Indian prime minister Narendra Modi is in China these days. His visit abroad are typically grand affairs and said to have signed a slew of MOUs. How many of them will be on the ground and how soon, is something to be seen. However, I feel the biggest take away from this visit will be the tourism sector. Tourism between India and China will be the biggest beneficiary from this visit of Modi. If one checks the agreements signed between China and India, this may not come clear as the items are in bits and pieces. If we connect the bits, then visualizing the future is not that difficult. One of the 24 agreements is : Agreement for cooperation in the field of tourism
What kind of co-operation? Some sign are already up. The two countries had decided for the establishment of consulates in Chengdu and Chennai. This is a very positive development not only in terms of tourism but also from the business point of view. China has also shown the green flag for the opening of a second route to Kailash-Manasarovar pilgrimage from India through Nathu La in Sikkim. As of now the only route for this pilgrimage is Lipulekh Pass in Uttarakhand. The Nathu La route will be opened in the month of June. World wide tourism is a $3 trillion industry and we must strive to have a bigger pie of this industry. India has a huge potential in tourism and with infrastructure improvements more avenues would open. Modi asking NRIs in China to be a tourism ambassador of India is a great message. Each one of us can do our bit in promoting tourism in India. Simple things like not throwing garbage on road, courteous/helpful with foreign tourist etc can go a long way.
The government of India has announced E – tourist visa for Chinese nationals. If this is reciprocated by China, will go a long way in promoting tourism and confidence building with India. As of now only two India airlines operate flights to China – Air India and Jet Airways. There is virtually no direct flight to Shanghai from India (except for a China Eastern flight from New Delhi). Though there are many international airlines operating from India to China via Hong Kong. What I as a traveler is looking for, when road travel will normalize between India and China. We have many border points where international travel can be opened. For instance, road infrastructure in Nathu La in Sikkim is already in place and can be opened for international travel to and from China. As we know road infrastructure on the Chinese side is already developed and road travel should not be a problem. This will reduce cost and will encourage Indians to tour China who are cost conscious. Opening road travel will be single largest factor to boost tourism between India and China. And if sometimes in future railways also connected India and China, then both these form of transportation will transform the map of tourism and business for these two countries. In Modi’s first visit to China I feel seeds of such dream are being sown.