India plans tourist boost for 2010

The sharp falls in tourist numbers to India have levelled out, according to the tourism minister.

Kumari Selja said tourist numbers had dropped by 7% to 4.2m in the 10 months to October compared to the same period last year.

Foreign earnings however have risen and are up by 4.1% over the same period.

Speaking at this year’s World Travel Market, Selja said: “The world economic slowdown and the Mumbai attacks have had a detrimental effect on tourist numbers to India this year.

“After recording average growth rates between 2002 and 2008 of 14.5% we had just 5.6% growth last year – but that was still higher than the world average [of 2%].”

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Tourist numbers to India increased from 2.38m to 5.3m in the six years to 2008, before the sharp falls of 2009.

Selja said the sub-continent had a number of initiatives and events in place for next year to stimulate tourist numbers.

The biggest of these is the World Commonwealth Games in Delhi in October.

Some 30,000 new hotel rooms are being built in time for the event, which takes places from October 3-14 and is expected to attract up to 100,000 people.

Selja also outlined a number of initiatives to stimulate tourist numbers including identifying niche markets such as rural tourism.

The government has identified 150 sites which it intends to market as places to discover the country’s arts and crafts and cuisine.

The UN Development Council will give financial assistance to 30 of the sites.

Aligned with this is so-called ‘Heliport Tourism’, which aims to promote tourism to hilly and remote areas of the country.

“We have given financial assistance to the State Governments in a bid to open up more inaccessible regions,” she said.

Medical and wellness tourism is also being promoted; the country provides state of the art medical services at a fraction of the cost in the West.

Wellness tourism taps into India’s ancient tradition of healing and health.

The government is also aiming to promote meetings, conferences and events and has earmarked funds for professional conference organisers.