The issue of Maldives and Lakshadweep has come into the center of world discussion recently. In India, many famous people of India have come out in support of promoting tourism in the country, which is appropriate. Along with this, a discussion has also started among the people as to why people leave India and go to Maldives or other foreign places for holidays. Society and government need to understand this and reform accordingly. Due to patriotism, we can leave Maldives for some time and come to Lakshadweep, but with time, Maldives will again attract our tourists.
According to the Maldives Government’s tourism data of 2023, the largest number of people visiting Maldives from all over the world are Indians, whose number is above 2 lakh. 44% of people from India go to their country for honeymoon. 73 percent of people visiting Maldives from India go for romantic holidays while only 23 percent go with family. Due to lack of suitable places for romantic sea holidays in India, new couples or husband-wives go to Maldives. According to the data of Maldives government, every person going to Maldives spends an average of 80 thousand to 4 lakh rupees there.
The question is also why tourists in India are not able to spend so much? Whereas why do the people of India also visit countries like Maldives, Thailand or Vietnam? We have unique tourist destinations like Goa, Andaman and Lakshadweep but we are not able to attract even our own domestic tourists, leave alone world tourists, let us examine these points.
Tourism in India faces three challenges, first is infrastructure, second is inflation and third is social behavior.
Development of Infrastructure:
Proper infrastructure has not been developed by the Government of India in the coastal areas and islands of India. You will be surprised to know that the availability of fast internet in Andaman Nicobar and Lakshadweep is being ensured during the rule of Modi government. Due to the extremely stringent environmental standards of the Government of India, the potential of aquatic tourism in India remains almost bare or operated illegally.
Modi government’s Sagarmala project will ensure that the development of marine tourism gets a boost for the first time. Lack of high quality roads makes India’s coastal areas difficult for people to access. The prices of air services going to Andaman Nicobar and Lakshadweep skyrocket and you can go abroad at a lower price than that. The government should intervene in such complex situations and ensure transportation to such tourist areas at reasonable fares.
To promote tourism, the Indian government should develop all its islands on different themes. The government can develop many islands of Lakshadweep on theme based facilities like honeymoon destination, family destination, kids theme based tourism. So that tourism related to newlyweds, adults and children gets different promotions. Supply chain management and logistics of the islands should be strengthened. Doing this will reduce the cost of resources on the islands and will also ease the movement of people. Indian beaches are full of garbage and filth. The Government of India should take inspiration from the waste management standards of Maldives and ensure high standards of waste management in Goa, Andaman and Lakshadweep. This must ensure a revolution in waste management, drinking water supply and construction of toilets on our islands.
Hit by unnecessary inflation:
Policy makers in India view marine tourism at the highest standards of luxury. In such tourism based areas, the government does not provide land at any concession to hotels or entertainment businesses like concessions are available for educational institutions or hospitals etc. As a result, hotels in islands and coastal areas are available at very expensive prices. Another reason for inflation is that in the absence of necessary and business rules and regulations for hotels and social activities by the government in such coastal tourism areas and island groups, most of the operators have to operate hotels or other recreational activities illegally and due to corruption. Because the price of such facilities increases a lot.
If the government specifically makes land available in the coastal areas and on its islands at concessional rates for hotels and other social/commercial activities, it will provide security to investors and people will be able to get good hotels or facilities at reasonable prices.
I myself have found in my travel experience to many countries that the quality of rooms and facilities in hotels are much better in other tourism based countries than in India. Policy makers in the government should look at tourism as an industrial activity and not from a luxury perspective. Just as in today’s times, various industrial activities are being promoted through Special Economic Zones, in the same way the tourism industry should also be promoted.
Social behavior problems:
People like to go to Maldives because Maldives is a tourist friendly country, tourism friendly means privacy, security and social cooperation. Despite being a predominantly Muslim country, Maldives ensures that people can enjoy complete freedom on its islands and beaches. According to a report by the Maldives government, 56 percent of the tourists visiting Maldives come there because of privacy, 60% people like the beach infrastructure there and 53% people like the resorts and hotels there.
As far as privacy is concerned, in India you can be assured of such privacy only in hotels like Taj and Oberoi, which is only one percent of the total tourism in India, but how will the privacy of 99% other tourists be ensured?
When tourists from any other country in the world come to India, we stare at them and treat them as if they are creatures from another planet. In India, due to high population density and joint family culture, we do not care much about personal privacy, whereas in foreign countries, personal privacy is a very serious and necessary social behavior.
While traveling in any public transport, it is very common to find people staring at you, making noises and playing loud songs or filming someone on their mobile or radio. As an Indian society, we have to accept to understand that countries like Vietnam, Maldives or Thailand have not always been like this, they have developed a tourism culture in their country due to which people from all over the world come there and enjoy tourism, privacy, Can be picked up with safety and good hospitality. The idea is that tourism in India should not only grow in opposition to anyone but tourists from all over the world should be able to avail the best security, privacy and hospitality in India.
(The author is a techno-management consultant and an expert in development-based policies.)