From beach holidays to volunteer opportunities to holy pilgrimages, a trip to India can take many forms and have a wide range of effects. Potentially, tourism can offer great benefit both to the destination country and the traveler. At time of publication, travel and tourism are expected to account for 5 percent of all jobs in India, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council. Aside from economic impact, a healthy tourism industry can have far-reaching consequences affecting a nation's infrastructure and environment.
Benefits to India: Economy
Travel and tourism play an important role in India's economy; compared with other nations, India ranks 14th in the world in terms of its tourism sector's contribution to the GDP. At time of publication, the World Travel and Tourism Council predicts India will sustain the fifth largest amount of growth in the tourism sector of any country. Tourism can offer direct and indirect aid to a nation's economy. Direct benefits include economic support for hotels, retail shops, transportation services, entertainment venues and attractions, while indirect benefits include government spending on related infrastructure, plus the domestic spending of Indians employed in the tourism sector.
Benefits to India: Environment
The impact of tourism on the environment can have either beneficial or extremely detrimental effects. When a lively tourism industry induces the government to invest in national parks and preserves, the environment may benefit. The movement toward eco-tourism, or tourism based on the appreciation and preservation of natural environments, improves the chances of benefit to the environment on a small and large scale. In India, you can find hotels, tour groups, resorts and organized expeditions designed for eco-tourism. Practices may include efficient use of water and electricity or the implementation of recycling programs. Indian eco-tourism groups include Eco-Tourism Pioneers in Kerala (tourindiakerala.com) and Jungle Lodges and Resorts (junglelodges.com), located in South India.
Benefits to Visitors: Health Tourism
A minority of visitors to India are not traveling to see the sights, but instead, come to India to undergo medical treatments or operations. The relatively high quality of medical treatment in India, in comparison with the country's low costs, make it a destination for many internationals who cannot afford the medical costs in their own countries. Procedures such as heart surgeries, orthopedic procedures, transplants, endoscopies, cosmetic surgeries and neuro surgeries are all common reasons for medical tourism. On average, the cost of one of these procedures in India may reach about one-fourth the cost in a developed European country.
Socially Responsible Travel
A relatively new form of tourism focuses on social benefits to the host country. Typically, travel activities involve volunteerism or economic support for local communities. In India, Global Exchange (globalexchange.org/tours) runs two socially responsible programs that combine the study of local efforts toward sustainable growth and development along with volunteer work. Mandore Guest House in India (mandore.com) arranges volunteer work and home-stay situations, with the intention of bringing together varied cultures and socio-political backgrounds.