India's Only Hospitality Business Weekly Issue dated - 06th January, 2003
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Home > Perspective > Full Story

Talking Point
Itís Time To Go For Domestic Tourism

India has woefully been unable to exploit the potential of domestic tourism, says a paper on Dimension of Domestic Tourism presented at the PATA India chapter industry meet

A paper on Dimension of Domestic Tourism presented at the PATA India chapter industry meet in Hyderabad last month, to which a brief reference was made in this column earlier, has not only data of considerable interest for planners and service providers but is also revealing in several ways. The author, Uttam Dave is a senior member of the chapter and CEO of PKF (Pannell Kerr Forster Consultants) which has done considerable work for states like Andhra Pradesh and Kerala as well as hospitality outfits. Dave’s study based on statistics collected from various sources puts the size of the domestic market at 320 million trips (in 2000) of which 109 million visits were in the urban segment. The total is about 67 times the size of foreign arrivals in numbers but the revenue generated is only 3.65 times of the inbound receipts. Dave says globally the ratio between domestic and international tourists is 10:1 and growth rates in most mature domestic markets is 2 per cent or even less. In the west, Canada offers a unique example. It recorded 75 million overnight trips accounting for 80 per cent of all visits and 70 per cent of tourism revenues. Figures from China are even more spectacular: 744 million domestic movements, 330 million urban, accounting for 70 per cent of hotel occupancy and a revenue of $32 billion. By 2010 receipts from domestic travel are expected to rise to $156 billion. Australia’s domestic scene is no different. It had 142 million trips yielding 80 per cent of tourism GDP.

Profiling the characteristics of domestic travel, the study says globally, on an average, 35 per cent visitors leave home to meet friends and relations (VFR) and around 50 per cent seek holidays. This segment is showing the greatest growth. In India, however, VFR travel dominates; leisure is still limited and, this is surprising, pilgrimages are not so high. Only 6.9 per cent go to religious places. Business takes 10.4 per cent. Leisure is a little more at 13.8 per cent. Social functions attract 30.3 per cent while the rest, 31.5 per cent, come in the category of Others which could be largely VFR. Mode of travel tells its own story. Globally, 80 per cent travel in their own automobiles. In India this figure is as low as 1.9 per cent. Those using hired cars is even lower at 1.7 per cent and those using air services number a mere 0.35 per cent. Trains are more popular with 24.8 per cent.

The average length of stay for an Indian domestic traveller is 4 nights and as for accommodation 45 per cent prefer friends and family and only 23 per cent use hotels.

Ask a domestic tour operator who are the biggest travellers and the instant answer will be Bengalis and Gujaratis.

The PKF study puts the two states at the sixth and seventh place. Maharashtra leads with 15.4 million (in the urban segment) followed by UP (including figures of Uttaranchal) 13.9 million, Tamil Nadu 12 million, Karnataka 9.4 million and Andhra Pradesh 9 million. Then comes West Bengal and Gujarat with 7.2 million and 6.4 million.

The study gives several examples of government sponsored programmes of promoting domestic travel in selected countries. Australia, for instance, has a five-year ‘See Australia’ campaign whose vision statement has this to say: “Rediscover the importance of holidays in maintaining a balanced life and to recharge batteries in order to cope with the pace of life in the 21st century.” This is backed by a joint government-industry effort, with key trade ‘sponsors’ and ‘partners’. China’s focused and intensive domestic tourism drive is supported by dramatic roads and railways development schemes.

Dave feels strongly that highway systems drive domestic tourism like nothing else and puts India’s national highway development programme covering 13,000 kms in perspective. The Golden Quadrilateral, linking the four metros over a 5,851 kms length, is due for completion by the end of 2003, while the more ambitious 7,000 kms North-South East-West Express Corridor linking Jammu-Kanyakumari and Silchar-Porbandar will take another four years. He sees many opportunities for service providers in terms of transport, location-based themed leisure/entertainment, recreation (which he thinks is the fastest growing) and conferences. The constraints include market limitation, lower spending and more importantly, consumers go direct to service providers.
The answer, according to him, is price-led packaging. Also cooperative marketing, and of course, aggressive promotion by states. Are states, TAAI, IATO, FHRAI and HAI listening?

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