India’s tryst with destiny has witnessed several varied manifestations over the past 75 years. Potholes have competed with fragrant flowers to be the dominating flavor of our nation’s legacy. But one aspect which has clearly not been emphasized enough or utilized adequately for the national cause is the mind-boggling tourism potential that our land innately possesses.
At a recent meet of our discussion circle, the unanimous verdict was that a vacation to foreign lands cannot provide insights into the intricacies of life itself as aptly as a sojourn into the interiors of India can. The sheer charm of a rural Indian setting with greens and cycles and piping hot milk, or the magnificently varied scenic locales of Rajasthan, Kashmir, Goa or Kerala are unmatched across the globe.
The sheer depth of India’s tradition, history, culture, food, dresses, colours, flavours, sounds and smells, coupled with the amazing diversity that our people themselves exemplify, makes India a natural delight for tourists.
Where we have failed in competing with other Asian countries like Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and even Singapore, is in our lack of prioritization of tourism as an industry and our largely weak tourism infrastructure. We have also largely failed in the perception management game, except for rarities like the Incredible India campaign, more than a decade ago.
Here are some ideas for the immediate future, based on my own experience in the tourism domain:
Toilets, drinking water, signages, access roads, ticket windows, seating areas, security, surroundings- all these need an immediate overhaul in most major and even lesser-known tourist destinations and airports across India. The budget involved is minimal compared to investing in huge infrastructure projects, but the results would be apparent very soon.
All Access Cards
Instead of melting under the sun in a mile-long queue, a tourist would much rather purchase an all-access e-card which allows him access to all tourist sites
in a particular city. Most such sites are run by the government so this is not an impossible idea, and some of us had tried it years ago.
Impressive web portals
Even if India cannot present to the visiting world traveler, the best tourism infrastructure on the planet, we can surely make our websites more efficient and eye catching than the rest of the world. Our technology prowess is of little value to the nation if government websites do not provide seamless, user-friendly experiences to their users. A holidaying family would rather visit another country if that country’s web portals are more presentable and enable booking efficiencies of a high order.
It is time to present India to the world in different verticals for tourism, which together make up our composite spectrum. Wellness tourism, medical tourism, spiritual tourism,ayurveda tourism, gastronomic tourism, Architectural tourism, Destination tourism, Heritage tourism and Arts based tourism are some of the areas which need to be separately highlighted to the world’s tourists, to enable them to understand some of the sheer expand of India, and to choose their theme accordingly.
All in all, if we look at the foreign tourist arrival statistics, India fares rather unfavourably compared to smaller Asian nations with perhaps not even a fraction to offer. The perception of India needs to undergo a sea change before people start envisaging trips to these shores. In fact states like Goa, Rajasthan and Kerala have managed to carve a niche internationally but tourists with low awareness levels might not even consider them to be a part of India when they first start planning their travels to these destinations.
The economic and employability related benefits of a coherent, sustained and effective tourism surge in India, should it take place, cannot be underestimated. Entire countries across the world consider tourism to be their major bread winner, and it is. India might not be able to do so, given its size and scale, but by becoming a favored tourism destination, India can truly provide its citizens with better livelihood and superior quality of life. A culture of tourism-friendliness also needs to be developed for that to happen. The old adage of vasudhaiva Kutumbakam needs to find a place in our hearts for any of these measures to actually succeed.