The head of one of India's top luxury hotel chains called on the country Wednesday to launch a major clean-up of its filthy cities or suffer a drop in tourist arrivals.
"We have to clean our cities or risk losing tourists," said P.R.S. Oberoi, the chairman of the EIH Associated Hotels group, which includes the five-star Oberoi chain.
"Water is a big problem, power is a big problem, the roads are a mess. Cleaning up our cities must happen," he told reporters.
Oberoi, 78, said India welcomes about four million tourists a year but compared this figure to the five million people who travel annually to the small Gulf Emirate of Dubai.
The reason, he said, was because too many potential tourists are put off by the country's shabby airports, pot-holed roads, frequent power cuts and rubbish-filled cities.
"In most cities, people can't get anywhere on time and time is more valuable than money," Oberoi said.
He was speaking at a function marking an award from Travel Leisure Magazine that places an Oberoi hotel in Udaipur, Rajasthan, as the best in the world.
The Oberoi Udaivilas is a lakeside palace in the desert, where standard rooms cost more than 300 dollars a night. It boasts private swimming pools, luxury spas and high-end dining.
Oberoi said sustained economic growth in India above nine percent and a massive inflow of foreign investment has nevertheless allowed the country to break its image of an impoverished backwater.
"India has a tremendous future if we get our act together," he added.
The Oberoi Group also operates or owns hotels in Egypt, Australia, Bhutan and Cambodia among other countries.