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Why India is off the tour list

Shilpa Jamkhandikar in Berlin | March 10, 2006 13:13 IST
Last Updated: March 10, 2006 13:18 IST

Given that India gets a miniscule four million tourists every year, one would have thought that finding space for them would not be a problem for such a vast country.

However, that is exactly what is worrying the tourism industry. Government officials say India lacks space for tourists, which is leading to a lot of tour operators crossing India off their lists for this year.

The problem now is not attracting enough visitors to India but finding enough hotel rooms for them. The total number of registered rooms in the country is around 100,000 right now, which is less than the number of rooms in the city of Las Vegas.

"This is a very small number. We want more tourists to come to India, but unless we get more budget hotels, it will be a problem for the industry. In fact a number of big tour operators have crossed India off their lists for this because of the same problem," says Deep Kalra, CEO of, a travel portal which is participating at the International Tourism Fair in Berlin.

Kalra says as a result of the high demand and less supply, hotels are indiscriminately hiking prices, which again puts off potential tourists.

"We have rates like $300 a night in peak season, which is just not fair. Tour operators do not want those kind of prices, but because there are such less rooms, hotels charge a premium," he adds.

"It is very difficult to convince agents not to cross off India from their lists because you cannot argue with their logic that hotels charge too much. Also there are not enough rooms, and all that makes it difficult. People want to come to India, but unless we make room for them, it is a tough proposition for us to convince them," says an official from the tourism ministry, who runs a Europe office.

"We agree that room space is a problem, but we have been in talks with several international hotel chains who are very interested in investing in India. Also domestically, more hotels are being built, we are promoting newer destinations,

airports are being privatised. Everything will happen gradually," A K Misra, secretary, Tourism, who is leading the Indian delegation to Berlin told PTI.

Kalra, however, disagrees with the five star concept, saying it is not high end hotels that India needs but the middle end ones, rather budget hotels.

"Europeans, or for that matter any tourist coming to India does not necessarily want to stay in high end, luxury hotels. Most tourists look at India as an exotic destination, and are not looking for that kind of luxury."

"Ideally, we need a bed and breakfast system like the one in England. Even functional, clean no frills hotels will do just as well," he says.

The government officials also concede that even building new hotels and resorts will take time and until that time, tour operators will not be keen to keep India high on their list of destinations


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