The Indian government wants to attract more Chinese tourists and here’s what it has planned

  • Only 250,000 Chinese tourists came to India in 2016, making India’s immediate neighbour the ninth-largest source of tourists.
  • To stimulate interest among Chinese tourists, India’s tourism ministry is setting up an office in Beijing and launching roadshows in a number of Chinese cities.
  • Ultimately, the tourism ministry’s end goal is to attract at least 1% of China’s outbound tourists this year and 10% within the next five years.
India’s tourism sector has a problem. It is failing to attract tourists from China which, as per 2016 estimates from the UN’s World Tourism Organization, is the country that contributes the most to global tourism with 135 million outbound visitors.

As per calculations from the Indian Express, only 1 out of 540 Chinese tourists made it to India in 2016, culminating in a paltry total of 250,000 tourists. This makes China, our immediate neighbour, only the ninth-largest source of tourists in India, according to the Ministry of Tourism.

Naturally, the Indian government wants to change this. The low level of interest from Chinese tourists represents a huge opportunity to take advantage of, or gap that must be addressed, depending on how you look at it.

India’s Minister for Tourism, KJ Alphons, is leaving for China today to oversee the establishment of an Indian tourism outpost in Beijing. The office, which is expected to be operational by the end of the month, will facilitate the launch of tourism roadshows across China in cities like Shanghai, Wuhan and Guangzhou.

The Tourism Ministry has also planned to invite members of the Chinese media and lifestyle industries to India and train more Indian guides to speak Mandarin. Currently, there are reported to be only 37 accredited Indian guides who are trained in Mandarin.

Alphons’ last visit to China was in May, when he attended the Shanghai Cooperation Organization conference on tourism at the behest of Prime Minister Modi. A key focus area of the tourism ministry's efforts in attracting Chinese tourists will be the promotion of the Buddhist Circuit in India. In fact, the ministry has initiated talks with the highways ministry to connect the entire Buddhist travel circuit in the states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar with four-lane highways.

Ultimately, the tourism ministry’s end goal is to attract at least 1% of China’s outbound visitors this year and 10% within the next five years. Given that tourism is considered an export, the envisioned surge in Chinese tourists will contribute towards the reduction of India’s glaring trade deficit with China, which is estimated to be around $63 billion.