The Social Challenges of Travel in India

The Social Challenges of Travel in India

by Pulin Shakur

India has a wealth of amazing places that need to be visited and appreciated. It has an huge untapped tourism potential, but still India receives very small number of tourists every year.

poverty in IndiaDespite recent growth, the Indian tourism market constitutes only 0.4% of the world market. There are many social issues hampering the growth of tourism in India. India’s image across the world has not been portrayed in in the most favorable light. Today the country faces political instability, unemployment, rampant mysticism, illiteracy, grinding poverty, terrorism, communal discord and lack of social services and corruptions. This directly de-motivates tourists visiting India and the neighboring Asian countries.

Though India has lot to offer, tourists especially like the cultural beauty, diversity, and colorful lifestyles. Traditionally, the lack of proper accommodation, transport facilities, restaurants, shopping and recreational facilities, trained labor force and other support services have hampered the growth of tourism. Health problems, political instability and unemployment are just a few of the social elements which travelers come across while traveling in India.

Adding to this are aggressive touts, unhygienic waste, beggars, and extreme poverty. These have proved stumbling blocks against the free movement of affluent foreign tourists.

Further Reading and Resources
State of Justice in India
Indian Travel Insurance
Social Problems in India
Around the World Flights – India
India: Economic, Political, and Social Issues

Tourist help desks and information centres are generally found empty or unmanned outside of major tourism areas. This cold welcome spoils the hopes for any revisit by upscale tourists.

In addition, recent terrorist attacks have created havoc among tourists. They now avoid going to places which are prone to terrorist attacks like Kashmir and other Northeastern states.

The attack on Mumbai cut the tourist flow for a long time. Harassment by local people scares the hell out of tourists and they do not want to visit India because of these safety concerns.

Cultural differences also create problems for many travelers. Tourists wearing revealing clothes are often harassed by local people. It is recommended by the officials in many rural areas that tourists should not wear clothing which exposes any skin to avoid unwanted attention. . Many local drivers and shopkeepers try to exploit tourists and charge double or more for providing any services to them. Tourist destinations are also becoming more polluted day by day.

Peeing on the wallMost of Indians do not hesitate to spit anywhere, they throw garbage wherever they like and many men even pee in public places. Industrial pollution is adding a lot to this. Oil refinery smoke is deteriorating the beauty of the Taj Mahal, and coastal ecosystems and the Himalayas are being battered.

The Indian government’s insensitive approach towards public health is also affecting tourists. Many athletes chose to not attend recently held Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, citing security and health concerns.

graffiti on taj mahalMany Indians say there is a lack of public involvement in preserving cultural heritage. Most of famous monuments and forts in India are getting damaged due to local people not being educated about the financial value of tourism.

Indian masses needs to develop a consciousness to preserve the flora and fauna, the ancient monuments, scriptures and other archeological beauties.

India is a fascinating tourist destination with an amazing mix of ancient beauties, colorful folk and classical dances and above all hospitable people but a more friendly approach towards tourists could definitely help to drive the country towards capitalization of global tourism.

Pulin Shakur is a tour guide and driver in Mumbai. He wants to see his country pay more attention to global tourism and has written this editorial for Vagobond in an attempt to bring about positive social change.

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3 thoughts on “The Social Challenges of Travel in India

  1. Good article Mr Shakur.

    Please do more studies on why India is not too sought after as a tourist destination. Next month is my first trip to India and already I have read and heard horror stories of how things are over there. Among which are :-
    1. Touts
    2. Open defecation – my god!
    3. Poor food hygiene
    4. Dirty mass
    5. Public urinating – Stay Away from Walls!
    6. Messy and crowded public transport
    7. Poor roads
    8. Driving menace – and yes, the BLARING horns
    9. Utter poverty
    10. Greedy priests
    11. Beggars, beggars, beggars
    12. Child labour
    13. Crowd at the temple – long queus
    14. Noise, noise, noise
    15. Low hotel hygiene
    16 Spitting
    17. Hawkers

    But with all said, I still eagerly await my trip. Some of the good things that I gathered from those who returned after the visit were :-
    1. Beautiful temples
    2. UNESCO sites

    I wish that the Indian government will do more for the poor in India so they see a way out of their poverty. India’s poor need attention – if not the govt, what abt volunteer groups? Start small – Do a massive clean-up campaign, Tutor some kids, Install toilets for community, teach importance of cleanliness, Buy slippers for women, Start a ‘No Spitting’ campaign, Aggressively promote use of public dustbins, Do a ‘No Litter’ campaign for Indian Railway, and whatever it takes so that India gets to be physically superior as it is spritually. Such rich spirituality but what happened to all the good values that go with it??

    The other thing is Indians generally cannot accept criticism, they get so worked up. If only you read all the India travel blogs you will get plenty of ideas on ways to move tourism forward.

    My two cents worth.

  2. we are fully aware of the culture shock we will have while traveling to India sept. 2011 – therefore we would be thankful to donate money to a children ore woman organisation.
    please send us your recomendations.

  3. Hi Andre,

    I hope the information I sent you about the Akshaya Patra Foundation and Kiva was helpful. It’s great to travel with a conscience. ~v

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