In the recent past, it was the Taj Mahal that best endorsed India to the millions of inbound tourists. Rajasthan and Goa shared the honor for the 2nd place. One fine day, the government woke up and realized that India had a major tourism potential. The Incredible India campaign ensued. The quiet state of Kerala started hustling with activity as it went on to become ‘God’s Own Country’. Madhya Pradesh, Uttarkhand, Orissa, Bengal, all started popping into the tourism circuit. India had by then become one happy nation for global tourists.
All went fairly well till the supply could not meet the demand. The lack of infrastructure started showing. The bureaucracy started cracking under pressure and the final nail in the coffin was the recession. Domestic tourism, although showing negative growth (less growth as compared to the previous years) was doing fine when compared to inbound tourism, which took a serious beating. Amidst all the chaos, there was hope. There was a new face in the Indian tourism industry – Medical Tourism! The leaders were quick to spot it and the industry greeted its new entrant with glee.
The introduction of Medical Tourism in India followed with its unprecedented growth. On one hand you had the best medical practitioners and world class facilities at affordable prices. Kidney transplants, bone marrow transplants, neurosurgery, joint replacement and osteoporosis were beginning to look like a cake walk… thanks to the internationals standards set by the multispecialty hospitals. On the other hand, you had the age old Vedic and Ayurvedic treatments. Now India was prepared to take on the best in terms of medical tourism and gradually it merged with another allied sector- Health Tourism. Indian spas took the experience to the next level as it combined the best of both worlds. Swedish massage treatments coupled with indigenous sciences took health tourism to an all new height. Simultaneously, yoga got internationally acclaimed and recognized, as the world headed to India to rejuvenate and unwind, the Vedic way! Previously dubbed as a meditation technique, Yoga now emerged as the primary means for posture correction, cholesterol reduction, normalizing blood pressure, and also for learning ways to withdraw one’s mind from the external world. The benefits were humongous. India was now a clear leader in medical and health tourism.
In the recent past, Kerala has done no harm to its reputation by emerging as the top destination for not only leisure travelers but also health tourists. But so has the rest of India. The boost from this sector has propelled leisure and business tourism to an all time high. This meant that leisure tourism took to branching and came up with segments like adventure tourism, eco- tourism and rural tourism. Though adventure tourism for inbound tourism is still at a nascent stage, it has started catching up with the Indian white-collars. As of now, there is amazing progress in the industry with beach renovation being the top priority. Apart from Goa, Pondicherry and Gokarna are witnessing amazing attention in terms of tourist influx and infrastructure development.
Yes, I do agree that we still run short on good inventory, but the silver lining is that India has come a long way in the last decade or so. There is a lot that should happen before I can truly say that India has come of age, but it’s great to experience the upward mobility. Uttarakhand has emerged as the fastest growing destination in terms of sheer popularity. Right from locking up eco-sensitive zones for eco-tourism to harboring a concoction of destinations, it has done all the right things. The North–East is opening up brand new frontiers, and Ladakh is looking to top the charts. Orissa with its eclectic mix of beaches and heritage, is not lagging too far behind. India for certain is a phenomenal place to experience now.
I keep stressing on ‘sustainable tourism’ and the fact that India is waking to the thought is just brilliant. The progenies of classical tourism seem to be taking great shape and leisure tourism has branched out to finer human needs. Today when travelling is an amalgamation of future and history, one clearly does not need planning to travel, all one needs is intent.