As part of the recently signed China-India bilateral tourism agreement, the Indian government has set up an office in Beijing, and appointed Shoeb Samad to head it. Samad spoke to CHINA ECONOMIC REVIEW about his plans.
Q: What has the Indian government done to attract more Chinese tourists?
A: The first thing is the visa policy. Originally Chinese people had to travel as part of a group, but now you can come as an individual. All you need is an itinerary from a travel agent, a round trip ticket and a bank guarantee that you have enough money.
Q: What are the recent numbers? Any changes?
A: In 2008 we had about 100,000 tourists visiting India from China. There has been a drastic increase over the last four years. People go to India because of the Buddhist sites, and we also have the Golden Triangle with the Taj Mahal, which is very popular. People also take IT tours, visiting places like Bangalore, Delhi and other IT development zones.
Q: What other reasons do Chinese people come to India?
A: Yoga and ayurveda are very popular in China, and those started in India. So a lot of people from China are going to learn yoga from Indian masters. Also, Bollywood songs are getting very popular here.
Q: One difficulty in attracting Chinese tourists is their preference for Chinese food, wherever they are. Is this true in India?
A: Indian food is already popular in Europe and the US, and I think in China it is slowly coming in. Food isn’t really the issue; it’s language. Fortunately we have Chinese-speaking guides, and we are getting more of them as tourist numbers increase.