“If you have money take an air ticket and see the world”. So goes the modern adage. Every country goes out of its way to welcome the tourists and attract the maximum number of them, not out of the idea of pure hospitality, but for its own profit. The tourists bring the much needed foreign exchange. Also personal contacts between the foreigners and the natives lead to better understanding and present a better image of the country to the world at large. Even the countries behind the iron curtain like China and Russia are opening out their doors to tourists. Some tourists write books on the Countries they visit and others write articles for the newspapers. Those who have no such literary talents recount their experiences of their journey in lectures are talks to friends.
In the remote past, famous travelers visited India to study knowledge and culture of the land and their memories are invaluable sources of history. The Chinese traveler Fa-Hien visited India from 399 to 414 A, D. during the reign of Chandra Gupta II. Another Chinese traveler Hieun Tsang was in during 629-645 A.D. during the time-of King Harsha Vardlan. Those were the days of hazardous journeys full of risk and adventures. These travelers traversed the Himalayas to reach India. India would have been poorer but for their visits. They not only took knowledge and manuscripts from India, they spread the learning and fame of India in the wide world. We learn many things about our own country from these foreigners.
But whereas the travelers of old spent years in the countries they visited, travelers today come on a flying visit. They are in a hurry. They come not so much in quest of knowledge, they are on a sight-seeing-cum-entertainment tours. They want to visit new places and countries, they come to have a good time. It is fashionable to go on world tours, if one can afford it. Foreign travel is a status symbol. The airplane and the wireless have made the world smaller.
For a long time tourism has been miserably neglected in India. It is only recently that the vital role it can flay in the development, of India’s economy has been fully appreciated. It has now been recognized that if tourism is properly developed in India, it can make an appreciable contribution to our foreign exchange earnings. Tourism can also help in the popularization of Indian goods, thus leading to the establishment of the better business contracts with the external world. People abroad still carry strange nations about India and her people. They still think of India as pre-eminently a land of snakes; elephants and beggars. With developed tourism our image abroad will get a face-lift and our relations with other countries will considerably improve.
Despite our poor showing in this sphere, India’s potential for attracting tourist traffic is unlimited. India is on the air route of travelers’ itinerary. Now many of them slip this country. We should try to make them spend a few days here. That would be twice blessed; it will bless the traveler as well as India. Again, India is a vast country, with all sorts of attractions for visitors with different tastes. Kashmir heads the list and its people largely depend on tourist earnings from inside and outside the country. Kashmir’s beauty spots and house-boats and facilities for fishing, boating, golf and a lot of other pleasures have the strongest appeal to any foreigner. For others, the Taj Mahal at Agra and the neighboring Fatehpur Sikri and Moti Masjid are perennial attractions.
Those interested in architecture flock to the temples and palaces of Rajashthan and the famous temples in South India such as Meenakshi temple at Madurai with its 2,000 pillars, Brihadeeswara temple at Tanjore famous temples in South India such as Meerakshi temple at having 190 ft. high tower, the famous temple at Kanchipuram, Mahabalipuram and Triupati. It may be recalled that art connoisseurs like Aldous Huxley have called the Hindu architecture of temples of the south and of Rajashthan as superior to the Mophul art of the Taj Mahal. The rock-cut temples of Ajanta and Ellora and Elephant caves are great attractions to some others. There are the erotic sculpture at Khajuraho, the sun-temples Konark, Msdurai and Jagannath Puri Then, there in the modern city of Chandigarh, and the modern centres of pilgrimages—the Bhakra and Nangal dams.
But we have to put our own house in order, if we are not to lag far behind other countries in the sphere of tourist traffic. The foreign tourists visit any place, not for dry education and instruction, but for entertainment and relaxation and so they do not relish such puritanical restrictions as prohibition. Also they have no unlimited time to travel by our slow-moving trains and buses. All places of tourist interest should be linked by air. And then there is the question of finance. We start with the impression that every tourist is a millionaire or a multi-millionaire and we try to please him as if he were to spend all his travel budget on India only. Some of our hotels are said to be more expensive than posh hotels in America and Europe, The travelers want less expensive accommodation and food and travel facilities which we lack today. Also they are repelled by the dust, dirtiness and disorderliness of Indian towns and villages. We have to give a face-lift to tourist haunts.
In India, travelers can see the past, present and the future shape of things in the world. Tourism not only brings the much-needed revenue and foreign exchange, but also provides culture contacts and public relations.
In order to attract tourists, it is important to create in them the urge to visit India. A few years ago, a year-long Festival of India was held in England to give the English an opportunity to have a closer look at genuine Indian culture. Encouraged by this experience, a year-long festival was organized in France on identical lines in 1985. The latest in this series is the ‘Apna Utsava’ organized over a year in the U.S.S.R., followed by the Russian Festival in India. Such festivals can play a significant role in reviving interest in Indian culture as well as in places of tourist interest.
The LT.D.C. (Indian Tourism Development Corporation) established by the Government of India with a view to promoting international tourism has a very significant role to play in this direction. It has three divisions : (i) the Hotel Division; (ii) the Production, Publicity and Entertainment Division; and (iii) the Transport Division, Infact, small but properly guided tours can be very helpful in the promotion of tourism.
Home tourism also needs to be encouraged. Most of the Indians lead a frog-in-the-well life and have little knowledge of, and contact with, their countrymen, who live in faraway states. Indians live as foreigners to fellow Indians. To promote emotional and cultural integration, special tours—even subsidized by the states-should be arranged for batches of students and other citizens to visit distant states and mix with them at first hand. While drawing ambitious plans to promote foreign tourism, we should not lose sight of the need to develop indigenous touring, despite the poverty of the people. Travel is one of the chief ambitions and hobbies of the modern man.