NEW DELHI, India – Foreign tourist arrivals to India grew by about 4.5% from 6.30 million in 2011 to 6.57 million in 2012. While this is a sharp drop from the about 9% growth that was seen in 2011 as compared to 2010, it is still twice the world average according to latest data from the Bureau of Immigration.
Incidentally, the US continued as the top source country, reaching 1 million tourists in 2012. In comparison, tourists from the UK, Sri Lanka and Malaysia came down in 2012.
The top 10 source markets remained the same. The US and the UK were followed by Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Canada, Germany, France, Japan, Australia and Malaysia.
The number of tourists from the US in 2012 was 1.03 million, up from 0.98 million in 2011 while visitors from Bangladesh increased from 0.46 million to 0.48 million. Travelers from the UK decreased marginally from 0.79 million to 0.78 million as did those from Sri Lanka, dropping from 0.30 million to 0.29 million in 2012. Malaysia ranked at 10 from last year’s eighth position and saw a drop from 0.20 million tourists to 0.19 million.
Tourists from Canada remained about the same at 0.25 million while tourists from Germany increased from 0.24 million to 0.25 million. France registered an increase with 0.24 million tourists in 2012 while Japan saw 0.22 million tourists from 0.19 million.
Despite the increase in foreign tourists, India’s share of international tourist arrivals continues to be about 0.64% in the world with smaller countries in southeast Asia attracting far more visitors.
According to tourism ministry sources, recent changes in tourist visa rules, including lifting the mandatory two-month gap between consecutive visits to the country and allowing visa-on-arrival for group visas, are likely to boost growth that will only be reflected a year later.
The government has also recently reviewed the embarkation form and eased the process. Plans are afoot according to tourism minister K Chiranjeevi to liberalize the visa regime further. These include bringing in more countries under the visa-on-arrival scheme, incentives for those coming for medical treatment and concessions for senior citizens.