Foreign tourists trickling back to India, tour operators remain optimistic
Srinagar: As the third wave of Covid pandemic started waning in February, foreign tourist arrivals (FTAs) showed uptick stoking hopes of revival of tourism and hospitality sector battered by the outbreak of deadly virus.
Tourism Ministry data shows FTAs increased to 2.40 lakh into the country in February, 2022 as compared to 2.01 lakh in the previous month.
This is big respite for local tour operators and other players in the sector given the fact that FTAs had in December 2021 surged to 3.03 lakh but fell in the following month due to Covid infection fears.
FTAs in October and November of 2021 were 1.81 lakh and 2.51 lakh respectively. Commenting on the trend, Subhash Goyal, Chairman STIC Travel Group and President of Confederation of Tourism Professionals said that after opening the scheduled international flights and the starting of E-visas there is boom in inbound tourism to India.
"If the situation remains the same and there are no more disruptions due to Covid we will not only touch the 11 million mark but exceed it. In 2019, India earned approximately 30 billion (US) dollars in Foreign Exchange. In the year 2022-23 we hope to earn about 35 billion (US) dollars," Goyal told UNI.
Rajiv Mehra, President, Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO) and Managing Director, Uday Tours & Travel appeared cautiously optimistic saying that there are some clients - genuine tourists who have arrived so far and that is less than 3% of what arrived before Covid.
"The others are NRIs holding international passports who cannot be called tourist as they are visiting friends and families. We should arrive at a figure of 30% to 40% by this year end and hopefully should reach the February 2020 situation by 2023-end depending on the control on Covid and the war," he said.
While resumption of regular international flights and subsequent easing of Visa restrictions are expected to boost the number of foreign tourists coming to India in coming months, the government has been focussing on reviving domestic tourism.
"Recognising the fact that revival in the tourism sector will be largely spearheaded by domestic tourism, the Ministry of Tourism is focusing on the promotion of domestic tourism by arranging a series of webinars under the overall theme of Dekho Apna Desh," the Ministry said in its monthly report for March.
(With UNI inputs)