India needs to address five barriers to boost its international visitor arrivals, says Carolyn Childs, co-founder, MyTravelResearch.com
PROMOTING India is as much about clearing barriers as it is about inspiring people. So for India to maximise the benefits of tourism, it needs to deal with five elephants in the room:
Liberate the visa process
Although India is working hard on its visa issues with its visa on arrival programme, the system needs further improvement. One can only apply for such a visa within 30 days of travel. While this deals well with short notice travel, it doesn't help drive conversion in longhaul markets where planning often takes six months out. Just because travellers have time to follow the standard procedure doesn't mean they will wish to do so. Other destinations with easier visa arrangements maybe just a click away.
Boost safety for women
Women still plan the majority of travel – and India is poorly perceived on safety for women. The Indian government is working hard to deal with this issue (as prime minister Modi noted on Independence Day). This is a great opportunity for the tourism industry to create products that offer both immersion and safety. Ketaki's Delhi in a Bag tours and the reviews show that she is spot on when it comes to offering a great experience and female safety. Women's safety features prominently on her website site along side positive messages.
Be upfront about security
It isn't just women travellers. After the hotel attacks in Mumbai in India in 2008, tourists are aware that India (like most places) is a terrorism target. My experience is that security is very high in India at many tourist spots. But that isn't always obvious when tourists are considering India as a destination. The security message needs to reach people overseas before they reach for an alternative to India.
Make India possible for time-poor visitors
India is huge (Rajasthan alone is the size of France). There is so much to see. If you're a retiree or on a gap year, this isn't a problem. But there are many high-yield groups for whom size and time are a barrier. India needs to work on highlight tours that balance 'India' as an overarching destination and deliver experiences for the time poor. Themed itineraries are a great start point as is greater promotion of individual regions. The US and Australia do a good job of this.
Address hygiene factors
During Australia Business Week in India in January, one Australian museum director on our delegation admitted: "These days we think toilets before we think permanent exhibitions." We applaud campaigns that are underway in India to promote this. Our experiences with India's toilets were positive, the same with food hygiene. But perception is reality in marketing. So beyond expanding the number of tourism-friendly toilets, an easy win would be to promote the top toilets in India through maps, apps and reviews. I've long believed that every tourism awards scheme would have a Tourism Loo of the Year award. This should be true of India too.
By addressing these five elephants in the room, India can really unlock the potential of its inbound tourism.
Carolyn Childs (@naimescounsel) has spent more than 25 years’ helping businesses achieve their goals by using research and other evidence to guide strategy and planning – mainly in the aviation, travel and tourism fields. Besides running her own businesses, she has worked for organisations such as IATA, TNS, and the Travel Research Centre.