The lure of cars has been an age-old phenomenon and now tourism business is leaning on this passion to promote destinations, hotels and even small events. Car rallies, races and auto shows have always had a sizeable attendance and their draw goes beyond professional car racing champs.
Top hotels in the world are using vintage cars to attract more guests. Cities and states like Monaco thrive on car events, and San Diego has always been a car-lover’s paradise due to its shows. Much like golf tourism, the car world has its dedicated constituency and can turn fortunes as far as high-end tourism potential is concerned. Why just high- end, a fine car rally show has the attraction that brings a distinct flavour to any destination.
The launch of Formula One racing at Gautam Budh Nagar near Delhi was accompanied by fanfare and buzz, especially amongst the chattering classes worldwide. While those still leaning on socialist utopia made snarky comments on the ‘rich man’s sport’, the organisation of the event and its success in promoting a tourist interest was unclear and the jury is still out on it. What it did was to raise the temperature and hopes of car enthusiasts.
It is in this context that the heritage car event started merely 5 years ago by Madan Mohan, an unassuming car-lover who has 200 plus vintage cars in his stable, is generating much interest. While it remained a Delhi-centric event in the last 4 years, the organisers have announced an ambitious plan to take it around a number of Indian cities. The sheer range and scope of heritage car rally is also undergoing a change in its 2016 edition.
The tourism officialdom in India has also woken up to the potential of the event and is lending active support, the dimensions of which are still unfolding.
Calling it an "untapped tourism potential", the Tourism Ministry is currently considering a proposal from the Gurgaon-based trust to support its '21 Gun Salute International Vintage Car Rally' scheduled for February 6-7 next year.
After promoting India as a nation of maharajas and their palaces (now hotels), this gives another chance to milk the maharaja mystique with their cars of yore. Actually many of these cars have now also been bought by collectors and car-lovers cutting across states and professions. Therefore, the aim of the trust to bring as many of these beauties centre stage at a few major shows will definitely raise tourist interest, not only from abroad but also from within.
While the lending of Incredible India logo is the basic minimum that can be, a more spirited involvement from the department will give greater fillip to the show. Getting exotic cars in the country for events like these and even transporting around the country is a logistics nightmare at times. Some sort of official involvement will ease matter.
The organisers might want to work closely with tour operators who could market the event around the world. The show could even be promoted at WTM London, ITB Berlin and luxury shows as well. The catch would, however remain, to maintain an exclusivity element and snob value of the show even as it reaches out to a large segment with its Red Fort's 3-day event, accompanied by dance and music from Indian states.
For the past 5 years, 21 Gun Salute has been successfully presenting the International Vintage Car Rally & Concourse Show; year after year, the event is getting bigger and better, and 2016 is going to be the grandest so far.
Madan Mohan, Founder of 21 Gun Salute International Vintage Car Rally & Concourse Show, said, “Our aim is to showcase the finest heritage of custom-made automobiles in India, and promote the centuries-old vast cultural diversity of the country at a global stage, establishing a holistic platform for the growth of Motoring Tourism in India.”
He also said that as part of the vision to go global with the event, a few months ago, the brochure of the 2016 rally was released at the premiere of Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, in California in the US, in the presence of Hollywood icon and former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Olympics gymnast legend Nadia Comaneci and business tycoon Ratan Tata.
Given the hype and hoopla surrounding the event, the focus of Indian tourism on promotion through such shows has come not a day too soon.