(Yicai Global) Sept. 7 -- China became the world's biggest source of outbound tourists last year with 129 million trips, statistics from Ctrip International.Com show, but the India-bound Chinese tourist count was merely 300,000 last year, a paltry headcount which India naturally finds a bit galling.
Since it has been attracting too few travelers from its northeastern neighbor, India has been scrambling to elevate the arrival figures, Alphons Kannanthanam, the country's tourism minister, told Yicai Global on his recent 2018 Indian Tourism Roadshow in China.
China and India are among the several countries with the fastest economic growth, but tourist counts between the two countries remain very low, Kannanthanam lamented. The showing on the Chinese side was better last year, he remarked, with 1.4 million Indian tourists visiting (from the mainland, Hong Kong and Macau) while the India-bound Chinese headcount was only 300,000.
He has set the goal of luring 1.4 million, or 1 percent of China's overseas travelers, in the short term -- i.e. within several years -- while in the long term this figure should reach 14 million, or 10 percent of China's outbound tourist count, he said. To achieve either will be quite difficult, though, he noted.
The tourism ministry plans to promote India as a travel destination in Chinese print, TV and social media. It has also allocated a budget of USD100 million to also set up an office in Beijing , Kannanthanam said.
The ministry has also opened tourism hotlines in 12 languages including Chinese to allay tourists' security fears, while 14 Indian states have deployed special tourism police, who deem the safety of foreign visitors their top priority, Kannanthanam said.
As health is another focus of concern, India has instituted major treatment actions nationwide, he added. It has built many medical facilities to a higher than local standard in key scenic spots or along the routes to these, Yicai Global noted on a visit to India this year.
Hangzhou-based Alibaba Group Holding invested in [bought a 40 percent share of] India's biggest electronic payment system PayTM last year, so processing Chinese tourists' customary electronic payments via the two companies' cooperation should not present any technical obstacles, Kannanthanam observed.
Editor: Ben Armour