Business Traveller India speaks to Suman Billa (IAS), Joint Secretary to the Ministry of Tourism for the Government of India with regards to the country’s travel industry.
How well do you think tourism will do in India in 2018?
I think we are doing very well. January arrivals have been excellent. After all we are a 5000-year-old civilisation with amazing, incredible stuff around. With 8,500 km of sea coast, backwaters, the desert, the tropical forest and the hills, we have a lot to offer to the tourist.
Where are you looking for the biggest growth from?
Western Europe, USA and Southeast Asia. We are going to promote Buddhist pilgrimage in a big way because Buddha lived in the Indian states of Bihar and UP. The Buddhist pilgrimage circuit is going to be extremely important for us. We also want to promote adventure tourism with 70 per cent of Himalayas, fantastic mountains and hills and freshwater rivers found here.
When international tourists come in they are mainly going to use flights to get around, as opposed to the road or the railway. What are your thoughts?
Yes, we see flights are the easiest things to move around because India is extremely well connected. We have whole lot of airports everywhere. But of course, for the very sophisticated people who really want to savour in India we have Palace on Wheels that travels to various Indian destinations. They are little expensive but then I think its really worth it.