NRI tourists footfall ups India’s ranking in international arrivals

The decision of the Ministry of Tourism to count arrivals of Non-Resident Indians (NRI) tourists under a separate head has boosted the ranking of India in the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).

Taj Mahal.
Taj Mahal. Photo courtesy:

With the new way of counting number of tourists arriving in India, the International Tourism Arrival (ITA) as per UNWTO ranking now stands at 24 for both 2014 and 2015 as against the previous rank of 41 and 40 in the year 2014 and 2015 respectively.

As per the UNWTO definition, International Tourist Arrivals (ITAs) comprises two components, namely, Foreign Tourist Arrivals (FTAs) and arrivals of Non-Resident Nationals. The UNWTO in its barometer ranks countries in terms of their ITAs. So far only the figures of FTAs (Foreign Tourist Arrivals) were compiled in India. However, now India has started compiling the data arrivals of NRIs also.

The number of NRI arrivals during 2014 and 2015 were 5.43 million and 5.26 million, respectively. Accordingly, the numbers of ITAs in India during 2014 and 2015 were 13.11 million and 13.28 million, respectively. The data of ITAs, containing both the arrivals of NRIs and FTAs, is now as per international recommendations.

Due to this inclusion, India’s improved rank reflecting the true and comparable scenario has now been acknowledged by the UNWTO. As per the latest UNWTO Barometer for March 2017, Rank of India in International Tourist Arrivals in both 2014 and 2015 is 24 as against the previous rank of 41 and 40 in the year 2014 and 2015, respectively. With this inclusion the share of India in the ITAs has also increased from 0.68% (based on FTAs) to 1.12% in the year 2015.

Earlier India’s rank in the Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index (TTCI), 2017 had also shown a 12 places jump from 2015. Rank of India in TTCI Report of 2017 was 40th as compared to 52nd in 2015, 65th in 2013 and 68th in 2011.

Estimated growth of tourism industry in India. Foreign exchange earnings in INR billions(Left); tourist arrivals in millions(Right)
Estimated growth of tourism industry in India. Foreign exchange earnings in INR billions(Left); tourist arrivals in millions(Right). Photo courtesy: FICCI

While UNWTO gives ranking in terms of numbers of ITAs, TTCI is composed of 14 pillars organised into four sub-indices of ‘Enabling Environment’, ‘Travel & Trade Policy and Enabling Conditions’, ‘Infrastructure’ and ‘Natural and Cultural Resources.

The UNWTO is the United Nations agency responsible for the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism. As the leading international organization in the field of tourism, UNWTO promotes tourism as a driver of economic growth, inclusive development and environmental sustainability and offers leadership and support to the sector in advancing knowledge and tourism policies worldwide.  

The global body aims to maximise tourism’s socio-economic contribution while minimising its possible negative impacts, and pushes tourism as an instrument in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), geared towards reducing poverty and fostering sustainable development worldwide. UNWTO’s membership includes 157 countries, 6 Associate Members and 500 Affiliate Members representing the private sector, educational institutions, tourism associations and local tourism authorities.

The launch of the Incredible India campaign has seen a spurt in the flow of foreign tourists – a large number being NRI's travelling on foreign passport – into India, which grew at double-digit rates until the onset of the financial crisis in 2008, according to Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI).

The growth trend resumed in a couple of years of slowdown after 2008. Notwithstanding the FTA growth rate see-saw in recent times, tourism in India is predicted to grow at an average annual rate of 7.7 per cent in the coming years. The Indian tourism sector also benefits from the swelling ranks of Indian middle class, a group that now considers tourism among the key consumer products, both abroad and in the country.

Foreign exchange earnings (FEE) from tourism grew by 19.8 per cent in rupee terms and foreign tourist arrivals (FTAs) showed a growth of 1.6 per cent in post-slowdown years. This impressive growth in the exchange earnings per tourist was realised despite the ongoing slowdown in developed country markets, an increase in the cost of travelling and a fluctuating exchange rate. Simultaneously, the number of Visa on Arrival (T-VoA) tourists registered a growth above 50 per cent. These are positive signs for the industry, and indicate significant potential going forward, FICCI says.