Ideas for Tourism Policy India

  • India’s Tourism Policy needs a cross-functional and integrated approach. Nine out of the box ideas to promote India’s Cultural Assets (including Heritage, Dance forms, Ayurveda) Plus Border Tourism, from Southeast Asia and Medical Tourism.  

A new Tourism Policy (TP) is on the anvil. The objective of such a policy must to be market India’s cultural assets namely heritage, dance, music, cuisine, handlooms, culture, Yoga, Ayurveda plus border areas and Medical Tourism. Thus, the ministry of tourism (MT) has to become the Nodal ministry that will take inputs from ministries like Health, Defence, External Affairs etc. to prepare an integrated and comprehensive policy document. Tourism is not about promoting heritage alone.  


This calls for breaking of silos and synergised thinking.  


A tourist, domestic or foreign, is one who spends rupees, dollars, yuan or euros on enjoying India’s cultural assets. It shall be the resolve of every state government to attract more tourists. The Centre can create a policy environment to facilitate tourism.


Here are some different ideas for the proposed policy.


1. We must get over the Golden Triangle of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur and look to create many such triangles across the country, using the hub and spoke model.

Orchha near Jhansi is a must visit. 

Brihadesvara Temple, Thanjavur. 

Spiti Valley and Kinnaur.

Guwahati offers varieties of Northeastern states cuisine.

Handlooms of Andhra Pradesh.  

A hub is a town with important cultural assets i.e. also well connected to other nearby assets. The hub must be well connected by air, train and road.


Here is a suggested list of hubs and spokes across India. In italics are hubs and what is in bracket are spokes. This includes all cultural assets.  


Gwalior (Orchha, Jhansi, Morena Temples, Datia, local forts) Mysoru (Coorg, Mysore Dussehra, Somnathpur Temple, Bandipur-Nagerhole National Parks), Amdavad (Rani-ka-Vav, Modhera, Mount Abu, Ambadevi, Baroda, Somnath, Kutch handlooms, Mud hut Paintings) Bhubaneshwar (Ratnagiri, Puri, Konarak, Raghurajpur-Pattachitra Paintings, Handlooms, Odissi Dance, Handicrafts, folk dance) Thanjavur (Gangaikondacholpuram, Trichy, Madurai, Chettinad, Tiruvaruvur, Kumbakonam, Swamimalai Bronze statues, Tanjore Paintings, Bharata natyam, Kanchipuram Saris, Folk dance), Hampi (Badami, Aihole),   Guwahati (river cruise, Kamakhya, Majuli, Sivasagar, Sualkuchi saris, Kaziranga, Folk dance), Aurangabad (Ellora, Ajanta, Lonar crater, Paithani saris) Patna (Bodhgaya, Nalanda, Rajgir, Vaishali, Pawapuri, Mithila paintings) Indore (Dhar, Mandu, Maheshwar, Omkareshwar, Burhanpur, Street food, Sanchi stupa, Bimbetka, Udaygiri Caves, Maheshwari saris), Jammu (Vaishnudevi, Srinagar, Rajouri, Poonch, Kishtwar, Bhadrawah, Mansar Lake), Ayodhya, Varanasi and Jabalpur (Kanha, Bandhvagarh, Bhedaghat and Amarkantak), Kerala-Garwhal (Uttarakhand) for Ayurveda, Himachal-Uttarakhand for Spirituality. Udaipur-Jodhpur (Handlooms, Ghoomar dance, Kalbelia dance) are hubs for Mewar and Marwar and Chandigarh for Himachal Pradesh.


Infrastructure and connectivity standards could be laid down for each hub. Based on standards Central ministries and states to identify shortcomings and work together to overcome e.g. Gwalior to Khajuraho expressway.


Niche hotels (including heritage properties) that offer local and quality experiences to guests could see a surge in demand. 


A Tourist Police, in plain clothes, at key tourist locations could ensure tourists are not harassed. (learning from Egypt).

Tiger Corbett National Park. Pic Rajeev Das. 

It is unfortunate that the Patna Bodhgaya Expressway is incomplete today. When I visited in 2012 work was on. How long do devotees have to wait?


Also read Bodhgaya and the Buddhist World


Similar to the above there could be theme based tours like Wildlife, Golf, Adventure Travels, Ramayan and Buddhist circuit.


Every hub must have a Rural Arts and Crafts Complex like Shilpgram Udaipur.


Also read India must promote tourist locations beyond the Golden Triangle


2. Like Indore has Chhappan Dukaan for street food similar streets should be made by state governments in every hub. These can serve local and inter-state cuisine.

See album of Sarafa and 56 Street, Street Food Indore  

There is no place like Hampi.  

3.   Domestic tourism needs to be promoted around festivals, treks, yatras and conducted tours. 


Festivals like Trissurpuram, Rann Utsav (Kutch), Jaisalmer Desert, Hola Mohallah (Punjab), Raas Mohatsav (Majuli, Assam), Sangai (Imphal) and Hornbill (Kohima), Mysore and Bastar Dussehra, Holi (Barsana-Nandgaon), Durga Puja Kolkata and Hampi Festival must be promoted nationally. 


To attract tourists from other states host states must organise conducted tours for these festivals. Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, can share best practices on organising conducted tours.   

Adi Kailash N Om Parvat are near Nepal border.

 7 Lakes, Dabang Valley, Arunachal. 

4. Tourism to border areas of Ladakh, Uttarakhand, Arunachal Pradesh. 


MT must work with Ministry of Defence to identify such areas and villages where tourism can be opened up. BRO and State governments must build connectivity. 


Recently Border Roads Organization (BRO) made road to Adi Kailash and Om Parvat i.e. on the Kailash Mansarovar route. Vloggers and tourists followed.


This way locals make money and interact with people from different states. Plus changes in demographics will get noticed immediately.


To enjoy Om Parvat and Adi Kailash Vlog


5. Tourism along Expressways must be developed since expressways reduce travel time and could motivate motorists to drive to what were earlier considered distant locations. 


For e.g. take the Mumbai Delhi Expressway will bring Baroda, Amdavad, Kota, Jaipur etc. closer to Mumbai. So also the Mumbai Nagpur Expressway shall reduce travel time from Mumbai to Nasik, Aurangabad, Shirdi and Buldana (Lonar). Similar expressways from Delhi are work-in-progress. Other big towns can follow.   

Poomully Mana Kerala-Home to pristine Ayurveda remedy. 

6. Indians and foreigners alike might wish to go for Yoga courses or Ayurveda treatment. 


The Incredible India website must have a list of recommended institutions with contacts. (data to be given by respective ministry). This would be useful.


Also read List of Institutions where you can learn Yoga in India


A similar list should be made available online on Art and Handlooms city-wise. 


To read about Different Forms of India Art, Dance Forms and Handlooms by State

Angkor Watt Cambodia is largest temple complex in world.  

7. More Indians must be aware of and visit symbols of Indian heritage in Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia.


The Ministry of External Affairs could run advertising campaign promoting these symbols. Over time it is hoped these countries would reciprocate and formally promote India as well.


To read about how this will happen read my article  N The India Cambodia Connection and Saiva Temples in Cambodia and Space and Cosmology in Indian Temples-Angkor Watt 


8. People who are passionate about travel promote India relentlessly. With Vlogs we see videos of people’s travels. It has now become a sustainable business model. They share the most amazing videos and travel tips including recommending what to eat in each city. 


The MT must work together with vloggers to promote India.


9.   Medical Tourism requires a Cross Ministry Effort.


Patients come mainly from poor African and Middle Eastern countries and India’s neighbourhood like Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. They are invariably accompanied by a caretaker who doubles up as an interpreter and in return expects a commission from the hospital. Patients who need follow up care mostly return to the hospital and buy medicines locally since Indian hospital prescriptions are not accepted in the host country. 


The ministry of health, external affairs and tourism need to work together. Some suggestions.


One patients should be given visas only when treated only at National Accreditation Board for Hospitals & Healthcare Providers (NABH). This will ensure better treatment and patient shall not get swayed by agents of unaccredited hospitals.


Two, hospitals need to hire local interpreters who know the language of patient’s country and give an option of hiring a caretaker.


Three, the ministry of health must on receipt of inputs from NABH, prepare a Paper on the services India offers and its competitiveness. This paper must be shared with the ministry of external affairs and in turn with the Consulates of countries who send patients. Every effort must be made for direct contact between Consulate, Patient and Hospital. For every patient referred the hospital must pay a management fee at a pre-determined percentage to the Government of India for services rendered.


Four, the ministry of external affairs must, based on inputs from the ministry of health, speak to their counterparts whereby prescriptions given by NABH where the patient was treated are accepted in the host country. This preludes the need for the patient to visit India only to buy medicines.


A collaborative effort and regular interaction between ministries and hospitals should build an element of trust.


If tourist numbers have to leapfrog, India needs out of the box ideas. The economic benefits of tourism are well-known and should motivate us to think differently.


The Prime Minister promotes development through industry. Hope he promotes India’s cultural assets as well.


Author is a travel photo journalist.     

Receive Site Updates