Tourism | Destination India

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A significant contributor to the Indian economy for decades, the tourism sector was hit hard by the Covid pandemic and is now on a slow path to recovery

Pilgrims bathe in the Ganga at Varanasi, 1965; The evening aarti at the Dashashwamedh Ghat in Varanasi, 2021 (Getty Images)

India’s tourism sector is etched with the mind-boggling statistics of a slow-starting post-Independence boom and a post-pandemic bust. Once a prestige sector smothered in statist attention, it saw significant liftoff in the early phase of liberalisation, though the State also played a role, hiring marketing firm O&M to sell the global Incredible !ndia brand.

India’s tourism sector is etched with the mind-boggling statistics of a slow-starting post-Independence boom and a post-pandemic bust. Once a prestige sector smothered in statist attention, it saw significant liftoff in the early phase of liberalisation, though the State also played a role, hiring marketing firm O&M to sell the global Incredible !ndia brand.

By 2019, the industry was contributing some $194 billion—nearly 7 per cent of GDP—and employing 38 million people. The disruptions of Covid were particularly severe for this industry, and recovery has been slow and inevitably led by domestic travel, with many state governments promoting pilgrimage destinations and the PM announcing the Dekho Apna Desh campaign.

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