The Middle East and the Gulf region are emerging as important tourism source markets for India, which is on track to almost double its share in international tourism by 2016, Subodh Kant Sahai, India’s Minister for Tourism. The minister, speaking on the sidelines of a roadshow held in Dubai on Thursday, said his ministry had set a goal to increase India’s share in international tourist arrivals from 0.6 per cent to one per cent by 2016. To meet the demand created by such growth, India will require approximately additional 200,000 classified and 230,000 unclassified hotel rooms, he said. Sahai said there had been a consistent and positive growth of foreign tourist arrivals from the Gulf and the Middle East region to India over the past three years. In 2010, India recorded an overall growth of around 17 per cent in tourist traffic from the region. The inbound tourists from the UAE, which along with Saudi Arabia, Oman, Yemen and Turkey, is a major tourism generating market for India in the region, grew seven per cent in 2011 to 53, 000 while the number of Saudi tourists jumped 40 per cent. The “Incredible India Tourism Road Show” which seeks to depict India as a multi-faceted all-the-year-round tourist destination for culture, luxury, wildlife and wellness / medical tourism, provides a glimpse of the country’s tourism products as well as its myriad cultural, spiritual and travel experiences. Indian Ambassador to the UAE, M. K. Lokesh, Indian Consul General in Dubai, Sanjay Verma, Vikas Rustagi, regional director of Indian tourism, and prominent Indian businessmen attended the roadshow. Sahai said to cope with the expected spurt in international tourist arrivals, the government has also launched a programme to upgrade tourism infrastructure and facilities, including the modernisation of airports across the country, and boosting hotel room capacity along with a clean India campaign. One of the major drivers of the industry growth will be India’s fast growing medical tourism sector that offers world class hospitals with latest technology, highly skilled Indian physicians and surgeons, low-cost efficient treatments and quality care, comparatively less waiting time for availing medical services, traditional healthcare therapies like Ayurveda and Yoga combined with allopathic treatment, the minister said. Inbound tourist traffic into India has witnessed a steady increase over the years, reaching 6.29 million in 2011, up 8.9 per cent on 2010. Till May 2012, foreign tourist arrivals in India stood at 2.80 million while the foreign exchange earnings stood at $7.297 billion. While aiming to lure increased global tourism traffic, India is also becoming a vital source market for the global tourist hotspots. The country’s emerging and increasingly affluent middle class is presenting enormous long term opportunities for global tourism. A United Nations World Tourism Organisation report has predicted that as many as 50 million outbound trips a year will be made from India by 2020. According to research by the World Travel & Tourism Council, or WTTC, South & Northeast Asia will be the fastest-growing regions in 2012, growing by 6.7 per cent, driven by countries such as India and China where rising incomes will generate an increase in domestic tourism spend and a sharp upturn in capital investment, and recovery in Japan WTTC said the global travel & tourism industry would grow by 2.8 per cent in 2012, marginally faster than the global rate of economic growth, predicted to be 2.5 per cent. “This rate of growth means that travel & tourism industry is expected to directly contribute $2 trillion to the global economy and sustain some 100.3 million jobs,” it said.