India can be a Globetrotter's Hotspot

India has the potential to receive double the number of international visitors within five years, provided it throws open its airports as transit hubs, clears infrastructural bottlenecks and promotes ecofriendly and culturallysensitive tourism, according to a global body of tourism industry stakeholders.International tourists can be doubled to at least 8 million annually, within a period of five years, said Philip Sims, president of Spain-based Skal International. “The hotel occupancy in India is comparatively very high and there needs to be better infrastructure in place to accommodate the tourists coming in,” he said.According to rough estimates, hotels in the country have a total of 1.10 lakh rooms and a shortage of 1.50 lakh rooms, fuelling increase in room rates.Further, Sims wants the government to take steps that can make India a transit point for the airline services operating between the Australia and New Zealand and the Europe.
“Right now, flights across these destinations fly over India, but have stopovers at Singapore, Bangkok or Hong Kong. If air carriers are persuaded to stopover at Delhi or Mumbai, this will help the passengers know more about the country.” “If a small percentage of such passengers break their journeys to visit the iconic spots of the country, it can contribute significantly to the tourism industry,” he said. India, with its diversities in culture, customs, cuisine and places, can lure tourists for a longer stay, he added. He also found that despite a few hitches during the monsoon season, road infrastructure was getting better in the country. He wanted the Indian government to preserve the ecology and forests to tap the huge potential of sustainable tourism.
“As an ecologically responsible and culturally sensitive tourism, it will make the lowest impact on the environment and local culture, while generating income and employment to local community,” he said.
Foreign tourists first give priority to the iconic spots that reveal the richness of the country’s history, then to the unique customs and traditions they witness and finally they take back the good memories about the warmth of the people of the land, which also brings them back to the country, he said. As far as India is concerned, it has a good number of repeat visits by tourists.
According to Sims, as a networking platform, Skal International has over 20,000 members belonging to hotel, airline, cruising, tourism and related industries under 500 clubs in 98 countries. In India, it has over 750 members under 10 clubs. Sims expects the number of clubs in the country to grow to 30 by 2012.

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