India's tourism image abroad is mostly related to 17th century monument Taj Mahal, but with its centuries old civilisation, the country is strewn with historical masterpieces across the length and breadth of it.
From the mountains in the north to seas and an ocean in the south, the country is a treasure trove for natural scenic beauty as well. It is a mystic land where people from all across the globe had converged seeking peace. Its all-embracing nature has offered repose to travellers from across the globe.
Apart from the monuments, there are vast tracts of jungles in various parts of the country, which are house of various flora and fauna. It is frequented by both domestic as well as foreign tourists alike.
According to India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF), the travel market in India is projected to reach $125 billion by FY27 from an estimated $75 billion in FY20. International tourist arrivals are expected to reach 30.5 million by 2028.
India is a large market for travel and tourism. It offers a diverse portfolio of niche tourism products - cruises, adventure, medical, wellness, sports, MICE, eco-tourism, film, rural and religious tourism. India has been recognised as a destination for spiritual tourism for domestic and international tourists.
In his Independence speech from Red Fort, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged people to visit 15 domestic tourist destinations in India by 2022, to promote tourism.
There were 2.74 million foreign tourists who visited India in 2020. Number of non-resident Indians arriving during that period was 3.59 million. But in 2020, tourism took a hit globally due to breakout of coronavirus pandemic.
In April 2021, the percentage share of foreign tourist arrivals (FTA) was highest from the US (26.85 per cent), followed by Bangladesh (15.65 per cent), Afghanistan (6.92 per cent), the UK (5.87 per cent), Nepal (4.59 per cent), Canada (4.27 per cent), Iraq (2.99 per cent), Portugal (2.40 per cent), Germany (1.42 per cent), Russian Fed (1.41 per cent), Maldives (1.39 per cent), France (1.33 per cent), Sudan (1.21 per cent), Korea (Rep.) (1.18 per cent), and Australia (1.02 per cent).
Tourism continues to play an important role as a foreign exchange earner for the country. In 2020, foreign exchange earnings (FEE) from tourism were $6.958 billion as compared to $30.06 billion in 2019 due to the pandemic.
The United Nations World Tourism Organizations elected Pochampally in Telangana as one of the best tourism villages in November 2021.
From November 15, 2021, India allowed fully vaccinated foreign tourists to visit India, to help revive the Indian travel and hospitality sector.
In 2020, the travel and tourism industry's contribution to the GDP was $121.9 billion; this is expected to reach $512 billion by 2028. In India, the industry's direct contribution to the GDP is expected to record an annual growth rate of 10.35 per cent between 2019 and 2028, according to IBEF.
The Indian airline travel market was estimated at $20 billion and is projected to double in size by 2026-27 due to improving airport infrastructure and growing access to passports.
There has been an increase in the demand for luxury stay among Indian consumers, due to rising consumer spend. In line with this, key players are expanding their presence to cater to this demand.
The Indian government is also making serious efforts to boost investment in the tourism sector. In the hotel and tourism sector, 100 per cent Foreign Direct Investment is allowed through the automatic route. A five-year tax holiday has been offered for 2, 3 and 4-star category hotels located around UNESCO World Heritage sites (except Delhi and Mumbai).
Government is planning to boost tourism in India by leveraging on the lighthouses in the country. Seventy-one lighthouses have been identified in India, which will be developed as tourist spots.
The lighthouses will feature museums, amphi-theatres, open air theatres, cafeterias, children's parks, eco-friendly cottages and landscaping according to its capacity. India is often termed as the hotspot for bio-diversity and its rich natural heritage is unparalleled in many ways. As of December 2020, the country comprised 104 national parks and 566 sanctuaries.
The Indian government also announced to develop 17 iconic tourist sites in India into world-class destinations as per Union Budget 2019-20. Ministry of Tourism launched DekhoApnaDesh webinar in April 2020 to provide information on the many destinations and the sheer depth and expanse of the culture and heritage of Incredible India. Until July 2021, 90 webinars have been conducted under the series.
The best tourist destinations in India where the Taj Mahal, the world's most famous testimony to the power of love -- in Uttar Pradesh's Agra. In the national capital New Delhi, Red Fort is a must see.
The Golden Temple in Amritsar attracts a lot of tourists every year. Founded in 1577 by Ram Das, Amritsar is an important hub of Sikh history and culture, describes Planetware.
Towards the west, Rajasthan is strewn with royal palaces and it is one of the hottest destinations for both domestic and foreign tourists. The places, which are most frequented by tourists are Udaipur, Jaisalmer, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Alwar and Ajmer. One of the best know tiger reserves of the country, Ranthambore, is in Rajasthan.
In Uttarakhand, several hill stations are famous like Nainital, Mussoorie and Rishikesh.
Also, people take sojourn in the hill stations of Himachal Pradesh looking for peace and tranquility. Places like Shimla, Dharamsala, Dalhousie and SpitiValley are famous for this. These hill stations are very popular for trekking and river rafting as well.
In Maharashtra, Mumbai is a must visit. It is the financial capital of the country. The 26 metres high Gateway of India overlooking the Arabian Sea is a treat to the eyes of the travellers.
The Ellora Caves in Aurangabad built between the 5th and 10th Centuries by Buddhist, Jain and Hindu monks, make for an excellent excursion from Mumbai, some 300 kilometres to the west.
Khajuraho Temple in Madhya Pradesh is something to marvel at. The extraordinary intricate sculpture on the walls of the temples (no worshipping happens there) will leave one awestruck.
Those who want to get soaked in the sun, Goa beaches are highly recommended. The Calangute beach and the Agonda beach are quite popular among beach-lovers.
Down south, there is bountiful natural scenic beauty. Though there are many palaces also to visit. One of South India's most popular tourist attractions, Periyar National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary is centered around a lake in Madurai.
Known as the 'Venice of the East', Alleppey with its backwaters and floating houseboats, is one of the most beautiful places to visit in South India. The backwaters of Kerala are a breathtaking sight, particularly at the break of dawn. Another picturesque destination in Kerala is Munnar hill station.
In Tamil Nadu, the Nilgiri Mountain Railway is an experience to treasure. The Vivekananda Rock Temple is a must visit.
In the eastern part of the country in Bihar, Bodhgaya, considered the world's holiest Buddhist site, attracts thousands of visitors each year, all drawn to participate with the resident monks in meditation and prayer.
Another remarkable monument is the Victoria Memorial in West Bengal's Kolkata. The largest contiguous mangrove forest Sundarbans is also located in West Bengal. In the north of the state is Darjeeling Hills known for its world-famous tea.
The seven sisters' states of the northeastern part of the country are endowed with natural beauty and would provide a strong resemblance with Southeast Asian countries.
India is truly a diverse country in every aspect. A tour around the country will make it more evident as the soil, natural beauty, language everything changes every few miles.