India truly has a unique story to share in its tourism space. The thumb rule is to travel with an open mind, even as an Indian. Whether it’s a road trip, a rail journey or a flight, there are things that can both shock and pleasantly surprise you at the same time. My recent train travel experience from Mumbai to Udaipur in the AC Two Tier, was a bit disappointing. I wonder whether to place all the blame on the Indian Railways or share the same with my fellow citizens as well. The good part is, India is boosting its infrastructure facilities, with improved highway connectivity, express roads, state-of-the-art airports and new railway routes with focus on tourism. However, amidst all this, there is something that is a cause of serious concern – that of civic sense and tourism discipline.
Interestingly, inter state surface transport, be it road or rail, especially in the premium category comes at a price, which is almost close to air travel. Hence for the price you pay, one expects certain basic standard facilities to make the journey pleasant.
India is being steadily perceived as an expensive travel destination, which was further reiterated by seasoned tourist guides and transport service providers, who in a way get the first hand pulse of the season. My interactions with a few of them, highlighted the fact that business has seen a dip this season, especially with respect to foreign tourist arrivals. On the other hand, there has been an increase in domestic movements, which again must be considered together with my previous concern of responsible and disciplined tourism. The Indian domestic travellers’ movement is only going to increase over the years and to preserve the sanctity of the India story, it is time they became more responsible.
Though change is moving at a snail’s pace, probably triggered by the Swacch Bharat Abhiyan, this movement needs to be taken up in all seriousness, over and above infrastructure development. From Lakshadweep to Arunachal Pradesh, tourism leaders are speaking earnestly about responsible and sustainable tourism. Homestay facility providers in the country (the subject of our cover story) too have understood the need for the same. The homestay business specially in recent times, is making an attempt to get organised. Players like Stayzilla have tied up with different state tourism boards across the country to bring some system to this business. Stayzilla has also recently tied up with Agri Tourism Development Company for promoting rural homestays in the interiors of Maharashtra. However, there is a long way to go and the government needs to step in with stringent checks and rules on permits and accreditations for homestay facilities in India. This will help curb many fly by night operators who will want to cash in on this business.