,58,182 tourist arrived on e-Tourist Visa as compared to 21,995 during January–October, 2014 registering a growth of 1073.8%.
The facility will be made available to citizens of about 180 countries in several phases. On 27 November 2014, India introduced its visa on arrival enabled by ETA facility for tourists and business visitors, to citizens of following countries – Australia, Brazil, Cambodia, Cook Islands, Djibouti, Fiji, Finland, Germany, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Kiribati, Laos, Luxembourg, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia, Myanmar, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue Island, Norway, Oman, Palau, Palestine, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Russia, Samoa, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Korea, Thailand, Tonga, Tuvalu, UAE, Ukraine, USA, Vanuatu and Vietnam. The facility was extended to China, Macau and Hong Kong on 30 July 2015. The facility was further extended to citizens of Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Aruba, Belgium, Bolivia, Colombia, Cuba, East Timor, Guatemala, Hungary, Ireland, Jamaica, Malta, Malaysia, Mongolia, Monaco, Mozambique, the Netherlands, Panama, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Seychelles, Slovenia, Spain, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Surinam, Sweden, Taiwan, Tanzania, Turks and Caicos Islands, the United Kingdom, Uruguay and Venezuela on 15 August 2015.
The visa on arrival requires a tourist to apply online on a secure Government of India website, at least 4 to 30 days before the date of travel. If approved, the passenger must print and carry the approved visa with the travel documents. The visa allows holders of Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) to enter and stay anywhere in India for 30 days. The ETA can be obtained twice in a single calendar year. The visa on arrival facility is expected to be expanded to about 180 countries over time. In April 2015 the scheme was renamed to e-Tourist Visa in order to avoid confusion.