Monday, February 22, 2010

India to receive up to 5.5 mn tourists in 2010

Hoteliers rue missed chance of marketing Commonwealth Games.

India hopes to receive up to 5.5 million tourists in 2010, the highest number in any single year. However, tour operators and hoteliers are ruing the missed chance of marketing the first Commonwealth Games in India. They complained that this number could have been higher, with the Games coming up in October.

“How often does a country get to host an event of this scale? Commonwealth Games have not been publicised well abroad. Beijing had started the publicity of the 2008 Olympics Games in 2001. We have started marketing the event only now,” said Vijay Thakur, president of the Indian Association of Tour Operators.

Foreign tourist arrivals rose to 491,000 in January, compared to 422,000 in the year-ago period, and part of this growth is because of a recovery in global economy. Last year, tourist arrivals in India were pretty badly hurt because of the global slowdown.

Industry officials expect no significant spurt due to the Games. Year-on-year growth in arrivals has been much higher in earlier years. In 2004, for example, foreign tourist arrivals were up by over 700,000 to touch 3.46 million.

This year, the arrivals are likely to increase by just about 200,000, based on conservative estimates, and 400,000 based on optimistic projections.

“This year should be much better than the last two years. The positive thing is that conversions (inquires to actual bookings) have improved and people are booking six months in advance, which is a new trend,” added Thakur.

Hoteliers are fearing a larger influx, given the limited inventory of rooms in Delhi, and in the country. “We should have about 5.5 million foreign tourist arrivals this year due the Games. If the figure was to run into 6 million, then we don’t have the infrastructure to match that kind of demand,” said president of the Federation of Hotels and Restaurants Association of India, Rajinder Kumar.

The typical peak tourist season in the country is from October to March. With the Commonwealth Games slated in the first half of October, there could be a clash with the peak season. The tourism ministry is expecting over 100,000 foreign tourists during the Games.

In fact, hotels at major tourist spots have started reporting a higher occupancy rate. “The challenge now is to increase seat capacity and rooms on offer,” Tourism Minister Kumari Selja said recently.

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