World Tourism Day is celebrated every year to commemorate the foundation of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), a specialised agency of the United Nations which promotes responsible, sustainable, and universally accessible tourism. This year’s theme of World Tourism Day is Tourism and Green Investment, which highlights the need for more and better-targeted investments for People, for the Planet and for Prosperity, to enable tourism to deliver on its massive potential to provide opportunities for people, to build resilient, to accelerate climate action and greater sustainability for the planet and deliver inclusive prosperity around the pillars of innovation and entrepreneurship.
Tourism forms a critical part of India’s economy as it is a key driver of economic growth and job creation. The Ministry of Tourism’s India Tourism Statistics 2022 states that the Travel and Tourism sector created 79.86 Mn jobs, including direct and indirect ones. Moreover, 15.34% of the jobs created in 2019-2020 were in this sector. In terms of GDP, during 2019-2020, the tourism sector’s direct and indirect contribution was 5.19%. India’s ranking in the World Economic Forum’s Travel and Tourism Development Index (TTDI) is 54th in 2021.
In 2021, over 6.19 Mn foreign tourists travelled to India, fetching us foreign exchange earnings of $8.79 Bn, the 14th highest in the world. It is important to mention that during this period, tourism was among the worst-hit sectors due to the pandemic. It is estimated that India's Tourism Sector will achieve the pre-pandemic level of foreign exchange earnings of $30 Bn and 15 Mn foreign arrivals by mid-2024, totalling a $50 Bn GDP contribution from Tourism.
Further, it is estimated that India’s tourism sector will grow at 7-9% CAGR in the coming decade. By 2030, it will contribute $250 Bn — $56 Bn $ in foreign exchange earnings and 25 Mn foreign arrivals — to GDP, creating 137 million jobs.
The government is committed to realising the potential of the tourism sector sustainably to ensure that the tourist spots and wildlife-sensitive places are preserved for a long so that future generations also visit them. Toward this end, the government has taken various steps.
National Strategy for Sustainable Tourism was formulated by the Ministry of Tourism in 2022 to mainstream sustainability in the Indian tourism sector and ensure more resilient, inclusive, carbon-neutral and resource-efficient tourism while safeguarding natural and cultural resources.
The comprehensive strategy document identified seven strategic pillars to make India a global destination for sustainable and responsible tourism: Promoting Environmental Sustainability; Protecting Biodiversity; Promoting Economic Sustainability; Promoting Socio-Cultural Sustainability; Scheme for Certification of Sustainable Tourism; IEC and Capacity Building; and Governance, and emphasised on the synergy between 16 ministries of the union government, state governments, local government institutions, industry, NGOs, local communities.
National Strategy for Ecotourism was drafted by the Ministry of Tourism in 2022 after considering the Ecotourism guidelines of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, the National Strategy for Rural Tourism, and the National Strategy Sustainable Tourism. It was designed to develop an enabling ecosystem for the growth of ecotourism in the country.
The strategy emphasised creating synergies amongst the 8 ministries of the Central government, State Governments, Panchayati Raj Institutions, conservation NGOs and the private sector to develop ecotourism in the country. For the holistic development of the industry, the following pillars were identified: State Assessment and Ranking; State Strategy for Ecotourism; IEC, Capacity Building and Certification; Marketing and Promotion; Destination and Product Development; Public-Private and Community Partnerships; Governance and Institutional Framework.
Among other steps, the strategy also envisaged ranking the States based on the globally recognised parameters of ecotourism. It will foster competitiveness and encourage mutual learning among all states.
Draft National Tourism Policy 2022 recognises tourism as a global opportunity for India and advocates sustainable and responsible growth of the tourism sector in the country. The main objective of the Policy is to make India a leading destination for sustainable and responsible tourism by minimising the negative impact of tourism on social, environmental, and economic aspects and maximising the positive impact. The Policy will act as a roadmap to achieve a $1 Trillion contribution of the tourism sector to GDP by the year 2047.
Travel for LiFE campaign was launched by the Ministry of Tourism in association with CNA-ST in 2021. The campaign aims to encourage the 300 Mn domestic tourists in India to shift towards responsible behaviour and mindful resource consumption while travelling.
Swadesh Darshan Scheme 2.0 was rolled out with the aim of developing sustainable and responsible tourism destinations in the country. The revamped scheme envisages enhancing the contribution of tourism to the local economies; Creating jobs, including self-employment for local communities; Enhancing the skills of local youth in tourism and hospitality; Increasing private sector investment in tourism and hospitality; and preserving and enhancing the local cultural and natural resources.
Sustainable Tourism for India Criteria and Indicators (STCI) aims to benchmark sustainable tourism practices for various tourism business enterprises, mainly accommodation units and tour operators, for STCI certification. The guidelines make it mandatory to ensure effective sustainable management, heritage protection, sharing social and economic benefits with the local community, conserving the environment, carrying capacity, and minimising negative impacts.
Policies of States: Various tourism-dependent states like Uttarakhand, Sikkim, and Himachal Pradesh have made policies to promote sustainable tourism while protecting rich biodiversity and natural wealth.
As illustrated above, the tourism sector in India has enormous potential as it is a multi-sectoral activity. The government is ambitiously promoting the industry to enable it to achieve $1 Trillion while ensuring that the pressure of tourists is within the country’s carrying capacity.