The Travel and Tourism industry has emerged as one of the largest and fastest growing economic sectors globally. Its contribution to the global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and employment has increased significantly. Increasingly, travel and tourism is emerging as an important category of services exports worldwide.
Within the domestic travel and tourism industry, the online travel segment has significantly grown over the past few years. India’s online travel segments growing very fast. India is home to the third largest Internet user-base worldwide. Telephony was introduced in India in 1882. The total number of telephones in the country India stands at 1002.05 million, while the overall tele-density has increased to 79.67% as of 31 May 2015. This indicates significant potential for growth over the next few years Mobile Internet usage has been growing rapidly over the past few years and continues to present huge opportunities. While it may be hard to imagine a time when all travel was booked by phone or in person, the fact is that the online travel market is barely two decades old. But unlike the early days when travel website interfaces seemed impossible to navigate and online inventory was scarce, today, convenience and content abound. Travelers from all corners of the globe now routinely turn to the Internet to plan and book their trips. Whether for air, hotel, rail, car rental, vacation packages, cruises or activities, online is mainstream.
The online sales channels continue to grow and innovate and offer high levels of consumer engagement at all levels of the path to purchase. Customers have more opportunities to dream, plan and book their trips in the ever-advancing online world. The online sales channelsOTA (The term over-the-air provisioning (OTA) describes the ability to download and install content over a wireless network, typically on demand) continue to grow and innovate and offer high levels of consumer engagement at all levels of the Path to Purchase. Overall, a third of worldwide travel sales are now made online and this should rise to 37 percent by 2015. Mobile bookings made on Smartphone’s and tablets are becoming increasingly important for the travel industry. Consumers often book with OTAs or third-party websites. OTAs are agents selling travel products and services online like airlines, car rental, cruise lines, hotels, railways and vacation packages on behalf of suppliers. They establish an online market place and earn profits on the discount-commonly referred to as commission, offered to them by the suppliers. Some deeper pocket OTAs also provided heavy discounts- at times incurring losses, in order to gain market share, thereby disrupting the market place. The customer’s potential confusion during the booking process means each hotel/ flight/ holidays or brand name must work harder to inform the customer that its own website is the only official place to book and get the best available rates. The internet age has transformed the way a traveler chooses and executes his travel plans. Travelers are increasingly using the internet to research and book flight tickets and hotel accommodation, swapping traditional travel agents for online travel agents (OTAs). The deepening penetration of internet usage and smart phones in India has lead to increased booking of hotels through online portals and applications in recent times. However, the sector is facing challenges such as lack of good quality tourism infrastructure, global concerns regarding health and safety of tourists, disparate passenger/road tax structures across various states and shortfall of adequately trained and skilled manpower. While several plans and programmes have already been devised for tackling these challenges, successful implementation would be critical to accelerate growth. Abundant natural and cultural resources in the northern states provide ample opportunities for development of diverse tourism products along with a single integrated tourism circuit. While an array of ancient and modern temples may provide an opportunity for developing states in northern India to emerge pilgrimage destinations, presence of palaces, forts and historical monuments help define their multi-cultural heritage. Also, wildlife sanctuaries with a wide variety of flora and fauna, mighty Himalayas, rivers, deserts, climate and diverse landscape provide attractive opportunities for thrill and adventure activities. Its topography provides innumerable opportunities to promote adventure tourism with sport activities like river rafting, para-gliding, trekking etc. Scenic landscape, castles, gardens and forts in the state of Jammu and Kashmir attract tourists worldwide. Presence of holy shrines, ancient temples and mosques also provide an opportunity for promoting spiritual tourism. The travel and tourism sector holds strategic importance in the Indian economy providing several socio-economic benefits. Provision of employment, income and foreign exchange, development or expansion of other industries such as agriculture, construction, handicrafts etc. are some of the important economic benefits provided by the tourism sector. In addition, investments in infrastructural facilities such as transportation, accommodation and other tourism related services lead to an overall development of infrastructure in the economy. According to the World Economic Forum’s Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2013, India ranks 11th in the Asia pacific region and 65th globally out of 140 economies ranked on travel and tourism Competitiveness Index. India has been witnessing steady growth in its travel and tourism sector over the past few years.
There is a need to take steps to improve the present scenario of tourism that includes extending facility of visa-on-arrival to tourists from more countries, simple tax rules and ensuring safety of tourists. There is a need for better marketing and brand strategies to promote the sector. The cost of obtaining an Indian visa is prohibitive and we need to take a relook at it. Creation of an enabling environment for the sector’s growth would lead to growth in foreign tourists’ inflows and foreign exchange earnings, thus, contributing to economic growth. This would also lead to creation of additional jobs in the sector, which would create opportunities for all sections of the society and in turn lead to attaining an all-inclusive development.
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