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"A Goldmine of Opportunity Waiting to be Tapped”: Eco Tourism in India

The Indian Government publishes an annual Economic Survey on trends and market conditions on the subcontinent and the Finance Minister last month tabled the latest of these before Parliament. For the first time, it is the second such report to be published within a year, perhaps reflecting the current dizzying pace of economic change across India, the fastest growing large economy in the world. And the second part of the 2017 Survey has some interesting things to say about the future of Indian Tourism, and Indian Eco Tourism in particular.

The Survey reports that Tourism and Hospitality together account for a healthy 9% of GDP in India, generating $117.7 billion last year and expected to climb to $418.9 billion by 2022. Foreign exchange earnings derived from tourism in 2016 amounted to $22.9 billion (8.8% more than the equivalent 2015 figure). Tourism and Hospitality is, in the words of the Economic Survey: "…a goldmine of opportunity waiting to be tappedIndia continues to charm international tourists with its vast cultural and natural resources."

The Government has certainly not been slow to encourage tourist growth with a series of innovative policies such as the e-Visa programme (which now covers 161 countries): the system is a marked improvement on the old and notoriously inefficient paper-based process, with a total of no less than 1,079,696 e-Visa holders visiting India during 2016: 142.5% of the 2015 figure. But look back at those numbers from the Economic Survey again: overseas earnings, to which initiatives like the e-Visa system are directed, account for less than a quarter of the overall revenue in the sector. The rest is made up of business and domestic travel. What is the Government doing to promote that part of the goldmine?

That’s where Eco Tourism comes in.

According to this year’s Green Lodging Trends Report domestic and business travellers are more and more choosing their hotel accommodation by reference to its green credentials, and the report comes to three particularly striking findings on the basis of an extensive survey of leading hotels:

  • Offsetting carbon consumption to achieve emission reductions is an increasingly important factor with hotel guests as well as with businesses (likely to be paying for their stay): “the topic is hitting home more than ever”;
  • The majority of travellers (business and recreational) actively prefer eco-friendly destinations and are prepared to pay more to get them;
  • When asked: “to what degree does climate change drive you to make operational improvements and investments”, 84% of hoteliers responded that it did and 40% said that it had a “significant impact”, an increase of 12% from last year (in itself an expression of the practical, operational impact of the first two (consumer driven) points made above.

Eco Hotels is the world’s first carbon-neutral hotel brand, supporting sustainable living without compromising on standards of hospitality; and it is a model for sustainable hospitality projects on the subcontinent. Red Ribbon Asset Management is the founding investor in EcoLodge, a key Eco Hotels brand. Having started in 2012 from its flagship Hotel in Cochin, Eco Lodge is now well on the way to rolling out its target of 10,000 eco friendly rooms in India by 2020; and given the trends signaled in this month’s Economic Survey, the brand seems certain to remain at the vanguard of this paradigm shift in the sector.

Read the latest Indian Economic Survey here:

Read the Green Lodging Trends Report here:

Read about EcoHotels and EcoLodge here:

Suchit Punnose

Suchit Punnose / About Author

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