Dr Jyotsna Suri, Chairperson & Managing Director of The Lalit Suri Hospitality Group, outlines how improved tourism could shape the age-old relationship between India and the UK.
The year 2016 was unprecedented for the world economy. This was more so for the
, as it marked the beginning of its exit from European Union following a historic referendum. The UK's desire to 'look beyond' Europe has accelerated its efforts to strengthen economic relations with its other major partners. In this context, the visit of Prime Minister
to India-her first visit outside Europe after assuming office-clearly highlights the importance the UK attaches to India as it resets its global relations. In the joint statement issued during the visit of Prime Minster Theresa May to India, the two countries agreed to take a shared stake in each other's prosperity, generating jobs, developing skills and enhancing the competitiveness for both economies.
The most powerful sources of attraction in the UK for the young Indian population are its education, architecture, heritage and its cosmopolitan culture. India's historical connect with the UK resonates in the present-day institutions, universities and prominent buildings across several of its cities.
has also played an important role in the cultural exchange between the two countries. The United Kingdom has been the third-largest tourist-generating market for India in recent years. The tourist arrivals from the UK to India have grown from 798,249 in 2011 to 867,601 in 2015. On the other hand, about 422,409 Indian tourists visited the UK in 2015, up from 355,472 in 2011, recording a CAGR of 4.4 per cent. This is in line with the 4.1 per cent growth in total tourist arrivals to the UK during that period. However, even India's market share in the UK's tourist arrivals continues to be low at 1.2 per cent. Another concern is that while Indian tourists' visits globally have grown significantly over the last decade, the UK's share in the total global Indian tourists' visits has nearly halved.
It is thus extremely important to strengthen our relationship in the fields of culture and tourism. This would enable both India and the UK to take their relationship to a new high, benefits of which will be seen in the realm of trade and investment.
The efforts taken by the two governments to enhance the
connect, strengthen cultural linkages and improve tourism are encouraging, but more is required to unlock the true potential. Steps underway should be complemented by policy initiatives to address the challenges converting them into opportunities through mutual cooperation.
While tourist inflows to India are on the rise and we have good connectivity into the country, internal movement in terms of infrastructure needs improvement. The UK can look at this as a potential area of engagement and support us in our efforts to improve last-mile connectivity through an integrated approach for transport systems.
The UK could also invest in development of identified heritage sites in India. Opportunities for investment for the UK also exist in development of port and related infrastructure that would provide impetus to cruise tourism. There is also a huge potential for boosting tourism by developing the amusement industry in India. The engagement, entertainment and leisure elements of tourism need to be blended at the tourist destinations.
We can also take cues from the UK's efforts to strengthen tourism infrastructure. Huge investment has been made in London's retail and leisure infrastructure. There have been continuous efforts to not only revive some of the old areas like Stratford, which saw a complete overhaul at the time of 2012 London Olympics, but also to strengthen the city's wide transport network and connectivity further. By 2018, the city is likely to see the introduction of Crossrail, which will connect East and West London. Similarly, Thames Clipper, introduced as a bus service on the River Thames, allowing sightseeing by boat, has now emerged as the fastest and most frequent service. The government is also working towards modernising the London Underground, London overground tube rail, trams and the Docklands Light Railways. The city also offers travel ease and convenience to tourists.
In addition to steps for better connectivity and easier mobility, I see a need for greater promotional and awareness campaigns in both countries. One of the ways this can be achieved is through greater collaboration in film shooting and production. Another way is through the launch of an international media hosting programme for wider dissemination of information on new and upcoming destinations on both sides. Additionally, theme-based festivals can be organised at various tourist locations inviting participation of students and youth from both countries. The UK should accelerate the pace of collaboration in such areas as several other European countries are actively seeking Indian tourists.
As for the movement of Indians to the UK, easier facilitation of visa, immigration and customs procedure is essential. While some steps have been taken to improve visa services for the business travellers, visa regime needs to be made simple, efficient and cost-effective for all travellers. Our authorities must remain engaged in this area. It will be good to see the cost of visa for Indian travellers being brought down this year as it will be a true reflection of Britain's commitment to India as a valued partner.
I have always believed that tourism has a great power to bring countries and people together. As people travel, they understand each other's cultures and such exchange automatically paves way for greater trade, investments and economic development. I can say this from my own personal experience. Greater cultural and tourism ties will deepen the already strong bonds of friendship that exist between our two countries.
The above is a synopsis of one of the chapters from ′Winning Partnership: India-UK Relations Beyond Brexit′, edited by India Inc. Founder & CEO Manoj Ladwa.