Domestic tourists outnumber foreigners

The state that used to take pride in every third foreign tourist that came to India is now looking inwards for tourism. The state is flooded with tourists, be that at monuments, for wildlife tourism or adventure tourism but sighting a foreign tourist is a rarity nowadays in the burgeoning number of domestic tourists.

Arrival of foreign tourists in state has been declining steadily and compared to last year, tour operators and hoteliers confirm that there has been a drop of 22-25%. The tour operators and hotels that were always so wary of Indian tourists after the global slowdown have in fact now started focusing on the domestic segment for survival. Corroborating the facts is the Ministry of Tourism that pitches an annual increase in domestic tourist to an average 10%.

For instance, when the state reeled under extreme cold conditions on Sunday with mercury plummeting below normal, Nahargarh alone earned revenue of over Rs 36,000 by domestic tourists. In a similar situation, the Amber Palace with 6199 domestic tourists and barely 949 foreign visitors garnered revenue of Rs 4,55,325 besides Rs 45,770 parking fee on January 4 alone. Also, tourism statistics in the last quarter of 2013 at different monuments are a reflection on the changing trend.

“The season has been good due to domestic tourists and by and large most stakeholders have done well. About hotels, business and lower segment of hotels have done very well but the bigger hotels too haven’t lost. Since February is the month of weddings, most of the big hotels are fully booked,” said Mohan Singh, general secretary, Rajasthan Association of Tour Operators.

The trend has been changing, said Yunus Khimani, director, The City Palace. “Usually from December 25-January 5 is the peak time for tourists. While Jaigarh has always been a domestic tourist destination, we have observed more domestic tourists at The City Palace too that earlier used to be all foreigners,” said Yunus.

Number of foreign tourists has been thinning and even if they are here tour operators say they have no spending power. “We thought, gradually after the slow down, tourism would pick up, but year after year we are surviving on domestic tourists. Even with the overseas travellers, the bookings are ad hoc. Now we just get 15-20 days notice in case of any booking,” said Khalid Khan, executive director, Le Passage to India.

But looking beyond the obvious, a tour operator attributes this decline to India losing its image of a safe country and becoming to the ‘rapist’s haven.’ “There have been far too many incidents of rape that have been extensively covered by the media. When we sell a tour to a foreign agent we are not armed with information of a visual task force that could make them see India as a safe place. Why would anyone want to come to an unsafe country with exorbitantly charged hotels and inadequate tourism infrastructure,” said an official from an overseas travel company.

source: The Times of India, 13 Jan 2014

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