India. The land of tigers, elephants and…British tourists. The UK is emerging as an important source of tourists for the country, helped by the Indian government’s decision to introduce a new e-visa system, more regular flights between the two countries (Jet Airways recently introduced a new third daily flight between London and Mumbai) and numerous highly popular TV programmes (BBC’s ‘The Ganges with Sue Perkins’) being just one in a long line of programmes including the inimitable Joanna Lumley.
The Indian government’s tourist authority is also making more money available to each of the country’s 29 states which are, in turn, ramping up their own tourism marketing plans.
Any visitor attending this week’s World Travel Market exhibition will have seen how diverse this massive country is. From the Himalayas in the north, to the former tea plantations dotted around Kerela in the south, each state is now highlighting its own unique offering. Given the country’s long history, most states can also boast a world heritage site or two as well as a national park teeming with wildlife which, unlike many in Africa, are adequately protected from poachers.
India’s culture lends itself to welcoming tourists too. Each invader left their stamp on the country which now manifests itself in architecture, language (the constitution recognises twenty two languages in addition to English) and religion. And this continuous stirring of the DNA melting pot leaves the vast majority of Indians extremely tolerant and respectful of others, including tourists.
Of course, a country this size is not without its problems and very few first time visitors from the UK would fail to be moved by the plight of the poor, but this is a country that embraces life and is looking to the future with optimism.