USA tops in foreign visitors numbers to India


Minister of Tourism Ambika Soni highlighted the tourism figures and future projects to enhance tourism into India at the PATA Travel Mart (PTM) 2008 held in Hyderabad last month.

Foreign tourism arrivals in India increased from 2,73 million in 2003 to 5.08 million in 2007. The period from January to August this year recorded a total of 3,54 million foreign tourist arrivals, an increase of 10.4 per cent compared to the corresponding period last year. USA visitors have topped the foreign visitors for the first time in 2007 followed closely by the UK. 

Foreign exchange earnings from tourism in India increased from $4.46 billion in 2003 to $10.73 billion in 2007. Domestic tourist in India increased from 309 million in 2003 to 527 million in 2007.

Soni said that the Ministry had launched a scheme for the development of nationally and internationally important destinations through mega infrastructure projects. To date, 22 mega projects had already been identitfied.

In addition, part of the Ministry’s initiatives is to develop rural tourism, cruise tourism, adventure and eco tourism along with health and wellness tourism.

The host state for the travel mart - Andhra Pradesh – was to focus on being a preferred MICE and medical tourism destination, and as a result two new bureaus had been set up, namely the Hyderabad Society for MICE and a Medical Tourism Bureau.

Andhra Pradesh will conduct its own road shows separate to the India Tourism Board to highlight this unique destination, which now includes Buddha tourism.

Usha Punai, minister for the state of Rajashtan, used the mart to launch its new luxury train, the Royal Rajasthan on Wheels. This will run on the same tracks and same duration as the Palace on Wheels.   “We saw the need to add an additional train service as the Palace on Wheels has been such a success, that it is over booked up into 2010.  Royal Rajasthan on Wheels will be more luxurious than the Palace on Wheels with super deluxe suites at $2,000 per night and a deluxe for $1,200. The train will be launched in January 2009.

Air India also presented its future plans since the merger of Indian Airlines and Air India in August last year. The new company is The National Aviation Company of India (NASAL) with the brand remaining as Air India.

India’s open sky policy brought excellent opportunities for expansion. The aviation industry in India has an agreement for over 500 new aircraft and of this Air India has ordered 111.

Air India flies to 52 international destinations and 59 domestic destinations, with 15 new international destinations planned for the future.