Tourism and India: An ambivalent relationship
Introduction India currently stands on the threshold of becoming a major world power. Like Brazil, Russia and China, India has been recognised as playing a crucial role in the future of the world economy. Moreover, globally, tourism has become of central importance to social, cultural and economic lives in the twenty-first century. However, unlike these other countries, India has not been able to harness tourism development to the same extent. Indeed, as a country, India has always had a rather uneasy and ambivalent relationship with tourism. This book thus details the significance of the practices of tourism for India in the twenty-first century. The overarching aim of the book is to help you reach a point of critical understanding about tourism and India rather than for us to simplistically describe the many, various sites of tourism in India. We spent a lot of time pondering the title for this book, and we want to emphasise that it is about tourism and India and not just about tourism in India. This introduction is thus intended not only to welcome you to our book but also to outline the position from which we have written it – the position of the contemporary critical tourism studies literature – we hope in an accessible, readable and enjoyable way. More crucially, however, we wish to present you with a reading experience that will challenge some of your own preconceptions about tourism and India. Although we have divided the book into discrete chapters (to aid reading) we are also cognisant of the ways in which tourism as a cultural activity blurs with or fades into other aspects of contemporary social, cultural, economic and environmental experiences. Moreover, we are also acutely aware of the underlying power relations in tourism production and consumption, as well as how these structures are sometimes transgressed and subverted in the Indian context. We believe that the study of tourism is a vibrant, innovative and interesting academic subject, though you would hardly know so from reading some of the introductory textbooks on tourism and India with their rather bland definitions and descriptions of tourism. Although Branding India (2009), the recent account of India’s successful ‘Incredible India’ campaign by Amitabh Kant, the former secretary of India’s Ministry of Tourism, is a more
positive contribution to these debates, it is still a rather uncritical and polemical account aimed at furthering the tourism business in India.