Last month, a seemingly humdrum event made news in India. A toilet complex, an air-conditioned toilet complex no less, had finally opened near the Taj Mahal monument in Agra, northern India, one of the world’s Seven Wonders. And a local bigwig, the tourism minister, had been roped in to inaugurate the complex with 11 toilets. It was World Tourism Day.
All this hullaballoo about toilets, some might wonder, but those who have travelled in India understand only too well. In one of the world’s most frequented sightseeing sites, tourists often complain about standing in forty minute-long lines outside stinking toilets and rank it amongst the foulest tourist experiences in the world. There are very few washrooms even on the expressway leading to the Taj Mahal from India’s capital, New Delhi. The McDonald’s en route has burgers, fries and a toilet with toilet paper. If this is the situation in one of India’s best known tourist hotspots, one can well imagine what it is like elsewhere.
In 2010, a World Bank study quantified the economic losses that India suffers as a consequence of bad sanitation at $54 billion annually. That includes millions of dollars lost in ‘access time’, which the World Bank report defines as ‘time spent to access a shared toilet or open toilet site as opposed to having a toilet in one’s own home’. Poor toilet facilities mainly mean wasted hours and productivity not to mention lost tourism revenues. Tourists fretting about the infamous Delhi Belly and put off from visiting by poor sanitation infrastructure equals lost tourism opportunities.
Read the full report here, Chicago Tribune