Tourism is a big industry and as disposable incomes increase more and more people are leaving home for long vacations and short trips. This is a big and attractive pie and every country wants a big chunk of it. But unfortunately not every country is planning for it. If you consider what are the factors which a traveler considers before choosing his/her destination then a handful of them come up as vital:
1. Need: A wedding, a conference or a reunion decides the venue
2. Budget: If on a shoestring budget you will choose a developing country and/or an off season destination
3. Exchange rate: With the rupee not faring badly post liberalization you may be comfortable almost everywhere but surely more in Kuala Lumpur, Prague and Rio de Jenario than in Tokyo, Zurich and Sydney
4. Time: How much time do you have in hand and how much of it would be spent on travelling alone? Places easy to navigate with good public transport systems are vital if your time is premium. However, there are other places where you may need to spend a little more time and understand the history and the civilization like Rajasthan or Machu Pichu or Serengeti. Make sure you don't end up rushing from place to place in an attempt to 'tick all the boxes'.
5. Type of trip: Is it lazy days on the beach, a rowdy snow-boarding trip with mates, or a cultural experience in a developing country? Is this a pilgrimage or is it all work and no fun?
6. Visas and vaccination: While neither of these should deter you from travelling anywhere, they may just play a role in helping you decide where to go, particularly if you are planning a trip in short notice.
7. Cultural considerations: Travel demands a certain open-mindedness and desire to explore the unknown. For Indian travelers food habits are often a big constrain if they are strict vegetarians. Foreign languages, exotic cuisine and diverse customs will play as big or small a role in your travels as you see fit.
8. Weather: Your week in Goa, if not well planned, can be accompanied by torrential rains, with any ideas of long days at the beach being washed away and replaced by even longer days in sheltered pubs. Weather forecasts will help you to choose your destination, your dates of travel and your outfits.
9. Events and activities: A festival you've always wanted to go to, or some other event that would definitely be worth the trip may decide your destination. Thus Rio during the Carnival, Vrindavan and Barsana during Holi and New Orleans during Mardi Gras attract visitors by millions!
10. Security: In today’s world this surely is a vital factor that can’t be ignored. Although it is impossible to foresee every eventuality, be on the lookout for any trends that indicate consistent danger. If traveling abroad, refer to government websites for recent unrests, crime rate and safety precautions. Certain places in Durban and Johannesburg are not the best for a quiet walk and the rapid transport system of a few cities are notorious for ingenious pick-pocketers.
So where are the travelers going? Which are the cities most often visited? Euromonitor International, a UK-based market research group, did a research recently and has revealed that 26 million foreigners flocked to the Asian metropolis Hong Kong, and this remains the most often visited city in the world for the last 8 years! The ranking, based on 2015 data, includes the number of travellers who visited the city throughout the year as well as data from international airport arrivals, accommodation stays and national statistics offices. According to their survey the top ten most visited cities are:
1. Hong Kong (26.6 million international tourist arrivals)
2. Bangkok (18.7 million)
3. London (18.5 million)
4. Singapore (16.8 million)
5. Paris (15 million)
6. Macau (14.3 million)
7. Dubai (14. 2 million)
8. Istanbul (12.4 million)
9. New York City (12.3 million)
10. Kuala Lumpur (12.1 million)
Hong Kong has long attracted a wide range of visitors. From its plates of mouth-watering international cuisine and architectural heritage to its fusion of cultures, it is clear that there are many perks to this destination. Close to mainland China, it is also an easy getaway for Chinese travelers, whose numbers are always increasing and rated highly for its access to brands and tax-free products. Macau ranked 6th was another city that relied on the tourism of Chinese travellers and this goes to suggest that tourists from China alone can change the fate of any travel destination!
Relations of Hong Kong residents with those of mainland China keep changing and every time this gets strained the number of Chinese visitors decline. In 2014 their numbers were 6% higher and the Chinese decline was good news for some, as Bangkok climbed up the ranks to second place with a 10 per cent increase in traffic. About 18.7 million visitors chose to visit the capital, as its political situation stabilised. Five other Thailand cities also were placed in the top 100 with a surprising performance by the small northern city of Chiang Mai (51).
London's uncertain future cemented the top three rankings with 7 per cent growth (18.5 million). Analysts believe this was aided by the Rugby World Cup in late 2015. The UK economy, however, has raised questions about its future levels of inbound tourism with the play of "Article 50" and "Brexit" on everyone's minds.
Terrorist attacks played a significant role on Western Europe tourism. A minuscule decline was observed in Paris but this is expected to drop further in subsequent years. The taste of a European vacation, however, is still proving strong with countries such as Spain, Greece, Portugal and Italy continuing to grow in numbers as they are still both affordable and safer.
|Shikara on the Dal Lake in Kashmir|
So, why is it that no Indian city makes to this coveted list? Despite a rich culture, ancient civilization, varied flora and fauna, mind boggling diversity, astonishing architecture and vibrant people, why is our tourism falling behind? While India received 6.84 million tourists in 2013, China could attract more that 132million and the tiny Singapore received 14 million. Today this gap has widened and World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) believes that in 2030 China will overtake the U.S as the largest domestic travel market of the world! So what are we doing wrong? We are not planning and by failing to plan we are planning to fail. Our successive governments have not given due importance to this industry and not invested in upgrading, promoting and protecting it. Frequently changing leadership at the centre, inadequate state centre cooperation in developing and marketing, bureaucratic lethargy and corruption, insufficient public-private participation, inadequate infrastructure, high accommodation tariffs, damaging international image (rape capital remember!), insufficient marketing, poor cleanliness and hygiene, notorious safety and security issues, poor presentation of the products and low level of creativity, are a few of the reasons which pull us back. In India we have a good product, the problem is with we Indians.