The premier partner role has allowed the country’s tourism ministry to create a significantly bigger stand to promote the destination under its Incredible India branding.
Meenakshi Sharma, additional director general at the Ministry of Tourism, told TTG: “This is a big marketing exercise for us. It’s the first time we have been premier partner and it’s allowed us to have a much bigger impact and more visibility.
“We have been getting a lot more enquiries from tour operators at the show and we’re hoping that more of them will start featuring India.”
India is expecting international visitor arrivals to grow by another 10% during its current year which runs from April 2016 to March 2017. This would follow a 10% increase during 2015-2016 when there was a total of eight million international arrivals.
“There was a growth of 10% up to September,” added Sharma. “The UK and US are our traditional markets but we’ve also got a good market from Germany.
“The eight million does not include visitors from the Indian diaspora because many of them still have Indian passports so don’t count towards the international arrivals, even if they have lived outside India for 20 years or more.”
“We get a lot of people from Bangladesh for shopping, weddings and medical tourism. There are also a lot of clients from the Middle East who come for medical reasons because Indian hospitals are very well regarded and Indian doctors are pretty famous. Medical treatment is also cheaper and faster.”
Sharma said that part of the reason for higher visitor numbers has been the introduction of the e-visa system for international visitors last year with nearly 900,000 e-visas issued during the first year, including just under 200,000 from the UK, which was the number one country for applications.
“It’s been really good for us because there was a feeling from people that it took a long time with paper visas,” she added. “The process with the e-visa only takes two days.”
India plans to extend the validity of the e-visa from 30 days to 90 days before the end of the year.
The introduction of the e-visa is also part of India’s strategy to grow its cruise business which will include developing more ports around the country that can handle cruise ships.
“With our new strategy, cruise tourism is becoming very important – we have a huge 4,500 kilometres of coastline,” she said.
The tourism ministry is working with other parts of the Indian government to develop more cruise facilities, although there are strict regulations on development around the country’s coastline.
“It’s quite restricted so we have to find a way to balance the environment and development of the cruise terminals,” said Sharma.