INDIAN prime minister Narendra Modi on Thursday (15) came up with one idea to get India’s stuttering economy humming again – get every Indian to visit 15 domestic tourist destinations over the next three years.
The proposal might help to pump up domestic travel, which has struggled as many Indians cut back on consumer spending, and it could also create badly-needed jobs.
But it left some in the travel industry scratching their heads over how India’s far from fully developed transport and tourism infrastructure could cope if many of its 1.25 billion people took Modi up on his challenge.
“By 2022, before India celebrates its 75th year of independence, I would like to request that all of you should travel to at least 15 local tourist destinations,” Modi said in his Independence Day speech.
If everyone did it there would be 18.75 billion trips, or 6.25 billion a year. That compared to 1.8 billion domestic tourism trips by Indians last year, according to an April report by Google and consultancy firm Bain.
Local trips by domestic travellers have grown at a compounded annual growth rate of around eight per cent in the last four years, the report said.
“The main issue is beyond that of infrastructure at trains stations and airports,” said Imtiaz Qureshi, of the Travel Agents Association of India, who runs his own travel agency in the southern city of Hyderabad.
“It is the last mile connectivity to remote tourist destinations.”
Although Modi’s government has made great efforts to build new roads to link towns and villages, and improve railway services, as well as expand existing airports and construct new ones, it still has a long way to go.
Qureshi said the incremental costs of travel to remote areas without sufficient infrastructure can soon add up and make foreign travel to places such as Malaysia seem cheaper and easier.
Modi, to be sure, did not promise the travel would be easy, saying people should pledge to visit these destinations even if they lack good hotels and other amenities.
It would be “for the sake of employment of the local youth,” he said, adding that once people started travelling, basic amenities would spring up.
Modi himself has been an avid traveller, visiting many remote parts of the country as a young ascetic after he left home, books about him say.