India is dialling in on tourism, and foreign tourists are picking up. Green initiatives, sustainable investments and responsible tourism will be core to its G20 presidency in 2023.
India plans to promote green tourism, open up to 50 new tourism destinations, and launch a publicity campaign in overseas markets during its presidency of the G20 this year, officials said.
India will host more than 200 G20 meetings at over 50 locations during the year, including key tourist attractions in Rajasthan, Goa, and Jammu & Kashmir regions, as well as near the archaeological site of Dholavira in Gujarat and other historical monuments, officials said.
“G20 will be used to position India as a major tourism destination during its presidency of G20 for 2023,” a senior government official, who attended the first meeting of G20 Tourism Working Group in the state of Gujarat, told Reuters.
India took on the G20 presidency in December. The group is an intergovernmental forum of the world’s 20 major developed and developing economies.
India expects that a G20 tourism ministers’ conference, due later this year, would focus on sustainable tourism to support environment and create opportunities for local businesses.
The government is pushing green initiatives to promote responsible tourism in the country and authorities plan to ensure small businesses have the resources for green investments and to create local jobs.
Arvind Singh, secretary at the ministry of tourism, said more than 100,000 foreign delegates from the G20 are expected to visit India this year and would be able to experience India’s diverse culture, including historic monuments and festivals.
“The G20 will help in raising awareness about tourism potential at the global level,” he said.
The government estimates that foreign tourist numbers could reach 15 million in 2024, contributing more than $30 billion in earnings.
Tourist inflows had fallen to close to seven million in 2021, based on industry estimates, from 11 million in 2019.
India has already added new airports, and provided online visa facilities for tourists from about 160 countries. The government also allows foreign investors to invest 100% in tourism related businesses.
There are plans to ease visa rules further and introduce traveller-friendly immigration facilities at airports, officials said.
Last week, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman allocated 24 billion rupees ($290 million) for tourism infrastructure, while presenting 2023/24 budget, including 2.42 billion rupees for promotion and branding of tourist destinations.
Foreign tourist inflows are steadily picking up as pandemic restrictions have eased, said Pronab Sarkar, former president of Indian Association of Tour Operators. He said India’s G20 presidency would help New Delhi to promote tourist destinations.
“There is a pick up in arrival of tourists from the USA, the UK, Australia and many European countries, and we hope that by next year we could cross pre-COVID levels.”
($1 = 82.6730 Indian rupees)
(Reporting by Manoj Kumar. Editing by Jane Merriman)
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Photo credit: The Taj Mahal in Agra, India. Source: Seba Della and Sole Bossio / Flickr