More than a year ago we attended a meeting in Delhi to discuss the Tourism Policy. It was chaired by the Secretary Tourism, Lalit K. Panwar, and we sat round the table with many of the stalwarts of the industry and deliberated on the course that tourism should take. Sadly, it’s still stuck somewhere in the dark labyrinths of power.
Perhaps that’s a good thing. Amitabh Kant did a great job when he created the Incredible India campaign. Today, however, we’ve come a long distance since then. So has Amitabh Kant: he’s now the CEO of NITI Aayog, rejuvenated successor to the rather cumbersome, old, Planning Commission. India’s image, internationally, has become more significant today. That is both part of the problem and part of the solution. The increased global attention on India is like an extreme close up: it reveals all the warts and blemishes. It highlights the fact that our people, like those in most other parts of the world, are bewildered by the galloping progress of an electronically webbed globe, the widening gap between the haves and the have-nots, the traditional seniors and the internationalised youth. This explains the wave of conservatism that is sweeping across the world from ISIS to Trump to the social churning in our own land. Insecure seniors yearn for a return to ‘the good old days’, vibrant youth seek a destruction of the scaffolding that supported the old social structures of prejudice and privilege.
In this confused scenario of conflict, tourism will be the first victim when it is pegged to visitors’ disposable income and also as a leisure industry. When your future is uncertain you want to save not splurge. Having said that, there is a segment that has saved for a holiday, and decides to spend it because it might be their last opportunity to escape from reality. There could be a false spring in international arrivals, but no Tourism Policy can be based on that.
Our Tourism Policy should become marketing oriented, not sales oriented. It should project India as A Land of Opportunity. Former Tourism Secretary Pervez Dewan once mentioned a superb tag line to us: Find What You Seek. This is what we need to build our international publicity campaign around. Moreover, it should cover all possible activities not just tourism. If we enhance the Image of India as a Land of Opportunity, people with money and time to invest in their specialised fields will come to India: business persons, media folk, and scholars. We need to create, and sustain a buzz about India as the beckoning new horizon of the world. This has, to a great extent, been created by the PM’s many foreign trips. But it cannot be a one man show or else cynics will say, “Modi’s great, but what else is there in India?”
We suggest the launch of a massive image building campaign based on the repeated theme India Unlimited.
In the space before Unlimited, successive insertions should carry the words Achievements, Opportunities, Festivals, Cuisines, Fabrics, Landscapes, Wildlife, Adventure, Handicrafts, History, Dance, Music, Architecture, Yoga, Wellness, with visuals to match, showing the wide-spectrum appeal of India.
When international clients have been allured by this all-ministries’ sponsored campaign, it will be up to us in the travel industry to take it from there.