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Thursday, 31 March, 2011, 17 : 00 PM [IST]

Madhya Pradesh Tourism: Evolving with ‘Ajab Gajab’ strategy

Madhya Pradesh in recent years has evolved, right from adding niche tourism products, developing marketing strategies to highlighting the destination in international and domestic markets. The state has been aiming to strike the right chord at the right time. Imran Khan explores Madhya Pradesh Tourism Department’s marketing strategy over the years
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The 20 years Perspective Plan of Madhya Pradesh Tourism chalked out in 2003 had extensive plans for the state to concentrate on developing innovative ideas to change its image to a more tourist friendly destination, appointment of marketing and advertising agency, building of strong relations with the travel trade industry, reorientation of tourist information offices as marketing offices and to facilitate the tourism offices with computerised reservation systems.

After examining the strategy developed by the state year-on-year, one can understand that Madhya Pradesh has maintained a distinguished stand in promoting its destinations compared to other destinations in India. The state has so far managed to attract 3.83 crore tourist traffic in 2010, compared to 2.33 crore in 2009. The reason behind increase in tourist traffic has been due to diversified tourism products introduced by the state tourism department year-on-year. Besides its heritage, cultural offerings, the state tourism board has also highlighted its Adventure, Ecotourism, Wildlife, Caravan Tourism products for tourists. To emphasise more on Ecotourism, the state tourism department also setup Madhya Pradesh Ecotourism Development Board in 2005 with a view to conserve natural resources and achieve sustainable forest management through Ecotourism. The government also announced separate Eco and Adventure Tourism Policy to popularise and promote these forms of tourism segments.

Furthermore, the new Tourism Policy released in 2010 visions out to promote Sustainable Tourism, which has paved ways for private investors, as it prevents all new tourism projects to be exempted from Entertainment Tax for a period ten years on items which are permanent in nature, whereas, temporary projects would be given levy of tax for six years. The policy also exempts new hotels from paying Luxury Tax for those who offer rooms for less than Rs 2,000 per day. The exemption of Luxury Tax has been further extended to all new hotels in Bhopal and Indore for five years and eight years if located in rest of the state. It further includes Bed & Breakfast units having maximum of five rooms an exemption in Luxury Tax during ‘off-seasons’ as well. As tourism is a priority sector, the state government in the 11th Five Year Plan, granted a total outlay of Rs 14,760 lakh for betterment of the tourism sector for a period between 2007-2012.

top_310311_7.jpgInnovating with New Ideas...
In order to showcase the destination through print and tv commercials, the state tourism department along with Madhya Pradesh State Tourism Development Corporation (MPSTDC), appointed Ogilvy & Mather and Mindshare as their creative and marketing partners respectively. Initiating several on-ground, above-the-line (ATL), below-the-line (BTL) activities, and online campaigns to highlight the state as ‘The Heart of Incredible India’, in 2007, the first marketing campaign ‘Hindustan Ka Dil Dekho’ was launched, thereafter ‘Go Camping 2010’ in October. The ‘Go Camping 2010’ was purely aimed at promoting regions such as Bhopal, Pachmarhi, Mandu, Orchha, Jabalpur, Tamia, Amarkantak, Shahdol, Dewas, Panna, Bhind and Pench as adventure sites.

hari_ranjan_rao.jpg“Madhya Pradesh Tourism has emerged as a key player in the national tourism scenario over the years, with innovative ideas to enhance tourist’s comfort. Our aim is to capture the domestic and international market through our marketing offices in every major state and cities. We hold road shows and exhibitions frequently through these marketing offices to showcase the state to the travel trade and tourists. The state has been receiving accolades nationally and internationally for creating a brand with the kind of creative advertising campaigns launched over the last several years. Madhya Pradesh is today a vibrant brand and has effectively established itself as - the Heart of Incredible India,” said Hari Ranjan Rao, Managing Director, MPSTDC.

“Our promotional campaigns through magazines and TV channels has helped us in reaching international and domestic audiences. The Madhya Pradesh Tourism website in German language has been able to cater the German traffic as well,” added Rao.

Advancing its marketing strategy further, the state tourism board launched ‘MP Ajab Hai, Sabse Gajab Hai’ campaign in November last year. The highly acclaimed campaign was another step by the state tourism board towards strengthening their market presence in India and abroad. The TV commercial captured key landmarks of the state and narrated each destination in a distinctive format. The state known with distinct titles ‘The Land of Kama Sutra’ being one of such, has impressed tourists worldwide. It was also awarded as the best state in ‘Tourism Promotion and Publicity’ category by Today’s Traveller Awards in October last year.

top_310311_8.jpgOvercoming The Challenges ...
The challenges faced by the state to market the destination, were poor connectivity, no direct links between many tourist locations, low awareness about the destination and poor quality of tourism products. To tackle these tourism related issues, a total outlay of Rs 32.2 crore and Rs 32.7 crore was approved by the Planning, Economics and Statistics Department, Government of Madhya Pradesh for the year 2008-09 and 2009-10. The government subsidy was utilised for developing 15 tourist centres and one tourist circuit and for organising 13 festivals during 2008-09. The annual plan for 2009-10 was aimed at setting up nine tourist centres, developing two tourism circuits and organising 14 festival programmes, other than developing Adventure and Ecotourism in state.

Although the state tourism board has set a target of putting in place six new tourist centres, develop two travel circuits and organise training and festival programmes, Madhya Pradesh government allocated Rs 25 crore for the year 2010-11. Currently, there are 382 tourist sites, including  world  heritages of Sanchi, Bhimbethaka, Khajuraho, National Park Kanha, Bandhavgarh among others, in the state. Besides its head office in Bhopal, the state tourism department also has 23 marketing and regional tourist offices across India.

Opting For Digital Route...
“After the successful implementation of our recent campaigns, we are now focusing on the digital media. We have our SMS campaign which is in progress and are exploring the horizons for Internet  marketing viz. Search Engine Optimisation and Social Media Optimisation,” mentioned Rao.  

As per their plans to gain benefit from the online medium, the state tourism department is emphasising on upgrading the existing website to make it more user friendly. It is also planning to link the state tourism website with other on-line reservation sites and portals. The investment required for 20 years is estimated at Rs 978 crore, of which Rs 532 crore is by private sector and about Rs 446 crore by government for setting up infrastructure, marketing, recreation and entertainment facilities.
 
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