Incredibly Unprepared for Tourists

Incredibly Unprepared 

 Safety is one among many deficiencies in India’s hospitality  

   Recent reports of crimes against foreign tourists — including the rape of a foreigner resident in Mumbai and that of a missing Japanese tourist headed for Agra — have once again turned the spotlight on the absence of institutionalised security mechanisms in the country to ensure visitors’ safety.

     Even where state governments have put in place a special tourist police force as recommended by the ministry in 2006, recruits don’t seem to have been sensitised to the plight of tourists, particularly those most vulnerable, who understand neither English nor the local language. A case in point is the tourist police cubicle outside the entrance to the Indira Gandhi international airport terminal in New Delhi. It is almost always empty. 

   Safety is by no means the only ingredient lacking in what we offer guests we make so much effort to invite. Elaborate and extensively promoted international marketing campaigns created by India’s tourism ministry — titled Swagat, Visit India, Explore India, and now Incredible India — have, over the years, been directed at attracting more visitors to India.
   In 2007, until November, a record 4.4 million foreign tourists set foot in India, doubling tourist arrival figures in under a decade. This is however an insignificant number when compared to China’s 45 million, Singapore’s 7.5 million and Spain’s 55 million.

 

That’s because these countries have in place world-class infrastructure including accommodation, medical services, transportation and security.
   The problem is that though we’ve been able to increase tourist numbers, little has been done to create the infrastructure to host these visitors. India’s hotel tariffs are now among the highest in the world.

The luxury tax — a relic of the old economy that was premised on punitive measures against luxury — ought to be abolished. This and other levies on the hospitality sector need to be reviewed and the imbalance corrected. Tax holidays and incentives could be given to encourage building many more middlelevel hotels that could be frills-free.

 

This is necessary to meet future demand, especially since the Commonwealth Games and F1 races are events that are bound to bring in large numbers of visitors on top of the growing traffic that we are already struggling to host.

 

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