Category Archives: Tourism impact assessment

Inbound Tourism to India- Caution is Required while Using Government Data

The fruitfulness of any planning depends a lot on data quality that are used to chalk out policy and planning for certain development. Therefore, data should be as realistic and authentic as possible. Tourism being one of the most important sectors of Indian economy for its contribution to income and employment, policies should be extremely objective oriented and simple to execute easily. Thus, the data should be accurate and consistent to come out with any meaningful policy planning.

The latest data published by Ministry of Tourism is “India Tourism Statistics at a Glance 2017”.  Finding the new addition to tourism database, I thought of writing a small article in this blog space. After looking at the latest data published in the document, felt that writing on the database is even more pertinent to make relevant stakeholders aware about certain stark anomalies in the present document.

India Tourism Statistics, a publication by the Ministry, is perhaps the only authentic and detailed document on India’s tourism data. I am sure that anyone working on India’s tourism scenario at a broader scale for planning and business perspective, perhaps treats this document as a bible, especially from data availability perspective. Along with other information, it publishes quite a detailed data on inbound tourism to India. The document uses two terminologies regarding inbound tourism to India – FTA (Foreign Tourists Arrivals) and ITA (International Tourists Arrivals). One could envisage these two terms as interchangeable since the numbers were same for FTA and ITA till 2015 publication. While analyzing the number quoted in the 2017 document on inbound tourism, the following graph emerges.


Source: India Tourism Statistics at a Glance 2017 and India Tourism statistics 2015.

One can see the drastic difference in FTA and ITA numbers suddenly from 2014. Within a year ITA has increased by about 80%. In 2017 document Ministry has given a clarification saying that ITA numbers in 2017 document includes NRIs also along with foreign tourists. This explains the difference quite well at the face value. The question is something else.

In 2015 document, in TABLE 3.1.2 (page 79) the ITA numbers are exactly the same as FTA. The tourists in India are reported through two components – a) inbound tourists (FTA/ITA) and 2) domestic tourists. No single tourist can be accounted anywhere else. Now with this, the key question is assuming that NRIs were not included in ITA prior to the 2017 document, where were they accounted in? Were the NRIs a part of FTA till 2015 document? If yes, one needs to conclude that inbound tourists to India has gone up by 80% suddenly since 2014. And, if not, how were the NRIs accounted for? Certainly not as domestic tourists. The number of domestic tourists reported in 2017 document (Table No 17, unfortunately the document is without any page number) and 2015 document (Table 5.1.1, page 103 and 104) both reported exactly same domestic tourists as 1282.8 million and 1431.9 million in 2014 and 2015 respectively.

The only plausible explanation is that the Ministry missed out reporting 5.43 million and 5.26 million NRIs for 2014 and 2015 respectively. And, of course the tourism statistics of India missed to report NRIs for more than 20 years by now. However, it is beyond any level of belief that this can at all happen in any condition. The reason being that international tourists’ numbers cannot be missed by any chance as it comes directly from immigration department. It is a huge credibility issue for the Ministry since these are perhaps the only number that are being used by policy makers and planners as well as researchers at a broader level. Coincidentally, these different numbers have been reported only from the year when the new Central Government took charge at the helm of the country, ignoring the previous years.

However, apart from the credibility issue of Ministry’s entire document, these anomalies have lot more serious implications. Couple of graphs on India’s foreign exchange earnings (FEE) from tourism activities are presented below.



In Figure 2, a significant drop can be noticed in growth of FEE since 2010. Perhaps the prime factors are global recession and poor recovery of most of the economies from recession trap. The current FEE is even lower than that of the year 2000 in nominal term itself. It will be significantly lower if it is considered in real term keeping in mind inflation for last 17 years. FEE related to the NRIs could not be missed out ministry by any chance since it has to be accounted in India’s income accounting system.

If we look at the FEE per international tourist arrival it is much lower than that was envisaged till the 2017 document was published. The blue and red lines in Figure 3 suggest the difference occurred due to new numbers quoted in 2017 document. One of the key policy implications is how to enhance spends of the international tourists in the country. This does not only impact countries income and foreign exchange reserve, but more importantly the local economies of tourist attractions. Perhaps the tourism policy makers need to think through the policies from a new perspective with these set of significantly lower number of FEE per international tourists according to 2017 document.

To end this article, it is critical for all users of this important and only database of Indian tourism to look at the numbers with extreme caution. One needs to cross check numbers of the previous issues of the same document instead of considering it at the face value. Else we may come out with analysis and interpretations, which may not be true because of source data errors.


Indian Tourism Sector: Urgent Need for Competition Policies and Regulatory Framework

This article has just been published in Geography and You, Volume 19, Issue 99, Nov-Dec 2016, IRIS publication.

“Climate change as well as poverty alleviation will remain central issues for the world community. Tourism is an important element in both. Governments and the private sector must place increased importance on these factors in tourism development strategies and in climate and poverty strategies. They are interdependent and must be dealt with in a holistic fashion.” – (Francesco Frangialli, UNWTO Secretary-General, Ministers’ Summit on Tourism and Climate Change in London, United Kingdom, 13 November 2007)

Current Situation in India

Unregulated tourism activities have changed the landscape of large number of tourism destinations in India beyond repair. And, perhaps, we cannot blame only the tourism stakeholders, especially, the business owners for this. Their objective in most cases remained revenue maximization and they tried to reach the same. In the process, the ecological balance of the areas is getting destroyed to a great extent leading towards environmental degradation beyond a critical limit. This situation has arisen to a large extent due to absence of regulatory framework relating to tourism industry. In fact, there is hardly any regulatory framework in place to promote of sustainable tourism as an organized sector. This regulatory framework should make sure the sustainability in terms of environment, economy and culture.

“Tourism in the Third World, as it practised today, does not benefit the majority of the people. Instead it exploits them, pollutes the environment, destroys the ecosystem, bastardises the culture, robs people of their traditional values and ways of life and subjugates women and children in the abject slavery of prostitution. In other words, it epitomises the present unjust world economic order where the few who control wealth and power dictate the terms. As such, tourism is little different from colonialism” (Srisang, 1992). To corroborate this view, the following are the ill effects of unregulated and unplanned tourism.

  • Degradation of heritage sites
  • Commodification of the sacred resources
  • Create a market for prostitution and drugs
  • Reduce biological diversity and environmental degradation
  • Destroy habitats for wildlife
  • Pollute lakes and other water bodies
  • Overuse valuable fresh water resources
  • Contribute significantly to global warming
  • Leads to loss of scenic beauty and as a result loss of tourist attraction in long term

Promoting Sustainable Tourism

To avoid this, the country must promote Sustainable Tourism practices. Butler (1993) defined sustainable tourism as “which is developed and maintained in an area (community, environment) in such a manner and at such a scale that it remains viable over an indefinite period and does not degrade or alter the environment (human or physical) in which it exists to such a degree that it prohibits the successful development and wellbeing of other activities and processes”. Hence sustainable tourism should fulfil the following:

  • Tourism industry must ensure that tourist visits will be maintained and tourism resources will retain their attractiveness indefinitely. The carrying capacity of the area needs to be kept in mind.
  • There must be no (or only minimal) adverse environmental, social and cultural impacts.
  • All these must be achieved through maintaining the principles of sustainable development.

This is crucial keeping in mind importance of tourism industry in the country. Tourism is gaining importance in India over the years in all respects. According to Ministry of Tourism, the sector contributes to 6.88% to India’s income (GDP) in the year 2012-13. In the same year, more than 12% of the country’s employment is engaged in tourism sector. Keeping these in mind, the Draft Tourism Policy document mentioned the following as key mission for the sector.

  1. To achieve a level of 1% share of the international tourists arrivals by 2016-17
  2. 1450 million domestic tourists by 2016-17
  3. Promoting sustainable tourism as priority
  4. Enhancing competitiveness of Indian tourism industry
  5. Creating world class tourism infrastructure
  6. Ensuring greater visibility for tourist facilities
  7. Augmenting human resource base in the sectorIf we look at the current scenario of tourism development, it is more in a fluidic state rather than a concrete planning. The latest Central Government policy still in practice is of 2002. A new policy was drafted in 2015. It was circulated as Draft Tourism Policy 2015 in Tourism Ministry’s official portal. However, after a certain point of time it has disappeared from the portal. There are several boards constituted to develop or promote tourism in the country, especially to attract foreign tourists, but any regulatory authority is yet to be constituted. Another key problem element is tourism is a state as well as Central subject. Apart from Central Government, various State Governments have their own tourism policies with their own perspective to promote tourism in the states. If one carefully looks at the state level policies, many of them are quite contradictory to sustainable tourism development paradigm.
  8. As it is told at the beginning, it is not easy to prepare a regulatory framework for tourism industry. The reason being tourism activities are combination of large number of sectors that cuts across all different domains of activities of common mass. As contrast to other economic sectors, direct stakeholders for tourism activities are host communities also apart from the consumers and producers. Unlike other sectors or industries, tourism directly affects entire community of a region positively as well as adversely, depending on the nature of activities. Even from governance perspective, tourism activities cut across many different departments and hence fluidic in nature. That is one of the prime reason why even being top revenue earner as well as employment generating sector, it is one of the most neglected sectors among all economic activities from policy making perspective

As can be understood easily from the above situation, there is hardly any policy that talks of regulatory and competition explicitly regarding tourism sector. Perhaps the only significant paper available on tourism legislation in India was prepared by the Indian Institute of Tourism and Travel management (IITTM) sometime in 1990s. The focus was to identify the legislative part of the tourism sector. The complexities in framing regulatory process regarding tourism industry can be well understood. A partial list of 31 legislative acts encompasses tourism industry is presented in Appendix.

However, at the Central or the state level, several schemes are available to promote tourism activities that enhances competition. But, there is no document that talks of a regulatory aspects which is extremely crucial for tourism sector. Unregulated tourism activities have severe adverse impact on welfare of a larger section of the host communities from biodiversity, economic and cultural point of view, while it increases welfare of the tourists (consumers) and direct service providers (sellers/producers). Therefore, a balanced competition policy with appropriate regulatory measures are needed immediately to promote tourism activities that can be win-win for every stakeholder.

Requirements within a Competition and Regulatory Framework

  1. Identifying key industries/sectors that are directly linked to tourism activities and less with day to day life of common man, for instance:
    • Hospitality sector
    • Tour operators
    • Other tourism service providers etc.
  1. To look into issues that are pro- or anti-competitive
    • Policy distortions/conflicts affecting competition (national and/or state level policies)
    • Prevailing anti-competitive practices in the tourism sector
    • Possible impacts of such policies and practices on welfare issues
      • For tourists (consumers)
      • Service providers (producers)
      • Host community
  1. Suggested measures towards regulatory and competition framework on selected sectors that are directly linked to tourism activities exclusively



List of Legislative Acts that covers tourism industry

As adopted from an unpublished research paper of Indian Institute of Tourism and Travel management (IITTM)

  1. The essential commodities act, 1955
  2. Code of criminal procedure, 1973,
  3. The airport authority of India act, 1994,
  4. The child labour (prohibition and regulation) act, 1986,
  5. The motor vehicle act, 1988,
  6. Foreign exchange regulation act, 1973,
  7. Consumer protection act, 1986,
  8. The environment (protection) act, 1986,
  9. The prevention of cruelty to animals act, 1960,
  10. The public liability insurance act, 1991,
  11. The railways act, 1989,
  12. The sarais act, 1867,
  13. The immoral traffic (prevention) act, 1956,
  14. The employers liability act, 1938,
  15. The passport act, 1967,
  16. The wild life (protection) act, 1972,
  17. The prevention of food adulteration act, 1954,
  18. The monopolies and restrictive trade practices act, 1969,
  19. Forest conservation act, 1980,
  20. The road transport corporation act, 1950,
  21. The central excise and sale act, 1950,
  22. The Indian partnership act, 1932,
  23. The urban land ceiling act, 1976,
  24. The industries (development and regulation) act, 1951,
  25. The explosives act, 1884,
  26. The Indian penal code, 1860,
  27. The water (prevention and control of pollution) act, 1974 & the air (prevention) and control of pollution act, 1981,
  28. The Indian contract act, 1872,
  29. Development authority act,
  30. Municipal act,
  31. Ancient monument (site and remains) act, 1951.



Butler, R., 1993. ‘Tourism – an evolutionary perspective’, in Nelson, J., Butler, R., and Wall, G., (eds) Tourism and Sustainable Development: Monitoring, Planning and Managing, Department of Geography, University of Waterloo, Ontario.

Srisang K. (1992) ‘Third World Tourism: The New Colonialism”, Focus, Volume 4.

Ministry of Tourism (2015): “India Tourism Statistics 2015 At A Glance”, Government of India.

UNWTO (2008): “Climate Change and Tourism – Responding to Global Challenges”, World Tourism Organization, Madrid, Spain.

WTTC (2013): “Travel and Tourism Economic Impact – India”, World Travel and Tourism Council.

Ramachandra T. V. and Shwetmala (2013): “Decentralised Carbon Footprint Analysis for Opting Climate Change Mitigation Strategies in India”, Research Paper Indian Institute of Sciences, Bangalore.

Ministry of Tourism (2011): “Sustainable Tourism Criteria for India”, Government of India.



Foreign Tourists Arrivals and Foreign Exchange Earnings in India By Dripto Mukhopadhyay With declining impact of global recession, especially in develped countries, Indian tourism has seen an increase in foreign tourists arrivals to various destination in the country. This is … Continue reading

Measuring Tourism’s Role at Micro-level Development in India

By Dripto Mukhopadhyay

Tourism is undoubtedly a booming industry in India. Especially, since early years of the previous decade, India has become a better known destination to international tourists. Even number of domestic tourists have also increased significantly. Government statistics suggest that foreign exchange earnings have increased significantly, number of hotels have gone up tremendously, number of countries form where we receive inbound tourists also have increased promisingly. Along with these statistics, macro level studies such as Tourism Satellite Account (TSA) 2003 and 2009 showed large scale positive impact of tourism in terms of income and employment generation in the country.

While logic and numbers are in favour of suggesting that tourism is playing a significant positive role, lots of stories in social media also pave the idea towards believing that initiatives are taken at micro level to change tourism landscapes and structure. This is also true that in India now home stays are available, we find tour operators offering specific packages, a good network of tour operators with bigger companies such as,, and several similar ones. large companies have expanded their business from ticketing to tour packages, from flight booking to bus booking etc. These evidences does not leave any space that Indian tourism sector is growing with a faster pace and also moving towards more organized in nature which was previously completely an organized one.

However, none of these talks of the fact that whether we have been able to associate tourism activities with local level development. As such I did not come across any study that even investigated this issue at all. From sustainable tourism development point of view, it is of utmost importance that the link between local economic development and tourism is established while conserving local environment, both physical and cultural. Right in this particular blog, I do not intend to talk to talk of any numbers or statistics that justifies any view in favour or against the belief that tourism is gradually leaving an imbibed impact on local economic development. There are certain reasons behind, rather personal experiences, why I am raising this question. While travelling in tourist destinations, well known and lesser known, I do not see much involvement of locals in tourism related activities. If it is there, mostly at the petty worker level. I find the observations made by large number of research studies relating to developing world that tourism still does not play any role in redistribution of resources across population, are still true. Investments are still being made in the destinations either by local rich or people external to the place. Still earnings from the destination is not reinvested in local level development, rather being siphoned from the place where it is generated. But these can rarely be captured from macro-level numbers that most of us look into while trying to measure tourism impact.

Studies are needed to capture in a manner that clearly brings out correlation between tourism’s direct and indirect impact on local level development. This needs to be done with village level, town level, block level data rather than with all India figures or state level figures. It is also important to identify indirect impact of tourism development, in the sense, infrastructure development relating to tourism activities and its impact on local economic and social development. I will start with any particular destination, preferably well known, so capture this at the earliest. Working on correlating tourism activities with development parameters of the area, including peripheral geographical spaces should provide certain ideas how these two are linked at the micro-level.

Weak Governance and Sustainability of Sustainable Tourism

By Dripto Mukhopadhyay

When we talk of sustainable tourism, a crucial question comes to our mind that have we achieved any success till now? This question is crucial since in several countries sustainable tourism or ecotourism or other forms of tourism that generally talks of similar objectives stated almost for a couple of decades by now. However, evidences suggest that if for the time being we keep aside other components of sustainable tourism and focus on the environmental aspect of it, it is quite a controversial topic. The reason being total carbon emissions from tourism activities in absolute term have been increasing unabatedly though it has declined to some extent on per capita basis. The primary reason for the Continue reading

Estimating Impact of Tourism through Input-Output analysis

 By Dripto Mukhopadhyay

There have been several attempts by researchers to estimate the importance of tourism activities in a region or at the local level. The greatest difficulty in these analyses traditionally had been the fact that no separate industry can be identified as tourism industry which could exclusively cater only to the tourists. Continue reading

Sustainable Tourism and Development: Future Potential for Indian Planning Process

Tourism has emerged as a major economic force in the world. During the period between 1995 and 2005, international tourist arrivals in the world grew by about 50 per cent and reached a level of more than 800 million. It is expected that by 2020 this figure would double with large increases in tourism activities in the world’s poorest regions (WTO, 2003). Studies suggest that tourism sector generates about 11 per cent of the world’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and creates 5.5 million jobs every year (WTO, 2002). Being highly labour intensive, the sector provides vital employment for people with a wide range of skills as well as for the unskilled. These numbers themselves are adequate enough to suggest that tourism activities have immense potential to play a significant role in the economic Continue reading