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Are marketers doing enough to promote India as a tourist destination?

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tourLo and behold India! A multi-lingual, multi-cultural and multi-religious country that offers numerous opportunities for exploration and adventure. The splendid beauty of mystic Himalayas, unexplored depths of the Indian Ocean, and the rich cultural heritage with which India is bestowed, translate into enormous potential for travel and tourism.
Among international tourists, India is largely popular for the Taj Mahal, the Ganga, Kashmir and Goa.

But is India known for Taj-ul-Masajid, the largest Mosque of Asia or Chitrakoot Falls,located in the middle of Vindhya Range often regarded as Niagara Falls of India? Have travellers heard of the breathtaking Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh or Majuli near the banks of Brahmaputra River in Assam? Is Indian distinctiveness being marketed enough globally and are travel marketers doing enough to woo the tourists?

Highlighting the lack of infrastructure and inactive marketing, Sharat Dhall, President, Yatra.com said “On-ground improvements are required. Travelling in India by road is time-consuming and uncomfortable. For instance, if someone from South India wants to visit a north-eastern destination, it will take more than a day to reach there unless they are travelling by air, which is an expensive affair. So infrastructure and connectivity are major challenges.While on the other hand places like Hampi, in Karnataka (a developed state with good infrastructure)are not being marketed properly. A foreigner knows India only for Taj Mahal or perhaps Goa.”

In World Economic Forum’s Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index (TTCI) 2013, India has been given the 65th rank from among 140 countries covered in the study. While in the Asia-Pacific region India stands at the 11th position, countries including China, Thailand, Malaysia, and Hong Kong remain ahead of India in terms of ranking.

“Countries from South east Asia which lie ahead of India in ranking have a tremendous service mindset. Hospitality and infrastructure are good, while in India everything takes twice the effort.There is much to be done in Indian tourism.” Dhall added.

Sharing her insights, Hanneli Slabber, Country Manager, South Africa Tourism noted, “Any tourist location should be known for its destinations and not for the services offered at that specific location. For instance, African Safari is marketed in a way that any tourist coming to Africa includes it in their to-do list. We tend to promote South
African destinations to the markets which are relevant to us and the key features of South African Tourism are at the heart of all our marketing.”

Gujarat state has initiated many steps to increase state tourism. Abraham Alapatt, Marketing Head, Thomas Cook said, “Among a few Indian states which have been marketed well and are attracting a good number of tourists, Gujarat Tourism has been doing an excellent job.Kerala is one of the greatest drivers of domestic tourism. Case study shows Kerala has displayed and marketed its natural beauty well. The state also has very good infrastructure. Goa was always popular and it has retained its popularity.”

Gujarat Tourism’s famous brand campaign ‘Khushboo Gujarat ki’ featuring the icon of Indian Cinema, Amitabh Bachchan, was decorated with Nation Tourism Award 2011-12, in the category of best tourism film. Gujarat Tourism has been effectively utilising various social media platforms including Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube for effective marketing.

“Another trend that we have observed is picking up is a spurt in inbound tourism. Indian people are willing to spend same amount of money for exploring an Indian destination with which they can easily visit a foreign country.Tourism is a crucial economic driver in GDP and it has many stakeholders like hospitality and so on. Tourism in India is clearly lacking in what ‘could be’ versus ‘what is’;we are growing but not at the rate we could have.” Abraham added.

New Zealand, which stands at the 12th position globally and 3rd position in APAC has included India in its 3-year marketing plan and is also looking forward to ICC World Cup being hosted by New Zealand and Australia in 2015.

“We have increased our investment in the India market significantly to position New Zealand as a compelling visitor destination for Indian travellers. We have also increased our staff in India to develop our travel trade partnerships, public relations and marketing communications. Tourism New Zealand runs its‘100% Pure New Zealand’ campaign in India to specially focus on families and young adventurers’ market. We also look forward to events such as the Indian Cricket Team tour during January and February this year and also the ICC Cricket World Cup,”Mischa Mannix-Opie, Regional Manager – South & South East Asia, Tourism New Zealand, noted.

Hong Kong tourism, which stands at the 15thposition in the world tourism ranking and 5th in APAC, has been strategically targeting Indian market.Speaking about Hong Kong Tourism’s marketing strategy in India, Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) spokesperson stated, “We adopt ‘Hong Kong – Asia’s World City’ as the tourism brand of Hong Kong, promoting the city as a world-class travel destination with a distinctive east-meets-west culture. For the India market, HKTB’s primary target cities are Mumbai and New Delhi, though resources will also be deployed in such secondary cites as Bengaluru, Chennai, Kolkata and Hyderabad.”

“To entice the price-conscious Indian visitors, the HKTB will roll out marketing activities under the theme ‘Hong Kong – You Deserve It’ to highlight the excellent value of a Hong Kong vacation. HKTB will continue to capitalise on the trend of travellers using internet and social media to plan and share their trips. HKTB is the first in the industry to launch a cross-platform digital travel guide, the ‘3-in-1 My Hong Kong Guide’ which seamlessly integrates web portals, mobile applications and social media,” HKTB spokesperson added.

The onus of inefficient marketing of Indian destinations also lies on travel agents. The aspiration of travelling overseas is tremendous amongst Indians. Therefore, they tend to entice Indian travellers to visit foreign destinations at competitive prices.

Speaking onthe challenges faced by Indian tourism Industry, Jaideep Ghosh Partner, Management Consulting, KPMG India, said, “The sector is facing challenges such as lack of good quality tourism infrastructure, global concerns regarding health and safety of tourists, disparate passenger/road tax structures across various states and shortfall of adequately trained and skilled manpower. While several plans and programmes have already been devised for tackling these challenges, successful implementation would be critical to accelerate growth.”

The iconic Incredible India campaign is a successful example. Its latest campaign launched last year bears the tag line ‘Find What You Seek’ and is designed especially for print and outdoor. The campaign has around 17 creatives that showcase the rich culture of India. Incredible India campaign was conceptualized back in 2002 and is still fresh in the minds of tourists. To a good extent the campaign has been successful in branding Indian tourism as an aspirational brand for people and has arguably increased the footfall of tourists by 16 per cent in its first year.Considering the natural resources, adventure opportunities, flora, fauna, bio-diversity, art and exhibitions, cultural fairs and festivals, historical monuments and world heritage sites, India has countless attractions and assortments to offer. Along with the on- ground improvements, desirable branding and marketing of Indian destinations is also the need of the hour.

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