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Monday, 05 August, 2019, 12 : 50 PM [IST]

Addressing IMAGE Deficit!

Two incidents that have been reported and circulated widely across social media handles in recent weeks made every Indian traveller lower his head in shame. An undated video of an Indian family being searched by hotel security officials in a South East Asian resort destination for stealing goods from the guest room has heavily tarnished the image of the country and its citizens. In another incident, a note purportedly written by a luxury hotel in Gstaad, Switzerland surfaced on social media about certain behavioural issues specifically by ‘guests from India’. Both these incidents make us do some soul-searching on the reasons for our image deficit as travellers. The violations that the hotel pointed out include the habit of taking breakfast items back to the room for lunch, sharing of dishes ordered for one by many, and not maintaining ‘peace and quiet’ on the floors where guests from other parts of the world stay. Although it is the apology note by the hotel asking not to construe their earlier note as ‘racial discrimination’ which is doing the rounds, that doesn’t dilute the core ‘behaviour’ issue associated with Indian travellers in any way.

Sweeping these incidents under the carpet and deriding them as isolated incidents and conspiracy to defame Indians would not help the cause. There is an image issue for sure. I want to recall a conversation which I had with the GM of a luxury hotel on Pattaya beach more than a decade ago. Answering my query as to the Indian business the hotel receives, he, with all humility, said that he is happy without it, citing numerous incidents of ‘misadventure’ on the part of Indian guests even with his female staff.

Education and sensitisation are the obvious answers. But who would do it? Can we bestow this responsibility to the travel trade in India? I really doubt. Having travelled with Indian travel trade delegations to many destinations, I have genuine uncertainty about their credentials. I have seen people from the trade behaving strangely and without regard for the place and situations inviting contemptuous look and abuse from locals, especially during European familiarisation trips. On a recent trip to China for a trade association conference, I have seen even veterans of Indian travel trade mimicking and mocking at a local tour guide assigned to them. If they cannot show some respect to people of their own fraternity, what regard do you expect to show others?

What is required is a national campaign on the lines of ‘Clean India’ to bring in over all behavioural changes in the Indian psyche. While the government has embarked on an ambitious project to make India third largest economy of USD 5 trillion, as a country we cannot afford to be deficit on IMAGE!

PKrishna Kumar
Bureau Chief
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