Arab Tourists to India
There has been a consistent and positive growth of foreign tourist arrivals from the Gulf and the Middle East region to India over the last 2 to 3 years with the year 2011 having registered an overall growth of around 18.5 percent over the previous year.
In 2011, the UAE comes first with more than 66,000 tourists followed by Oman with around 40,000 tourists, while Saudi Arabia is third with 26,000 visitors.
According to Vikas Rustagi, regional director of India Tourism in West Asia and Africa, the Middle East and the Gulf region are emerging as an important tourism generating market for India. "Realizing the importance of this region as an important source market, the Ministry of Tourism, government of India through the India Tourism Office, Dubai makes efforts to provide a glimpse of the attractive tourism products as well as the countless cultural, spiritual and travel experiences that India offers as a tourist destination" he said.
The highlight of the promotional efforts is to depict India as a multifaceted all the year round tourist destination for culture, luxury, wildlife and wellness/medical tourism, he added.
Foreign tourist arrivals (FTAs) into India have witnessed a steady increase over the years, touching 6.29 million in 2011, a spurt of a whopping 8.9 percent increase over 5.78 million tourist arrivals in 2010. This year till May 2012, the FTAs in India stands at 2.80 million. The Foreign Exchange Earnings (FEE) till May 2012 stand at 7.30 billion. The Ministry of Tourism has set an aim to increase India's share in International Tourist Arrival from 0.6 percent to 1 percent by 2016.
Boat House in Kerala
Rustagi believes that India offers a lot to tourists with its natural beauty, vivid festivals, exotic beaches and architectural marvels, from palace and heritage hotels, to deserts, to skiing in the mountains, swimming or diving at beautiful beaches. "Also, boat houses in Kerala and Kashmir, luxurious train journeys as well as the diverse range of accommodation from budget to the top 5-star properties and spa resorts, are features that attract visitors from all the corners of the world," he added.
India is also a famous destination for medical travel. As Rustagi envisages, India is poised to become the hub for medical tourism because of several factors such as highly skilled Indian physicians and surgeons, low cost of treatment, excellent quality of care like nursing and Indian hospitality, and comparatively less waiting time for availing the medical services. One unique point is India's traditional health care therapies like Ayurveda and Yoga combined with allopathic treatment.
The India Tourism has been operating in Dubai since 1988 before which it had been operating from Kuwait.
According to Rustagi, India Tourism Dubai is the national tourism promotional office of the country's Tourism Ministry, which is based in the UAE to promote tourism to India from the West Asia and Africa region to India. The office is responsible for dissemination of information and creating awareness about tourist destinations and tourism products within India.
To increase the tourist inflow, the India Tourism Office, as part of its ongoing activities, releases print, electronic, online and outdoor media campaigns and promotional activities, including participation in travel fairs and exhibitions, organizing road shows, Know India seminars and workshops, organizing and supporting Indian food and cultural festivals, publication of brochures, offering joint advertising and brochure support, and inviting media personalities, tour operators and opinion makers to visit the country under the Hospitality Program of India Tourism.
The India Tourism Office has been playing a very vital role in not only publicizing but also creating awareness and generating interest for not only tourism activities but also for promoting medical tourism to India from this region. It has been acting as a facilitator and single point of contact for all tourism requirements.
In addition to the regional office in Dubai, which covers the India Tourism Marketing Representatives countries, there is also an India Tourism Office which is located in Johannesburg, South Africa, which covers all the countries in Africa region. "The Tourism Ministry is considering to appoint India Tourism Marketing Representatives ( ITMR) in various countries, which are important tourism generating markets for India and this also includes some countries of the Gulf and the Middle East region," Rustagi said.
Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) who live in the Gulf region are a major potential segment of tourists to India. "The India Tourism office works very closely with the Indian diplomatic missions to promote India Tourism for the NRI segment by holding various promotional events. There are a large number of special interest tours and packages covering various aspects of India which specially cater to the NRI segment keeping in mind the time, holiday season and period of travel," he emphasized.