India is urged to reduce costs for visitors

By agencies   |   Thursday, 25 August 2005, 07:00 Hrs
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NEW DELHI: High costs for hotels and air travel and poor transportation are hurting the growth of tourism in India, which competes with China to draw more overseas business and leisure travelers, India's minister of tourism said.

Indian states and the union government need to improve tax structures on travel and hotels to increase the nations share of global tourist traffic, which was 0.44 percent last year, the tourism minister, Renuka Chowdhury, said.

"The various constraints include shortage of airline seats, high airfares, high hotel tariffs and deficiencies in infrastructure, such as airports, roads and railways," Chowdhury said.

India expects about five million overseas visitors this year, up 49 percent from last year, as outsourcing cities like Bangalore and Hyderabad draw more business travelers. The government is trying to improve airports in New Delhi and Mumbai, two of the busiest airports, through private participation.

The modernization of airports and licenses for new budget airlines are part of the government's effort to attract more travelers to India.

World Travel & Tourism Council of London expects India to be the third-fastest expanding tourism market in the next decade, behind China and the Balkan republic of Montenegro.

The Indian tourism administration is also encouraging hotel chains to expand in major business cities and vacation destinations across the country.

Indian hotel companies added 1,200 luxury rooms in 10 cities and vacation destinations like Goa, taking the five-star category of accommodation to 24,000 rooms by the end of 2004.

The addition of hotel rooms coincided with the increasing frequency of flights by British Airways, Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines and Qatar Airways.

International passenger traffic at Indian airports rose 17 percent to 19.41 million in the year that ended March 31, up from 16.63 million in the previous year, according to data compiled by the state-run Airports Authority of India, which runs the country's airports.

Chowdhury said better infrastructure was crucial to increasing the country's tourist income, which, according to the annual report of the tourism ministry, is the third-largest contributor to India's foreign-exchange earnings.

India's foreign-exchange earnings from overseas tourists rose 26.4 percent in the first six months of this year to $2.82 billion. India earned $4.81 billion from overseas tourists visiting the country in 2004.

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