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Foreign tourists still come knocking at India's door

India, as a favoured destination for foreign tourists, continues to roll. In the first two months of the year, the country experienced a 12.6 percent jump in foreign tourist arrivals, with an estimated 8.7 lakh foreign guests visiting the country.

However, going beyond the absolute rise in number of arrivals, the growth rate in arrivals seems to be slackening. Comparing the current growth figures to that of last year, one finds that in the first two months of '05, the country had recorded 15.9 percent growth in tourist arrivals. In February '06 alone there was 10.1 percent growth in tourist arrivals at 4.28 lakh against same period last year. The growth rate in tourists during the same period in '05 was 17.3 percent over '04.

Foreign exchange earnings from tourist spending were pegged at around Rs 5,358 crore in the first two months of '06, registering a growth of 14.7 percent over the same period in '05.

In calendar '05, the country received 3.9m foreign tourists, a jump of 14 percent over '04. Tourism ministry officials say in '06, the focus will be on promoting tourism in the North-East and Andamans, apart from marketing Buddhist circuits. The FM has recognised the role of the tourism industry in generating employment in Budget '06. He has upped the annual plan allocation for the tourism ministry from Rs 786 crore to Rs 830 crore -- a jump of 5.5 percent.

To boost flow of foreign tourist arrivals, the Centre plans to develop 15 tourist destinations, and identify 50 villages for exposition of handicrafts and handloom. With the Commonwealth Games slated to be held in Delhi in '10, the government plans to spruce up tourism infrastructure and showcase India aggressively as a tourist destination. Efforts to woo high net worth American tourists has led to a 20 percent jump in tourist arrivals from the US.

According to estimates by WTTC, India's travel and tourism industry will record a CAGR of over 10 percent between '06 and '15.



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