Not yet a traveller’s paradise
India aims at becoming one of the top 20 countries for tourism by 2025, with her wealth of culture and historical sites, untapped coastlines and serene mountain ranges. Sandeep Gupta, managing director, of Aria Hotels & Consultation Pvt. Ltd. has estimated that with the growth in international arrivals having increased to 20 million, the opportunities in the tourism industry would now be almost USD 20 billion as well as lead to the creation of an additional 1 million jobs.
Having started with Hyatt Regency Bombay in 1997-98, Gupta bought Choice Hotels India in 1999. “We expanded our footprint to almost 40 hotels, across three brands of Choice Hotels, we sold that company in 2007-2008 back to Choice and then started the JW Marriott project in 2008 on the same vision,” he explained. “As owners”, Gupta says, “we obviously want to optimize our revenue areas. For example, at JW Marriott in New Delhi, I converted the entire lobby bar and lounge bar into one bar space, so while you are checking in, you can go across and have a drink. We look at how we can maximize the revenue generating areas.”
When asked to list three things that the government needs to do to for us to see an improvement in this sector, Gupta feels the first improvement would obviously be related to taxation. “Hotels in India are still considered luxurious and the bigger cities have luxury products which are still taxed at 28%. This has to be rational and uniform and it has to be affordable even for local or domestic tourism.”
The second point Gupta mentions is connectivity. “I’m not only referring to air traffic but surface transport as well. You need to make sure that travelling from point A to B to C is easy,” feels Gupta. And the third improvement required, he says, is more advertising and marketing, especially abroad, which has to be done on a large scale.
Gupta feels that while Incredible India is on the right track to promote India as a destination, we still have a long way to go to achieve the number of tourists we should have visiting our country. However, the increase in the number of street, jazz and food festivals along with the use of national architectural sites for events, has gone a long way in promoting Indian tourism on a global platform. “I’m hopeful to see a far higher number of tourists in the years to come,” Gupta says.