Road to Budget: Time for tourism-led growth for India

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By S Jha

New Delhi, January 30: On Wednesday, when Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presents her fifth Budget in the Lok Sabha, she is expected to show the roadmap for India to become the fourth largest economy in the world in another four to five years, and the third largest by 2035. The GDP numbers in the last two quarters showed that tourism and hospitality are finally coming out of contraction.

Ganga Vilas, the largest river cruise, is said to be fully booked for several months at prices, which at least even the upper middle class in India cannot afford. The privately run river cruise was booked by tourists from Switzerland. This was made possible by an aggressive campaign in the European and Arabian circuits to attract tourists.

Tourism and hospitality sector is slated to hot a market size of $50.9 billion by 2028, in another five years. The industry participants are banking on the growing global travelers interests in wellness tourism in India. Kerala, Karnataka, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and the Northeastern states are being projected to have untapped potential to go big in cashing in on the emerging wellness tourism. In Delhi, Lajpat Nagar, a large suburb, is dotted with Pashtun language signage, as people from Afghanistan take lodgings there during their stay for medical treatment which ranges from critical care to dental health services. The industries are pinning hope on luxury and wildlife tourism to bring more tourists in the country.

Incidentally, Bangladesh and Afghanistan account for the second and the third slot from where most number of tourists come. The industry participants state that such tourists are coming to India for healthcare. With India emerging as a centre of super speciality hospitals with affordable critical care, India may attract more people from developing and neighbouring countries.

The travel market in India is poised to reach $125 billion by 2028. The market size of the sector in 2021 was $75 billion. Hotel industry is estimated to be of $32 billion size in 2021, which may rise to become $52 billion by 2028 to cater to the needs of the growing inflow of tourists. India is targeting Middle East, which is home to over three million Indians, and Europe in a big way to grow its tourism pie in the global market.

With Europe growing averse to China, India is sensing an opportunity to tap into the Europeans’ need for travel. The finance minister is expected by the industry participants to take measures to boost travel and tourism infrastructure, including hotels and home stays.

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