Government plans online travel planner to attract foreign travelers

New Delhi: The government wants to upgrade the website “Incredible India!” managed by the Tourism Ministry to make it a one-stop-shop for foreign visitors as part of efforts to double foreign tourist arrivals to around 12 million by 2016.

The redesign of the website will allow users to plan routes from scratch, Tourism Ministry officials said on condition of anonymity. Prospective travelers will also be able to book tickets and find out more about the destinations on the website.

The intervention is seen as critical given that the current growth rate in Foreign Tourist Arrivals (FTAs) is not putting India on track for the 2016 target, one of the officials said. above. Growth slowed to 5.9% in January-November 2012 to 5.89 million against 9.4% the previous year.

The Ministry of Tourism wants to increase India’s share of global tourist arrivals, estimated at nearly one billion in 2012 by the United Nations World Tourism Organization, to 1% by the end of the year. 12th five-year plan (2012-2017) against 0.58% currently. India received 6.29 million foreign tourists in 2011.

To upgrade the website, the ministry plans to add 12 new tools, which include timetables and routes for various modes of transport and interactive maps, officials said. The site, when updated, will also list registered travel agents, hotels and restaurants.

“We want all travel agents, restaurants and hotels to register so that tourists feel safe,” said the official quoted above. “This will encourage all of these stakeholders to register with the government. Plus, it will help the government regulate and keep tabs on all these small businesses, allowing the government to take action on complaints.”

According to industry estimates, 90% of hotels in India are not registered with the government because it is voluntary. There are only 236 travel agents registered with the ministry.

Certainly India will also have to convince travelers of health and safety in addition to other issues, said RP Srinivas, an independent travel analyst.

“Providing such information will certainly create a sense of security in the sense that travelers will know which entities are recognized by the government, as a lot of shady deals are done with unregistered travel agents and hotels. But that should translate to ground level action, which is more important in the end, ”Srinivas said. “If foreign travelers have any problems after arriving in India, it will create negative publicity, which is much more powerful than positive. “

Foreign missions regularly issue travel advisories to their citizens warning them of Indian cities, especially regarding women’s safety. On top of that, Indian missions abroad are not the most efficient bureaucracies.

“There are bottlenecks at every step. Getting an Indian visa is not easy. There are basic health and safety issues to be taken care of, which are not under the control of the Ministry of Tourism, ”Srinivas said. “Until the government addresses these issues, it may take longer to create the right atmosphere for travelers.

The ministry plans to launch the process next month.

“We predict that it will take a year and a half to complete the whole project,” the official said. “We will be launching tenders in February.”

The move will help increase the number of tourists “provided the project is properly monitored and executed unlike some of the ministry’s previous initiatives, including the tourist hotline,” said Iqbal Mulla, Chairman of the Travel Agents Association of India lobby group. “If they hire a professional to manage it or implement it as part of a public-private partnership, they are more likely to achieve their goal. “

Stakeholders such as carriers, travel agents and hotels should also be involved, he added.

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