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india: Tour companies request PMO to campaign for Brand India


New Delhi: While the number of Indians travelling overseas is experiencing robust growth, attracting a similar volume of inbound tourism remains a major challenge, tour operators and travel agents told ET.

The domestic travel and tourism industry is now urging the Prime Minister’s Office to prioritise initiatives that attract foreign tourists and boost overseas marketing and promotional campaigns.

The Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO) said on Friday it has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking his intervention for the revival of the inbound tourism industry.

“The letter has drawn the attention of the prime minister to the recently made statement in Parliament by Union tourism minister G Kishan Reddy that only 85.9 lakh foreign tourist visitors visited the country in 2022 as compared to 3.14 crore in 2019,” said IATO president Rajiv Mehra.

“It mentions multiple reasons for the decline in numbers such as withdrawal of incentives to the inbound tour operators on their foreign exchange earnings which were being used for overseas marketing and promotions; lack of trained tourism manpower in Indian embassies who are not able to do regular follow-ups with the foreign tour operators,” said Mehra.

“Advance planning of at least one year is required and dedicated budgetary funds should be provided to the ministry of tourism for aggressive overseas promotions. We also think there’s an immediate need for the formation of a National Tourism Board,” he added.As per industry estimates shared with ET, inbound tourism would still be about 50-70% of the pre-pandemic levels for this year.Ajay Prakash, board member of Federation of Associations for Indian Tourism and Hospitality (FAITH), said it is an unfortunate reality that inbound tourism has not picked up and is still below the 2019-2020 levels.

“Funds for overseas activities need to be stepped up. We need to comprehensively improve our planning with funds clearly allocated for each activity and it would be great if the prime minister’s office takes things under its wings. India also needs to look at a more liberal visa regime taking a leaf out of the books of Thailand, Sri Lanka and Vietnam,” he added.

The main concern is the lack of marketing and promotions by India in overseas markets, said Jyoti Mayal, president of Travel Agents Association of India. Concurred Rajeev Kohli, joint MD, Creative Travel. “Our inbound tourism business is about 60-70% of the 2019 levels. Tourism is a product, and as per the laws of marketing and economics, you have to sell your product. You have to do promotions and marketing. And we don’t see that happening for India,” he said.


Costlier Airfares
“Compare this to the aggressive promotions other countries are doing in India. Most major markets had surpassed 2019 levels last year. Airfares for India are very expensive. But that’s true for other destinations too. They are also more expensive than before. Our teams have travelled to markets such as US, Australia and Latin America and unfortunately, we don’t see a demand for India,” he added.

To be sure, in addition to geopolitical developments, slowdown in several economies also has a bearing on incoming tourist traffic, industry insiders said. “The foreign inbound business for us is about 55-60% of the 2019 levels currently. We just lost two groups from Israel for December after receiving full payments,” said Sunil Gupta, MD of Travel Bureau.


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