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Monday, 20 November, 2017, 11 : 58 AM [IST]

The road not taken: Promoting India’s unexplored destinations

From the heavenly vistas of the valleys in Kashmir, to the southernmost regions of Kerala and Tamil Nadu; from the boundless Rann of Kutchh in Gujarat to the diverse landscapes of the North-East, India is a treasure trove of vast historical, cultural and natural heritage. This heritage is chronicled by the mountains, rivers, valleys and forests, and architectural marvels that include palaces, forts, mosques, temples, and churches. It is also this rich cultural history which makes India such a popular destination for tourists from around the world.

Despite its status as the seventh-largest country in the world, which is home to unparalleled beauty, culture and diversity, India’s tourist inflows are much lower than what they should be. Tourist destinations in states like Kerala, Rajasthan and Gujarat are extremely popular among domestic as well as international travellers, with the government also extensively promoting them. But we still need to explore the unseen and the unexplored in India. With so many unexplored beaches and mountains gracing our land, there is still a lot to unravel before us and the world.

Developing these destinations and positioning them in the right way can do wonders for the tourism sector in India. But in order to be able to do this, state governments in India need to create dedicated state tourism policies, to identify potential tourist destinations and plan promotions. Such policies must also outline a vision and plan to develop sustainable tourism in the state, plan infrastructure development, and identify areas which require direct intervention from the government.

Leveraging social media and digital content
The credit for the tourism boom over the past five years goes largely to social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Travellers who share their experiences in words, pictures, and videos, greatly inspire their peers and friends to travel to new places and have new experiences. Thus, social media is, undoubtedly, one of the most powerful promotional tools which can play a significant role in promoting unexplored and lesser known destinations in India. Providing accurate and easily accessible information is crucial to promoting any destination as a tourist destination. A website with adequate information on tourist attractions, connectivity, accommodation, facilities, etc., helps in promoting tourism, especially to foreign tourists.

Developing adequate infrastructure
State tourism departments must invest in developing basic infrastructure at destinations which are not as popular, but have the potential to draw tourists. Hundreds of historical sites and monuments in the country are left to decay because of neglect by local authorities. Through publicprivate collaborations, the government can develop these areas and restore heritage sites to better promote these destinations. One way to do this, for instance, is if the government can implement newer policies on corporate social responsibilities wherein companies invest in infrastructure development initiatives at these locations. Most importantly, if we want to promote world-class tourism in the country, we will have to improve our standards of hygiene, cleanliness and healthcare. A good place to start would be providing better public sanitation facilities at beaches or monuments.

With their rapidly evolving travel preferences and demands for newer experiences, Indians are ditching the same old destinations for newer, less explored places. This breed of neo-travellers seeks out new cultures, cuisines and landscapes to explore, and India, with all its uniqueness, has a lot to offer. The Incredible India campaign, which helped increase the footfall of tourists by 16 percent in its first year, is an iconic example of promoting tourism in the country. The campaign also branded and positioned India as a must-visit destination like never before among international tourists. Considering the natural resources, adventure opportunities, bio-diversity, art, festivals, historical monuments and world heritage sites, India has innumerable attractions and experiences to offer. Hence, with adequate on-ground infrastructure, stylised branding and marketing, we can effectively promote the lesser known Indian destinations to attract not only foreign tourists but domestic travellers as well.

(Toehold provides photography and photography-oriented travel services in India)

The views expressed within this column are the opinion of the author, and may not necessarily be endorsed by the publication.

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