Outbound tourist traffic from India poised to surpass inbound trafficOctober 27th, 2009 - 9:02 pm ICT by IANS
By Manik Mehta
Singapore Oct 27 (IANS) The just-concluded ITB Asia 2009 in Singapore, Asia’s largest tourism fair, provided pointers suggesting that outbound tourism traffic from India would surpass the inbound traffic.
“If it is not already happening, outbound traffic from India will surpass its inbound traffic. With the growing prosperity of middle-class Indians, more and more of them are venturing into far-flung destinations such as Switzerland, UK and the USA in the West, and Japan, Singapore and other destinations in the East.
“On the other hand, more and more foreign tourists are getting turned off by the outrageously priced hotel rooms in India, the rampant corruption in every aspect of life in India, the pollution, noise and fear of terrorism,” said Juergen Matthiesen, a Swiss tourism expert based near Basel.
Hotel prices in India, many experts said, are “completely unrealistic” and will hit the general tourism flow to a country that, otherwise, offers many cultural and historic attractions and a diverse landscape. India’s hotel prices compare unfavourably even with top destinations such as the US and Britain, not to mention other destinations such as Thailand, Singapore or Malaysia.
“There is the real danger that a time might come when the only foreign travellers to India would be the business travellers whose tabs are picked up by the companies employing them,” Matthiesen told IANS.
Some experts were privately saying that the “Incredible India” campaign — huge “Incredible India” billboards have been mounted in subway stations in Singapore or at other strategic locations in Frankfurt, London or New York — raised expectations of tourists visiting India, who came back with poor impressions of the country, mainly because of the very high hotel room prices.
Meanwhile, foreign tourism promotion agencies, closely monitoring the proliferation of India’s cash-rich middle-class, are aggressively courting Indian tourists.
“India is a strategically important market for Singapore. The success of the film ‘Krrish’, a Hrithik Roshan starrer shot in Singapore, has further enhanced the appeal of Singapore as a destination,” Chew Tiong Hong, director for destination marketing at the Singapore Tourism Board, told IANS.
The Singaporeans are also trying to attract Indian students who, invariably, become the best spokespersons of the host country when they return home on completion of their studies.
Singapore, according to Chew, has devised “excellent academic programmes” to meet the needs of Indian students. Besides, he kept emphasising, Singapore was a “safe place” for Indian students and visitors, a subtle hint that Indian students would not face the spate of recent attacks on students and visitors that they had faced in Australia.
Describing Indians and Chinese as “future world champions” in outbound tourism, Martin Buck, vice president of Messe Berlin, the organiser of ITB Asia, highlighted the “historic strength” of India as a destination. But he also said that India’s infrastructure urgently needed to be upgraded and modernised. The country’s hotel prices could become a deterrent to foreign tourists.
There was also criticism of Germany which, while showing interest to get Indian tourists, was very restrictive in issuing visas for visits by Indians. Many tourism promotion agencies in a number of German states are also frustrated by what some Indians described as “unfriendly visa practice” of German diplomatic representations in India.
Burkhard Kieker, the CEO of the Berlin Tourism Marketing Company, which is very keen to attract Indian tourists, said that the new airport to be launched in Berlin in two years would serve as a “hub for Asia, including India”.
While saying that the German diplomatic representations were “not that strict now”, Kieker told IANS his agency would look into the matter and see “if we can further improve the situation”.
“Obviously, India is an important source of tourism traffic for us,” he added.
Kieker said that China’s national airline was setting up a base in Berlin and “we hope airlines from India will also do the same”.
(Manik Mehta can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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