Category Archives: Tourism policy

What Extent We Can Rely on Tourism Forecast?

By Dripto Mukhopadhyay

In research fraternity, forecasting is always known as “Thankless Job”. The reason being it is one of the most difficult exercise since forecasts depends on large number of assumption about future over and above the assumptions involved in the econometric modelling itself. Being fortunate enough to work on forecasting relating to various sectors ranging from petroleum demand to luxury car to carbon emission, I know the amount of effort and skill goes behind any forecasting exercise, if it is a serious business. Even after that, many of the times the researcher find their forecasts off the target extensively mostly because of externalities. At times I feel that except a “Fortune Teller”, no scientific researcher ever can guarantee about the forecasts. The forecasts can change drastically because of small amount of change in any of the multiple assumptions goes into forecast because of macro-scenario in a dynamic world.

However, a researcher always wants to understand how his forecasts are matched with actual scenario after a few years of the forecasts were made. I did a forecasting for foreign tourists arrivals to India in the year 2008-09 for Indian Institute of Tourism and Travel Management (IITTM) as a consultant. The paper was published later in the “Indian Tourism Statistics”, the only government publication on tourism statistics of India. The forecasts were made from 2010 to 2014. Since recently the latest Tourism Statistics published for the year 2015 contains data for 2014, I felt like matching the accuracy of the forecasts I made in 2008.

The research paper covered 6 countries and all the regions of the world. The data used was various macro economic parameters, household disposable income and certain dummy variables relating to policy and other localised incidences like terrorism etc. The comparison between forecasts made in the year 2008 and the actual foreign tourists arrival to India. The details of the accuracy level of the forecasts is given in Table 1. Country-wise details and region-wise details are given in Table 2.

For any secondary data collected in a large scale and at a macro level, it is always considered that results are extremely accurate if lies within plus/minus 10% deviation level. An accuracy level till 85% (where the deviation is plus/minus 15%) is considered as acceptable for any valid decision making purpose. The numbers presented in Table 1 provides the details of forecast numbers from 2010 to 2014 for all countries and regions covered under the study. It suggests that 62% forecast numbers in the study is extremely accurate when compared with the actual FTA (Foreign Tourist Arrival). If we consider the acceptable limit with 85% accuracy, it goes up to 77% of the forecasted data points. Overall, this results suggest that FTA forecasts made in 2008 was fit to the expectations out of any forecasting exercise. Keeping in mind the global economic recession during end of 2008 and the continuing volatility of the global economy, these results suggests that decision making and policy making can depend on forecasts to a large extent if the methodology used is robust.

Table 1: Details of Accuracy Level of Forecasts

(Forecasts made in Year 2008 for the years 2010 to 2014)

Forecast VS Actuals

Accuracy level

% Forecast points

On target 100% correct

34

Highly accurate More than 90% accuracy

28

Acceptable Accuracy level 85% to 90%

15

Low on accuracy Accuracy level less than 85%

23

Table 2: Regions and Country of Details of Forecasts and Deviation of Actual Foreign Tourists Arrivals to India

forecast summary

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First Time a Prime Minister in India Identifies Tourism as an Instrument to Boost Local Economy

August 15th 2014, should be marked as an important day for the Indian tourism sector. It is not because there is a new toruism policy declared since 2002, nor beause of some bold and innovative steps taken by Ministry of Tourism of Indian Government. It is simply because the new prime minister Mr. Narendra Modi’s speech on the eve of India’s Indepence Day ceremony acknowledging the potential role that can be played by tourism activities in generating income and alleviating poverty at the local level. This is one of the simplest common sense, yet unaddressed by any past prime ministers of the country in any occassion as far as I remember.

Mr. Modi has exactly mentioned the grass root level linkage of tourism sector that needs to be harnessed for a sustainable toruism development strategy in the country. His words that captured implications of tourism development for a tea stall owner, petty service providors and the similar ones are the most cricual ones. A sustainable roadmap of tourism sector is always envisaged in the form that generates income and employment for local comminity and local economy. The strong multiplier effect of tourism automatically starts turning the unturned stones of development once these acticities are started at the local level.

This is nothing new to anyone involved with tourism development in some way or other. The major problem faced till now was that the tourism officials were more concerned about how to increase the number of foreign tourists instead of domestic tourists. Recognizing the fact that only 2% of the total toturists arrivals are of foreign origin and 98% are domestic, one fails to understand why we ignore dmestic tourists and concentrate more on foreign tourists. Perhaps it is time that we focus on developing domestic tourism also without taking it for granted. Increasing the number of domestic tourists will boost local economic development much more than that can be harnessed from foreign tourists. However, a few cautionary steps must be taken to develop a sustainable tourism across destinations:

1. Awareness generation amongst domenstic toruists to conserve and protect environemnt and destination which is perhaps completely missing at present.

2. Importance of maintaining cleanliness and respect the local culture while harnessing maximum pleasure from tourism

3. To prefer eco-friendly modes of travel/activities rather than those that increase carbon footprint in the region

Local authorities need to play important role in this. It cannot be expected that behavioural characteristics the the travelers will change automatically as desired for sustainable tourism development. The destination management should be in suach manner that the tourists are made to follow the rules strictly, else penalised severely, so that over a time the scenario changes towards a more disciplined tourism sector in the country. Large number of countries in the world are examples of creating such environment over time. The major role played was by governance than anything else. Hope, the new prime minister’s views to connect the grass root level to tourism activities will be translated into some changes in policy making of the authorities who are at the helm of decision making at central, state as well as local level.

Is the International Tourism to India Changing Its Composition? – A Region-wise Analysis

In my last to last blog, I had shown how Foreign Tourists Arrivals (FTAs) are changing over time. The same blog also identified the pattern of the change and concluded that the revival in foreign tourists arrivals, post 2008 global recession, started since 2012 only.

However, I did not include any analysis on the origin of the FTAs to India. We find the FTA data country-wise as well as region-wise. In this blog, I present a region-wise analysis of FTAs without going into the country-wise details. These series of blogs on FTAs to India is inteded towards a bigger analysis which can finally capture changing pattern of expenditure of foreign tourists in India and how that is occuring over time. It will take me about 4 to 5 more blogs like this one to reach at point whereby I can do that analysis. As I wrote in the previous blog also, I am trying to use lesser texts with more visual presentations so that readers are not burdened with too many texts, but can have the essence clearly with visula representatuions.

The Fig 1 depicts that three top regions of origin of FTAs to India are Western Europe, North America and South Aisa. These three regions contribute to about 65% to 70% of the total FTAs to India during 2010 to 2012. The following figure also suggests that the relative ranks of the regions in terms of FTAs remined same over the period 2010 to 2012.

fig 1

Note: C & S America stands for Central and South America; NEC stands for “Not Classified Elsewhere”. The same are applicable to all graphs used in this blog. Continue reading

Foreign Tourists Arrivals to India Reflecting Global Economic Recovery Now

Inbound tourism to India experienced the impact of global economic recession severely starting last quarter of 2008. Though Indian economy apparently showed signs of early recovery towards the end of 2009, other countries were still fighting on how to grapple with recession. However, apart from some of the European countries and Asian countries like Japan, gradually the situation improved towards betterment. Though the countries were still struggling with slow GDP growth, unemployment and other crucial economic indicators, most of the countries started gaining the growth momentum, slowly but steadily.

Indian tourism industry that saw a significant change since beginning of the decade 2000 was hit dearly because of the global economic recession. A sudden dip was observed in inbound tourists to India. And, this was true for every originating country where from tourists visited India. It was expected that the scenario should start changing in a year or two. This was especially true from the perspective of various stakeholders within tourism industry, especially the core ones like hotels, tour operators etc. The hotel prices were slashed significantly with various discounts and incentives on face of recession coupled with fierce competition because of entry of new international as well as smaller domestic players.

However, the scenario did not turn like that. Though economies started moving upwards in most of the countries, especially the developed ones, the impacts were not felt instantly. Anyone worked on tourism demand forecasting for inbound tourists knows that two crucial variables explain substantial part of data variation in tourists’ arrivals to any country. These are income in the originating country (expressed in terms of GDP) and lag of tourist arrivals, i.e., the number of tourists arrived during previous year or so. All other parameters like cost comparison, distance to travel, law and order including terrorist activities etc. do play their role, but to a much lesser extent. But this time, the demand system behaved in a slightly different manner. There was a lag effect that played a crucial role in the system. Increase in income in the originating countries did not show its influence immediately. A look at the data will ensure the explanation in a meaningful manner.

Table 1: Foreign Tourist Arrivals (FTA) in ‘000
 Month 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Jan 481 569 624 681 699 720
Feb 490 552 636 677 688 738
Mar 442 512 550 623 640 669
Apr 348 372 438 452 452 504
May 305 332 355 372 384 421
Jun 352 385 412 432 444 492

We find two important points from Table 1 as given above. The data is given for first 6 months of each year starting from 2009 so that no confusion is created regarding the trend. Primarily this is because of the fact that data for 2014 is available till the month of June. So, data for rest of the months for other years may create a noise in the pattern where 2014 data plays a crucial role. The second important reason is Indian tourism is marked with significant periodicity or seasonality which I have mentioned in several of my previous blogs as well as have been clearly established by many research papers. Inclusion of data for other years and not for 2014, may create a problem to identify the proper signals because of seasonality factor.

Two important trends appear from the above data are:

  • In case of each month number of tourists have increased in every year
  • FTA in each month is highest in 2014

These two points simply corroborates the discussion we have previously that there is a slow and steady increase in FTA. To avoid the clutter, I have presented this trend 2012 onward in Figure 1 below. The graph shows clearly that recognizing the seasonality with the crest in Jan-Feb and the trough occurs in May, every year the number of tourists visiting India has increase every year. But does this portray the entire story? The answer is NO. It is too simplistic a conclusion to be made and could have been easily concluded that with economic revival, India’s inbound tourism has also seen an immediate impact.

Slide1

To prove this particular point, let us have a look at the Figure 2 and Figure 3. These two visuals exhibit growth rates in FTA to India and absolute change in growth rate in the same. If one carefully looks at these two visuals, a few points sharply indicate why the change in tourism behaviour did not start during end of 2010 when the world economy stated looking upwards.

Slide2 Slide3

  • In Figure 2, growth rates, year-on-year basis, in almost every month declined since 2009 to 2013. The representing growth rates during 2012-13 is the bottom most line and all other years follow a sequence in decline except February and April during 2011-12
  • While looking at this point one needs to remember that the base number has increased as the year increases; so it growth rates will always have an edge if it belongs to earlier years
  • In Figure 3, the absolute change in growth rates (Y-O-Y basis) are presented. This is similar to “first difference” that we normally consider in econometric modelling which plays crucial role in any trend analysis.
  • The graph shows that the absolute change in growth also behave almost in similar manner to that we identified in case of growth rates. The red line, which represents absolute change between 2012-13 and 2013-14, appears at the top.

This trend clearly suggests that though apparently it looked like that the inbound tourists arrivals to India has recovered the hit from global recession since 2010, the actual recovery has started only in 2014 January onward. Till then it was more of a falsified trend that might create a wrong perception regarding the recovery of the Indian tourism in terms of foreign tourists’ arrivals. This has significant implications for policy making as well as for core stakeholders in the industry. Also, while forecasting FTA, one needs to look into carefully at the variable behaviours. It is quite possible that lag effect might be much higher than generally though of.

India’s Budget 2014-15 and Tourism Sector: Allocations for the Sake of Allocation Continues

India’s Budget 2014-15 and Tourism Sector: The Story of Directionless Allocations Continues
Finally, 10th of July 2014 arrived – the long awaited day for India’s new government’s budget announcement day. The day had immense significance to everyone, looking for a new thoughtful direction from the new government. Keeping in mind the key purpose of his blogspace, I intend to discuss the key inferences for the tourism sector only, without entering into the debate whether the budget has given a direction towards building strong fundamentals for long term growth of the country.

We all know that tourism sector is one of the key industry in terms of generating employment and income apart from being one of the largest foreign exchange earner for the country. The sector can also play a magical role in developing local level economy if policy orientation is in right direction. The sector is in fact comparable with the ‘hen lays golden eggs’ of the childhood story all of us are familiar with. However, the simplest yet decisive moral of the story, perhaps, remembered seldom since we all learn it during childhood. Continue reading

Aside

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 Makemytrip.com, Yatra.com, 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.