When it comes to government policies towards tourism at national and state levels in India, the famous Biblical gospel holds good in some way or the other. The left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing and vice versa. Tourism being a state subject in India, a national policy on tourism would only have a superficial effect. The political satraps in the states by and large call the shots, and they do not care about the impact of their expediency on an industry, which is touted globally as an engine for economic growth and empowerment. And, more often than not, the private industry that drives tourism is left to suffer silently while all the political drama unfolds on the ground.
It is election time in couple of states, tourism, directly or indirectly, is in the agenda of election discourse. Ironically, it is not for positive reasons, but for all the negative publicity. The election discourse of one of the key states for tourism in India, Kerala, is heavily centred around prohibition and phasing out of bar hotels. Unfortunately, the leadership of political parties do not realise how suicidal the political brinkmanship would be on the economy of the state where tourism is second largest contributor to the GDP. Kerala is already losing edge as a leisure destination to states like Goa and neighbouring Sri Lanka. What use those big budget branding and marketing campaigns would have if you apply controls on an industry which promises entertainment and experiences as part and parcel of its service design. Yet another Chief Ministerial candidate has threatened to do the same in the state of Tamil Nadu in her election campaign, whereas Bihar has already implemented total prohibition in the state from April 1.
The objective is not to lobby for deregulation of any business or to conclude that bars and booze are integral to tourism. On the other hand, the purpose is to convince that taking away the opportunity to unwind responsibly over a drink in a safe and secure environment to a holiday-seeker would not help the cause of tourism in a destination. If there is a social menace due to lack of controls in any society that is an issue which needs to be dealt with separately. P Krishna Kumar
Bureau Chief, New Delhikrishna.firstname.lastname@example.org