Tourism Transportation in India

Travel and tourism are inseparable. Accessibility is the basic element of tourism. One can’t imagine tourism without travel. Among the three basic elements of tourism i.e. attraction, accessibilities and accommodation, it is accessibility which determines the size of the tourism industry. The attraction may be best of its kind, but not supported by any mean of transportation will remains useless.

Transportation is the beginner of tourism business which brings tourists from the place of origin to place of destination. There are a number of examples where good accessibility converted a normal place into a world-class attraction.

Similarly, there are a number of examples where despite very unique natural and cultural attractions could not develop due to lack of good linkage. Thus, transportation plays a key role in tourism.

There can be three main types of transportation:

Tourism Transportation

  1. Surface – It can be subdivided into roads and railways.
  2. Waterways – It can be subdivided into sea waters and inland.
  3. Airways


Roads are the backbone of any country’s economy. There are most important infrastructures of any place as they provide door to door services. They link interior places with main markets. They do not need very heavy investment in comparison to Railways, Ships or Aviation.

They enhance the economic value of goods, bring price uniformity and provides social integration. They are becoming more and more important when the number of personal vehicles is increasing day by day everywhere.

India is the seventh largest country in area with second largest population but due to several natural and human reasons such as varied topography, seasonal vagaries, rampant poverty and unequal distribution of population the roads are not sufficient in length and quality.

In 1947, India had 157,000 km long surfaced and 243,000 km long unsurfaced roads. By the year 1996 it became 13,34,078 km and 10,69,556 km respectively.

The importance of roads can be estimated from the fact that the share of roads in carrying passengers was 87% and 65% freight.

There are four types of roads in India from their administration construction and maintenance point of view :

National Highways

They are most important among all the types of roads. They link main cities and capitals of different states. These are totally under central Govt. through Central Public Work Departments. Their length is 52000 Km, which is only 2 percent of total lengths of roads, but they carry 40 percent of traffic. About 20 percent of National highways are single lane and at several places, they are victims of deserts, flood, cyclone, and landslide etc. However, their condition is satisfactory.

State Highways

They are under state governments through State Public Works Departments. These roads are linking main cities and district headquarters of states. However, their conditions depend upon the economy of state and region concerned i.e. in developed states they are in good conditions while in poor states they are in poor conditions.

Particularly after the floods and cyclones the affected areas the roads have vanished for long period. Several times due to importance or political pressure some sections of state highways are upgraded into national highways.

Districts Roads

These are under district administration, may be surfaced or unsurfaced. These are funded by central govt., state govt., district administration, and several other agencies under different schemes.

Their physical conditions also depend on the economy of the region. Their maintenance and repairing are also affected by physical, climatic and economic conditions of concerned places.

Rural Roads

These roads depend on the economic condition and social awareness of the places. They are constructed by the Panchayat under the minimum need programmes (such as NREP, IRDP, JYR etc.). However, under National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government they got the boost under Prime Minister Rural Road Programme.

These roads are surfaced and unsurfaced, mostly single lane. At present total length of rural roads is approximately 8 lakh km.

Role of Roads in Tourism

There are several sections of roads in India where travel is a lifelong experience. Those sections of golden quadrilateral and corridors which are completed eg. in Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Rajasthan, U.P., J&K, have shortened the period of the journey, lessen the risk of accidents, lessen the wear and tear of vehicles, thus increased the pleasure of journey and increased the efficiency of vehicles.

The road linkages in tourist destinations play a very important role. Due to the good conditions of roads, the latest model of coaches, and cars are playing everywhere. This has increased tourism to a new high.


The first rail engine was run in 1825 by George Stephenson between Stockton to Darlington. Within three decades, the first rail in India ran between Bori Bander to Thane (a distance of 35km) on April 16, 1853. Thereafter there was a fast development in the field of railway expansion, upgradation, and technological development.

During independence, the track length was 52 thousand km, which at present is about 63 thousand km. During this period brandification of gauges, electrification of routes, modernization of coaches with public friendly utilities have been incorporated in Railways.

Now Indian railway is the second longest in Asia after China, but largest management. It had about 7000 railways stations, runs about 12,000 trains daily and carry about 15 million passengers every day. At present, there are 17 zones of railway administration.

Role of Railways in Tourism

Indian railway plays an important role in tourism. Journey through trains gives a unique experience. Tourist can see the natural sceneries through trains. Railways connect the major cities of India to popular tourist attractions. A foreigner can experience true India through the riding of Indian railway. India railways give an inner view of Indian lifestyles and culture.

Indian railway operates special tourist trains such as Palace on Wheel, The Fairy Queen etc. Many toys trains are formulated by Indian railway. India is a vast country and Indian railway connect the small destinations to large destinations.


15th October 1932 is a date which is a milestone in the path of Indian civil aviation when great industrialist and one of the pioneers of Indian development took a flight from Karachi to Bombay. Very soon this service was extended up to Madras. He inspired other entrepreneurs who started their airlines.

Thus, a new dimension of transport started their airlines. During World War II they played important role in the transportation of army and ration, thus they become economically and technically sound.

When India becomes independent then India had nine airlines, among them TATA Airline was most important and it was converted into Air India International Ltd. Functions of these private airlines were not satisfactory, so govt nationalized the air transport industry on 1st August 1953. These airlines companies were merged under the Air Corporation Act and two new corporations were set up:

Air India Corporation for international and long-haul operations.
Indian Airlines Corporation for domestic and neighboring counties.
In the 1960s both airlines replaced their fleet of old places with jet planes. Thereafter time to time they replaced old with latest available planes thus they had the latest aircraft with the latest technology.

Role of Air Transport in Tourism

Air transport is very important for India for tourism purpose. Air transport is the quickest, most modern, safe and latest addition to the modes of transport. India is very far from its main tourist market i.e. west Europe and USA. The water transport may take several months.

Due to the great physiographic barrier of the Himalayas in the north, the Pamir, Hindukush Range in the north-west and the Arakan – Pegu Yoma in the north-east, surface transport is not possible. So air transport provides the best option. In fact, about ninety percent of inbound tourists prefer air transport.

Even in India, air transport is a good option because India is such a vast country that surface journey may take a long time. For a foreigner tourist it is difficult to invest many days in the journey and a few days at destinations, so he/she prefer air journey.

Air India, the Indian and the alliance air offer several packages example ‘Discover India’ and ‘Wonder India’ at very cheap rates with travel and travel and accommodation facilities.

Water Transport

There are two types of water transport in India –

Types of Water Transport in India

(a) Inland water transport and

(b) Seawater transport.

Inland Water Transport

In India, the Himalayan rivers are perennial with a sufficient volume of water throughout the year, but peninsular rivers are seasonal with a very fluctuating regime of water. In recent, due to the construction of dams and canals, the water volume is reduced and diverted in almost all sections.

India has about 14,500 km of navigable waterways of rivers, canals, backwaters (Kerala) and lagoons. At present, the length of 3700 Km of major rivers is navigable by mechanized crafts but actually utilized length is only about 2000 km. These water bodies are known as national waterways.

Role of Inland Water Transport in Tourism

Since independence, the share of water transport has shrunk to a large extent. The railways, roads, and construction of bridges, reduced the role of water transport in passenger traffic due to its slow pace. Now with few exceptions, they are not used to carry passengers.

It is very slow and not very safe. So it is used for cargo only. Due to siltation, the Patna-Haldia section has become shallow so large vessels cannot come directly from sea to inland. So it has a very limited use.

Sea Water Transport

India has approx. 7516 km long coastline, but in most of the sections, it is not ideal for setting up of ports because it is shallow and coastline is regular (not indented as North-West Europe). There are 12 major ports directly under the central government and 139 minor ports under state government.

Seawater transport is very important for India. The volume of export and import is increasing year by year. With its long coastline and of over 2 million sq. km. of the exclusive economic zone, India has one of the largest merchant shipping fleet in the world.

The shipping corporation of India is a government-owned shipping company with over ninety other companies are responsible for shipping operations on Indian shores and overseas. The size and functions of these operations are increasing everywhere due to the increase in the volume of foreign trade.

Role of Sea Water Transport in Tourism

Unfortunately, despite its coastal length and several coastal destinations from Dwarka to Kolkata, Seawater transport for tourism is not very important. The main reason is its slow speed, e.g. the journey to Port Blair from Kolkata or Chennai takes about 72 hrs. which is too much for foreigners.

However, passenger traffic by sea is limited to Port Blair from Kolkata and Chennai and Agatti from Cochin. Earlier Mumbai – Goa, Bhav Nagar – Surat, Cochin – Chennai were popular. But after the development of railways and roads, they lost their ground. The cruises, which are so popular in south-east Asia, do not ply due to the lack of standard port facilities.