India saw a 10 percent rise in foreign tourist arrivals (FTAs) in the first eight months this year, enabling Asia's third-largest economy to earn close to $15 billion in foreign exchange earnings (FEEs). The tourism season, so to speak, begins in October and ends in March next year, in the country.
Data released by the government on Tuesday showed that 55.92 lakh (5.59 million) foreign tourists visited India between January and August this year, including 6.70 lakh last month, marking an increase of 10.2 percent over the 50.73 lakh (5.07 million) tourist arrivals during the corresponding period last year.
During the eight-month period, earnings from these tourists rose 7.8 percent to $14.92 billion from $13.83 billion earned between January and August last year.
The data also showed that Bangladesh, the United States and the United Kingdom are the top three countries from where tourists came in large numbers, followed by Sri Lanka, Malaysia and China.
The spike in arrivals and consequently, earnings, can be attributed in part to the popularity of e-tourist visas that are now extended to citizens from 150 countries. More and more foreigners are availing of this facility to visit India, spurring the multi-billion dollar industry.
The tourism sector has been hit in Kashmir ever since violence erupted in the Valley after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Burhan Wani on July 8 in Anantnag. Tourist arrivals to popular destinations in the state, including Srinagar, Pahalgam and Gulmarg, have seen a sharp fall, apart from cancellation of bookings for the coming months.
Companies that are directly associated with the tourism and hospitality sector, and listed on the stock exchange include Indian Hotels Co. (owner of Taj Group of hotels), EIH (owner of Oberoi and Trident hotels), Hotel Leela Venture, Taj GVK Hotels and Resorts, and Asian Hotels. Companies that offer holiday and travel packages, such as Thomas Cook (India), Cox & Kings and International Travel House, are also listed on the stock exchanges in India.