Traditionally meant for long-haul travelers, India is rapidly turning into a weekend destination and destination for visitors from neighboring countries. Not surprisingly, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh bring in high numbers of visitors to the Indian subcontinent. Visits are short and more frequent in nature, and not necessarily restricted to winter months.
Among the many factors that are responsible for the increase in tourists coming in from neighboring countries is increasing accessibility as the prime reason for the rise in numbers. What transpired during the days of old isn’t relevant any longer. In addition to major cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkatta, and Chennai, smaller cities numbering well over twenty are also connected by international flights. Srilankan Airways operates 84 weekly flights to India, while the number of international airlines operating from Bangkok to India has gone up to five. Visa on arrival facilities extended to a number of countries by India is yet another compelling reason to visit a truly incredible destination.
Trends over the past couple of years indicate travelers have less disposable time for vacationing, thereby settling for frequent short break vacations as compared to longer breaks. Working class populations the world over are putting in more hours of work than before, mainly because of recession, falling demands, and financial instability. These are precisely the reasons for a shift in consumer behavior towards vacationing, India being no different from the rest.
India is more a sub-continent than a country with diverse offerings from each of its 23 states. By virtue of being the seventh largest country, states are of decent sizes, having numerous attractions for short- and long-haul visitors. Twenty-nine world heritage monuments put India sixth on the list of leaders, with many other heritage sites vying for inclusion in the list. Not before long this number will go up.
India has the largest number of tigers in the world, besides a staggeringly long coastline interspersed with attractive beaches. The lower Himalayas forming an arc in North and East India complements the natural beauty, compelling visitors to visit a befitting destination many times over.
India is now an attractive proposition for weekend, MICE, and week-long holidays, with prime travelers coming in from neighboring countries bordering India – Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh and to a lesser extent Bhutan and Pakistan. Besides accessibility, other factors contributing to the upturn is the variety that a number of cities have to offer in terms of monumental and architectural marvels, affordable and decent accommodation, luxury travel, and ample shopping facilities both for traditional and contemporary items at sprawling malls and at wayside stores.
Of late, restaurants offering international cuisine have sprung up, both in towns and in cities. Names of cities and towns that come to mind are Mumbai, Bengalaru, Ahmedabad, Lucknow, Kochi, Nagpur, Chandigarh, Hyderabad, Delhi, and Tiruchirapalli. A perfect blend of the old and the new can be found in most of the cities mentioned above, offering a tempting proposition to travelers from neighboring countries and those in Southeast Asia, including Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, and Vietnam. Similarity of cultures acts as a great catalyst, so it is little wonder these countries are leading the rush of visitors to India.
Challenges remain, ranging from an insufficient number of convention centers to disorganized chaos in the big cities, especially when it comes to traffic management. Lack of night life and entertainment facilities tends to act as a dampener, though it needs to be mentioned that tourism is an accelerator for economic growth and is bringing about a change in attitude and rules. High taxation on all facilities, the lack of advanced amusement parks, and the lack of variety in food offerings does tend to affect tourism and movement to countries with lower prices and better offerings. There is no denying many of India’s neighboring countries like Thailand, Singapore, and Malaysia as well as China and Dubai have attractive prices and often lure Indian travelers to these destinations for weekend and short-haul holidays. The anticipated turn around in bringing more visitors to India from these countries has not taken place at the required pace.
What will hold India in good stead is the fact it remains an unexplored destination, given the right marketing mix and push, improvements at ground level and enriching experiences will act as a perfect launching pad for bringing in a steady stream of visitors from neighboring countries, the curiosity factor, notwithstanding. India has begun to realize its own potential, and the day is not far off when back-to-back charters will step in to meet increasing demand.
Visitors realize India is too large a country to be “consumed” in one visit. A slice would initially suffice, and probably act as a precursor to visits of a longer duration in the future. India is a “must-see” destination in the minds of many. For some it’s a lifelong wish to gaze at the Taj Mahal at moonlight, for others it’s trying to sight a tiger in a forest reserve, a few may have a spiritual quest for enlightenment, while many may want to experience it’s riveting culture and exotic beauty. When seen from a distance, the map of India bears strong resemblance to a person standing with arms outstretched. It’s a universal sign, symbolizing “welcome,” and a perfect invitation to the land of delightful surprises.
The author of this article, Hector Dsouza, is President of L’orient Travels in Mumbai, India, and an Ambassador for eTurboNews.