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There are several sectors in India where the worth and potential of their assets have not really been fully utilised or harnessed. The tourism sector is one of them. Tourism accounts for 6.8 % of India’s GDP  and is the third largest earner of foreign exchange with earnings of $18.13 billion in 2013. India ranks 42 in foreign tourists arrivals as per the United Nations World Tourist Organisation. If many in the world still have a picture of India being a dirty and often unsafe place, they have only half the story.  There has been considerable progress since the days when India was seen as a land of beggars, snake charmers and elephants. Admittedly there’s much we need to do to get rid of this image by enhancing levels of hygiene and security especially for women visitors, but we have been blessed with many positives.

For the first time in our history, a nationwide Government backed initiative close to the heart of our Prime Minister has been launched for a Clean India. The Swachh Bharat campaign is still in a nascent stage but should show positive results over the next few years.

India is proud to have over 30 World Heritage Sites spread over the length and breadth of the country. They are so diverse with each site offering something unique to the tourist to savour. These can be better marketed to draw leisure tourists who wish to catch a glimpse of our varied and rich cultural history. In more modern terms, the presence of highly skilled medical doctors and relatively inexpensive ( as compared to other countries) medical facilities with high-class hospitals paves the way for a huge growth in what has come to be known as “medical tourism.”

I am delighted to see considerable progress made in branding, which is so crucial in the business of selling India as a travel destination. “Incredible India” and “Atithi Devo Bhava” ( “Consider The Guest As God” ) are campaigns which have highlighted what India has to offer. It is commendable that Tourism finds a place in the “Make In India” campaign launched by the present Government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This comes out of a recognition that this sector can in turn help alleviate poverty and enhance skill development as many jobs can be created through growth in the tourism and hospitality  industry.

Foreign investors have many incentives to set up their hotels and hospitality business ventures in India. 100 % Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is permitted in this sector. This will enable international hotel chains to bring with them their expertise and get economies of scale as the sector develops. Our country has so much to offer by way of natural beauty. We need to develop the infrastructure to support tourist destinations so that more people from India and from abroad can visit these places.

I am confident that given the thrust by the present Government, over the years many, many tourists will visit my country and take back happy memories of their time here.