Two things happened last month that have strong underpinnings of the subtle and quiet change that is happening to Indian tourism. The first was the PM’s visit to Srinagar and the second was his surprise meeting with media heads after Diwali.
Tourism will be the final succour for the troubled valley was the important subtext of the PM’s visit to Srinagar. Pushing for speedy recovery of the damage caused by floods was the usual talk, but a quick and speedy messaging that tourism is not going to be hurt was the essential need of the hour.
The other news was in the sudden Diwali media lunch of the PM. Other than the civilities, the only thing the PM mentioned was the role that the media has suddenly started playing in the Clean India campaign. The campaign had so far hinged on classy ads, promo campaigns and sporadic roadshows with the usual suspects of culture, music, crafts and herds of bureaucrats presiding over all of it. For once, there is a clear call to the person in the street to pick up his litter and scrub the country because it will not only be good for tourists and guests, but also because it will mark a change in the individual’s and society’s health and financial scene too.
And this is happening. Tourists to India do not expect the slick atmosphere they are accustomed to in the West. Many find the exotica of cows on the roads quite interesting photo ops, but the dirt and grime is nothing to be proud of and it definitely is no exotica by any stretch of imagination.
That the change has begun is news that must reach prospective agents, operators, and the larger public in tourism markets across the world. At WTM 2014, the UNWTO & WTM Ministers' Summit focuses on 'Tourism and Mega-Events: Building a Lasting Legacy'. Tourism and mega-events are closely interlinked. Many of those participating in mega-events are tourists while mega-events have an enormous impact on all components of the tourism value chain of the host destination.
In India, the Clean India campaign does not have an in-your-face tourism focus, but the impact will be felt distinctly. If those attending WTM 2014 from India are able to carry this message along with their sales spiel, they would not be deviating from the core focus of bagging more business. They would only be doing themselves a favour.(The author is a freelance writer based in New Delhi)