INDIA AND TOURISM

Over the past several decades, India has had a slow but steady increase in the absolute number of both foreign tourist arrivals (FTAs) and departures by Indian Nationals (INDs), with the former accelerating much more rapidly in recent years than the latter. In fact, over the decades to 2018, 1981 was notable for two specific reasons:

FTAs exceeded one million for the first time

The volume of FTAs exceeded the volume of INDs

On that second point, between 1981 and 2018 it has only been the years of 1981 and 1982 where the volume of foreign arrivals has exceeded the number of Indian departures, a position that is expected to remain as such until at least 2023 (Chart 1).

Chart 1: FTAs and INDs to/from India, 1981-2018

Although the volume of FTAs has shown a much lower average growth rate over the years since 1981, the absolute number of additional foreign arrivals in the decades since 1980 has been steadily increasing, with the period 2011 to 2020 expected to yield an increase of more than six million additional FTAs.

Chart 2: Increase in FTAs by Decade between 1981 and 2020, mns

Furthermore, the Foreign Exchange Earnings (FEEs) have shown very strong growth, especially since 2003 when the growth momentum began – with only a few exceptions – to surge upwards. Interestingly enough, while India ranked 26th in the world with respect to international tourist arrivals in 2017, it ranked 13th globally, with respect to international tourism receipts  in that same year.

Furthermore, the PATA forecasts suggest that FEEs could reach around USD 36.7 billion by 2023.

Chart 3: FEEs 2000 to 2023, USD  bns

What is significant in this quick generic analysis is that an entirely different picture can be painted depending upon which, tourism measure are being analysed and within what context. The issue at hand therefore, is whether or not India – among many other destinations – has enough depth and breadth of relevant data that is publishable and made available to the tourism sector at large in order to enable deeper and more meaningful analyses to be made beyond those of top-level aggregates of arrivals, departures and expenditure.

With such a focus these days on ‘Big Data’ there is rapid development in the tools and techniques required to capture, store and analyse data from many different sources and many agencies are venturing into that realm.

It seems incongruous however, that in this headlong rush into the realm of Big Data, we are not necessarily giving enough thought to applying these same tools and techniques to data that is already being generated. This is where India could easily become a leader in data-driven tourism marketing and destination development. Without question, India has the talent and expertise to do this, especially within the realm of relevant data within the Big Data mix.

At the moment, while we have solid historic information, there is a paucity of good data about future potential and which markets could be the most viable and profitable for future development. Arrival numbers, while useful, are on their own, not enough. Neither are estimates of tourist expenditures and yet most tourism agencies routinely deliver on these in the most part, with some further details as to country of origin at least.

Yet, there is so much more relevant and useful data being collected at ports of entry/departure, at commercial accommodation establishments and in many cases at attractions around a destination, on a daily basis. What is missing, however, is the fusing of those data into a coherent picture of what is really happening and which markets offer the most potential for tourism conversion.

Consider the potential of outputs that specify the following for inbound arrivals into a destination, which include:

Port of entry

Date/time of entry

Mode of entry

Nationality

Residence

Purpose of visit

Age (or age-group)

Gender

Commercial accommodation used by location

Group size

Expenditure at commercial accommodation

Port of departure

Date/time of departure

Mode of departure

All of these data are currently collected and could easily be fused into information based on various characteristics as summarised above. Further measures could also be easily computed. For example, the difference between the date of departure and the date of entry would give the days/nights in country, while commercial accommodation specifics would track movements across the destination.

Both these measures would be invaluable in understanding the potential of various markets to disperse across the wider destination regions and sub-regions, certainly well beyond those of the national indicators. Not only that, but the measures of days/nights in country by nationality or country of residence, could be grouped to give better measures of central tendency (mean, median, mode) and extend well beyond the poor average figures often given, where even available.

A data point as simple as the post/zip-code of country of residence would also allow for a much deeper analysis of market potential by linking into the census data of that origin country at well below the sub-national level.

The development and release of such indicators would enable tourism operators to more effectively service existing and potential markets, for investors to make more viable investment decisions based on quantifiable data and for planners to more effectively foresee future regional consumption of utilities and services. With marketing budgets being constantly squeezed while expectations are concurrent for the generation of more with less, the pressure is on, to become as efficient and productive as possible, per unit of cost. This could be one way to facilitate that.

**Stay Tuned for Volume II** Over the past several decades, India has had a slow but steady increase in the absolute number of both foreign tourist arrivals (FTAs) and departures by Indian Nationals (INDs), with the former accelerating much more rapidly in recent years than the latter. In fact, over the decades to 2018, 1981 was notable for two specific reasons:

  1. FTAs exceeded one million for the first time; and
  2. The volume of FTAs exceeded the volume of INDs.

On that second point, between 1981 and 2018 it has only been the years of 1981 and 1982 where the volume of foreign arrivals has exceeded the number of Indian departures, a position that is expected to remain as such until at least 2023 (Chart 1).

Chart 1: FTAs and INDs to/from India, 1981-2018

    Source: Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, PATA

Although the volume of FTAs has shown a much lower average growth rate over the years since 1981, the absolute number of additional foreign arrivals in the decades since 1980 has been steadily increasing, with the period 2011 to 2020 expected to yield an increase of more than six million additional FTAs.

Chart 2: Increase in FTAs by Decade between 1981 and 2020, mns

 Source: Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, PATA

Furthermore, the Foreign Exchange Earnings (FEEs) have shown very strong growth, especially since 2003 when the growth momentum began – with only a few exceptions – to surge upwards. Interestingly enough, while India ranked 26th in the world with respect to international tourist arrivals in 2017, it ranked 13th globally, with respect to international tourism receipts[i] in that same year.

Furthermore, the PATA forecasts suggest that FEEs could reach around US$36.7 billion by 2023.

Chart 3: FEEs 2000 to 2023, US$ bns

     Source: Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, PATA

What is significant in this quick generic analysis is that an entirely different picture can be painted depending upon which tourism measure are being analysed and within what context. The issue at hand therefore, is whether or not India – among many other destinations – has enough depth and breadth of relevant data that is publishable and made available to the tourism sector at large. in order to enable deeper and more meaningful analyses to be made beyond those of top-level aggregates of arrivals, departures and expenditure.

With such a focus these days on ‘Big Data’ there is rapid development in the tools and techniques required to capture, store and analyse data from many different sources and many agencies are venturing into that realm.

It seems incongruous however, that in this headlong rush into the realm of Big Data, we are not necessarily giving enough thought to applying these same tools and techniques to data that is already being generated. This is where India could easily become a leader in data-driven tourism marketing and destination development. Without question, India has the talent and expertise to do this, especially within the realm of relevant data within the Big Data mix.

At the moment, while we have solid historic information, there is a paucity of good data about future potential, and which markets could be the most viable and profitable for future development. Arrival numbers, while useful, are on their own, not enough. Neither are estimates of tourist expenditures and yet most tourism agencies routinely deliver on these in the most part, with some further details as to country of origin at least.

Yet, there is so much more relevant and useful data being collected at ports of entry/departure, at commercial accommodation establishments and in many cases at attractions around a destination, on a daily basis. What is missing however is the fusing of those data into a coherent picture of what is really happening, and which markets offer the most potential for tourism conversion.

Consider the potential of outputs that specify the following for inbound arrivals into a destination, which include:

  1. Port of entry
  2. Date/time of entry
  3. Mode of entry
  4. Nationality
  5. Residence
  6. Purpose of visit
  7. Age (or age-group)
  8. Gender
  9. Commercial Accommodation used by location
  10. Group size
  11. Expenditure at commercial accommodation
  12. Port of departure
  13. Date/time of departure
  14. Mode of departure

All of these data are currently collected and could easily be fused into information based on various characteristics as summarised above. Further measures could also be easily computed. For example, the difference between the date of departure and the date of entry would give the days/nights in country, while commercial accommodation specifics would track movements across the destination.

Both these measures would be invaluable in understanding the potential of various markets to disperse across the wider destination regions and sub-regions, certainly well beyond those of the national indicators. Not only that, but the measures of days/nights in country by nationality or country of residence, could be grouped to give better measures of central tendency (mean, median, mode) and extend well beyond the poor average figures often given, where even available.

A data point as simple as the post/zip-code of country of residence would also allow for a much deeper analysis of market potential by linking into the census data of that origin country at well below the sub-national level.

The development and release of such indicators would enable tourism operators to more effectively service existing and potential markets, for investors to make more viable investment decisions based on quantifiable data and for planners to more effectively foresee future regional consumption of utilities and services. With marketing budgets being constantly squeezed while expectations are concurrent for the generation of more with less, the pressure is on, to become as efficient and productive as possible, per unit of cost. This could be one way to facilitate that.

**Stay Tuned for Volume II**

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Prof. John Koldowski is currently a Professor within the School of Tourism at Leshan Normal University, Sichuan Province, China, where he continues in his role as a researcher and educator – the latter to pass on his knowledge and experience in order to prepare the next generation of tourism specialists to enter the workforce with a deep and practical understanding of the dynamics and systems of today’s travel sector.

Prior to that appointment, John was with the College of Innovation at Thailand’s Thammasat University, and a founding member of the Tourism Action Group (TAG) at the same institution.  He was also part of the Secretariat for the PATA Thailand Chapter for a number of years, while living and working in Thailand.

Before entering academia, Mr. Koldowski was Deputy CEO of PATA where over a fifteen-year span he came to be regarded as one of the travel and tourism sector’s leading analysts. He still maintains his relationship with PATA through his appointment as a special advisor to the CEO.

John specialises in the capture, analysis and interpretation of information concerning shifts, movements and trends in the travel and tourism industry, particularly those affecting the Asia Pacific region. This includes monitoring statistics on travel movements, tracking policy and legal developments, identifying changes in consumer preferences and destination developments with respect to branding and positioning.

Koldowski has a number of other research interests also, including the responsible and sustainable development of mountain and mountain area tourism, rural tourism development and the development of metrics for a better measurement of the impact of tourism in fragile areas and on the intangible assets of tourism.

John has extensive experience from across a wide variety of fields including the pharmaceutical, transportation and telecommunications industries as well as travel and tourism – the latter beginning with assignments with Tourism Tasmania and the Northern Territory Tourist Commission (now Tourism NT) in Australia, before moving to Singapore and then to Thailand, with PATA.

Koldowski is a graduate of the Flinders University of South Australia, and the University of Central Queensland.


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