I am delighted to be here with the delegates from the global tourism industry on the occasion of World Tourism Day 2019.I am happy that the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has selected India as the host country for celebration of World Tourism Day 2019.
World Tourism Day is celebrated every year with the objective of generating widespread awareness about the social, cultural and economic values of tourism and at the same time to encourage global communities to travel, experience and learn to respect the diverse cultures of the world.
This ultimately paves the way for economic development through Travel and Tourism.
I am happy to know that the theme for World Tourism Day 2019 is ‘Tourism and Jobs: A better future for all’.
Tourism is a major engine of economic growth and an important source of employment and foreign exchange earnings in many countries, including India.
In this context, this theme is most appropriate as it acknowledges the capacity of tourism to create large-scale employment opportunities and the important role it plays in achieving growth with equity and sustainability.
My dear sisters and brothers,
Tourism in India has tremendous potential, considering the country’s rich cultural and historical heritage, varied ecology, terrains and places of natural beauty spread across the country.
From the frigid deserts of Leh, to the sun-drenched sand dunes of Rajasthan, to the lush forests of Madhya Pradesh, to the expansive backwaters of Kerala, to the pristine waters of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the natural beauty of the Indian subcontinent is unparalleled.
Today, India is among the most popular tourist destinations in the world.
Home to 30 cultural and 7 natural World Heritage Sites, India has a mesmeric conflation of the old and the new.
As all of you are aware, ours is a 5000-year-old civilization. As such, tourism in India has a very old history. The essences of Vedic, Islamic and western cultures are all blended in Indian civilization.
Its travel tradition starts with Pre-Vedic- Indus valley civilization which witnessed visits of people of different centres of human settlements for the purposes of social integration, trade and learning.
Development of traditional industries, trading routes and flourishing trade created another stream of travellers in India.
During the 8th and 9th centuries, the great Indian philosopher also known as the Architect of Pilgrimage Tourism in India, Shankaracharya, encouraged domestic pilgrimage.
This trend of travel within the country continues to this day. Indeed, domestic tourism has become an important contributor to the tourism sector in India.
There has been a Compounded Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 13.11% in domestic tourist visits to all States/UTs from 1991 to 2018.
My dear sisters and brothers,
It is heartening to know that a total of 1.4 billion tourists travelled across the world generating US$1.7 trillion in worldwide exports in 2018, marking a sustained growth in international tourism for the ninth consecutive year.
Tourism provides 10 percent of Income across the globe and creates myriad employment opportunities. Tourism goes where other sectors often don’t. Take a tiny island nation like the Maldives or a landlocked Himalayan kingdom like Bhutan, tourism generates revenue and provides jobs.
In both developed and less developed economies, Travel & Tourism also typically employ a far higher proportion of women than other sectors. Not only are more women employed in tourism, they have more opportunity for advancement
The growth of global tourism can be attributed to several factors including the removal of barriers to global mobility, increased accessibility as well as the desire in large numbers of people to travel and experience the diverse cultures and lifestyles of countries across the globe.
Tourism in India has also been experiencing a strong period of growth--driven by the burgeoning Indian middle class, growth in high spending foreign tourists, and coordinated government campaigns to promote ‘Incredible India’ as a multi-faceted tourism destination. The Indian tourism industry has in fact, emerged as one of the key drivers of growth among the services sectors in India.
India is now the 7th largest tourism economy in the world and is among the top 3 destinations in the world for medical tourism. In 2018, 27.39 million tourists visited India and over 6 lakh medical tourists visit India every year.
India has been placed at 34h position out of 140 economies, in the World Economic Forum’s ‘World Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Rank’ in 2019. It accounts for the majority of South Asia's Travel and Tourism GDP, and remains the sub-region's most competitive Travel and Tourism economy.
The government has also taken several decisive steps to make the country accessible and safe to travellers. The Visa regime has been greatly liberalized to stimulate business and investment, along with tourism.
We now extend e-visa facility to tourists from more than 180 countries.
India has also greatly improved its business environment, the ease of doing business, overall Travel and Tourism policy and enabling conditions, infrastructure and Information and Communications Technology.
We are also focusing on the augmentation and up gradation of tourism infrastructure. Budget 2019 envisions the development of 17 iconic tourist sites as world class tourist centres to improve the flow of domestic and foreign tourists.
While the central and state governments are doing their bit to develop tourist spots and promote tourism, I would like to suggest to the corporate sector to supplement the efforts of the governments.
I compliment the government for introducing schemes such as Swadesh Darshan, National Mission for Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual Augmentation Drive (PRASAD) and also the Railway Ministry for launching special pilgrimage packages.
The recent decision to reduce GST on hospitality sector is also a positive step to encourage tourism.
I feel that as suggested by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, people, especially the youth must visit at least 15 tourist destinations within India by 2022 to give boost to domestic tourism.
Youngsters, especially students of our country must undertake ‘Bharat Darshan’ to learn about various facets of India’s culture, heritage, languages and cuisine and enhance their understanding of the unique cultural mosaic of the country. This understanding would help them devise ingenuous and effective solutions to the challenges faced by the country today.
India is also emerging as a large source market for travel and tourism, with countries taking various steps to attract the Indian tourists. This two-way movement of tourists to and from the country is bound to be of mutual benefit to all.
My dear sisters and brothers,
Tourism is a key enabler of people to people contact.
Tourism helps in winning hearts and minds.
Tourism teaches us many lessons. It helps us imbibe the qualities of patience and tolerance. When we see new places, our knowledge of the world and understanding will be enhanced.
I am glad to know that as a United Nations Agency, the World Tourism Organization is spearheading the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism globally.
The role of UNWTO in promoting tourism as a driver of economic growth, inclusive development and environmental sustainability and offering leadership and support to the tourism sector in advancing knowledge and tourism policies worldwide is commendable.
We should look at tourism as a way of transforming not just the economy, but the lives of people within and outside the sector.
Transformation for us is not only about growth in tourist arrivals, growth of GDP, growth of investment and trade, and growth of jobs within the existing industry framework. The idea of transformation goes much beyond.
It is about creating opportunities, through tourism, for each and every individual to play a direct role and partake in the benefits that are accrued through tourism.
Such transformation should enable the local communities to actively and meaningfully playing a leadership role in industry development, and influence the direction of growth.
Even as we prepare for larger numbers of tourists, stronger demands and higher sales turnover, we should remain mindful of the challenges ahead.
There is a need to keep in mind the aspect of ‘ethics’ in travel.
Tourism should benefit people and the environment in different destinations.
It should offer better income to families living in the area, by sourcing products and services locally. It should serve as a tool for the empowerment of local communities.
I congratulate the UNWTO for adopting the First Ever Convention on Tourism Ethics this month during its 23rd General Assembly, thereby bringing UNWTO in line with the wider United Nations system.
For the Indian Tourism Industry, my advice is to continuously strive for service excellence, an important measure of productivity in the Tourism industry.
We must also place great emphasis on conservation and sustainability as we promote tourism.
Large numbers of tourists also result in enormous volumes of water and energy usage, as well as waste creation and pollution.
The service providers as well as the tourists must be mindful of their ecological foot print and must adopt a much more judicious approach to consumption of resources so that future generations also have the opportunity to avail of all the benefits of tourism
For that, we must have a long term vision and a robust road map for the development of our tourism sector in an eco-friendly manner so that it is sustainable in the long run.
The government’s move to ban single-use plastics can go a long way in curbing pollution and is a right step in this direction.
We must also make full use of our tremendous medical tourism potential. India is home to unique, ancient systems of healing and wellness such as Ayurveda. We must leverage this ancient wisdom to attract more tourists who seek holistic wellness.
I am happy to see a partnership between the Government and the tourism sector that is focusing on improving skills, increasing the quality and quantity of jobs available and boosting entrepreneurship in the industry.
The government is committed to promoting culture and tourism to enable Indians to derive the maximum benefits from Tourism.
I commend the commitment and passion of the tourism industry stakeholders.
The ideal of ‘Athithi devo bhava’ has been at the core of our civilization since time immemorial. Let us keep up our commitment to this lofty ideal and open our nation to the world and welcome travellers from all over the globe to incredible India!
I would like to extend my heartiest congratulations to all the award winners and wish all of you a rewarding journey ahead as you take the tourism industry to greater heights through your outstanding service and excellence.