The ‘Incredible India’ campaign was launched in 2002 by the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India to promote India as a global tourist destination. Sagnik Chowdhury, Regional Director (East), India Tourism, spoke to BE’s Aritra Mitra.
Q. How far has the ‘Incredible India’ campaign impacted the Indian tourism sector?
A. It was in 2000 that renewed focus was given to bring inbound tourists to India. For this, the ‘Incredible India’ campaign was initiated in 2002, aimed at capturing the attention of foreign markets. In order to establish India as a global tourist spot, the term ‘Incredible India’ was coined. This campaign ran for many years and has done its job by creating a new outlook for India in the global forum.
Of late, India has focused on sector-based tourism and has achieved significant success. For instance, India has grown into a major medical tourism and wellness tourism hub. The exotic locales of India have helped in the emergence of adventure tourism like skating, mountaineering, camping, paragliding and scuba diving. Due to the geographical diversity, India can be a major hub for adventure sports and the tourism ministry is looking to promote India as an adventure tourism destination. Similarly, the ministry is also promoting golf tourism to attract high-spending tourists. To attract tourists for these different sectors, we have recently started the ‘Incredible India 2.0’ campaign. Earlier, we mainly focused on destination-based tourism but now we have tried to shift our focus to product-based tourism.
Q. What are the marketing objectives of the India Tourism offices abroad?
A. There has been a restructuring of our overseas offices. We have identified our markets and have reduced the number of overseas offices from 14 to seven. We have also opened a new office in Moscow. However, the human resource allocation has remained the same. Apart from this, we have plans for representational offices in potential emerging markets through PR or marketing firms from where people will be informed about the ‘Incredible India’ brand, its products and services. Despite the information available on the internet, there is a need for our offices abroad for the personal touch. If we aim at a meaningful increase in tourist inflow - which is now around 1% of the global tourist volume - expansion of our overseas offices is essential. At present, we are organising thirty road shows globally to capture foreign markets.
Q. What are the steps undertaken for improvement of government infrastructure related to tourism development?
A. There has been a significant increase in the budget allocation to the tourism sector over the years. At present, the two major schemes for infrastructure development are Swadesh Darshan and the Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual, Heritage Augmentation Drive (PRASAD).
Under the PRASAD scheme, 41 religious sites in 25 States have been identified for development including Belur Math in West Bengal and the Vishupad Temple in Gaya, Patna Sahib in Patna, Puri in Odisha and Deoghar and Parasnath in Jharkhand. The scheme focuses on all-round infrastructure development of these religious sites.
Swadesh Darshan is a circuit-based development scheme. Several circuits like wildlife circuit, heritage circuit, Ramayana circuit, Krishna circuit, Buddhist circuit, desert circuit and coastal circuit have been identified for development. The state governments are instructed to identify these sites and send a Detailed Project Report (DPR) for their development to the central government to ensure fund sanction on the basis of requirements and feasibility of the DPR. A steering committee has been formed at the central level which meets at regular intervals to analyse these proposals.
Apart from these two major schemes, there are also various other schemes like ‘Assistance to Central Agencies’ which is a success story. Under this scheme, the Archaeological Survey of India and Aga Khan Foundation collaborated with us in restoring Humanyan’s tomb. A similar project has also been undertaken for the Qutub Shahi tomb in Hyderabad which is a relatively recent discovery.
During the 14th Finance Commission period about five thousand crore rupees was allocated to the Swadesh Darshan scheme. So, there have been huge investments in the tourism sector and the fund is being properly invested for infrastructure development.
Q. Tell us something about the ‘adopt a heritage’ scheme.
A. Several prime heritage sites of our country are maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India. Similarly, various heritage sites are also maintained by the state culture departments and the heritage commissions. It has to be understood that these organisations have limited resources and so it is not possible for them to cover every heritage site. To combat this problem, the Ministry of Tourism has launched the ‘adopt a heritage’ scheme under the public-private partnership (PPP) model and the scheme is emerging as a successful one.
Under this scheme, we are reaching out to the public and private sector corporates to utilise their allocated Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds to adopt certain heritage monuments. It was started with the Red Fort as a pilot project which was given to the Dalmia group.
The regular maintenance of a heritage site is entrusted to an interested corporate organisation. They are asked to maintain the public conveniences on a non-commercial basis. It is a fair and transparent process and we are sharing the guidelines with the interested corporates.
Q. How far has the tourism sector ensured income and employment generation in India?
A. Tourism is one of the key drivers of a nation’s economy. There are two aspects of it – the kind of employment generation that can be done and the kind of revenue generation that can be ensured. Tourism has always been one of the greatest contributors to the GDP of our economy.
As per employment, tourism is one sector where 77 jobs are generated per million rupees of investment which is much more than any other sector.
Q. What are your plans for expanding the ‘Incredible India’ brand and how is the future of Indian tourism looking at present?
A. Tourism in India has undergone a paradigm shift in the last twenty five years. There has been an exponential growth in the number of domestic and inbound tourists. It is very important for us to address the key areas where we require making a connection between the industry and the end user, the tourists.
In India, in case of tourism, especially inbound tourism, there are some large corporates, Destination Management Companies (DMCs) who actually bring the business from the foreign markets to India. They again distribute the business among sub-agents in different states. It is very important for the stakeholders to be connected with these DMCs.
Now we have separate sections of visas - e-business visa, e-tourist visa and e-medical visa. The medical visa enables the patient party to stay for a longer period of time. Visa charges have also been rolled back with separate rates for off season.
For the eastern region, we took an initiative by organising some road shows with a very specific concept in mind. We brought thirty hosted buyers across the country to Bhubaneswar, Kolkata and Bodhgaya within a span of five days. We showcased the products to them and focused business to business sessions were organised where the stakeholders met these DMCs. These interactions created a connect within the industry. We called this event ‘Purvaiya’ (winds from the east) and it was hugely successful. We have plans to make this an annual event.
We also feel that certain interventions are also required in terms of employment. For example, hospitality and tourism are two burgeoning sectors where a lot of educational institutes are imparting related training. We feel it is very important to create an interface between the employers and the students. On the eve of World Tourism Day, we are organising a four-day career festival called ‘Career-East-2019’, focused on hospitality and tourism. We are expecting more than one thousand five hundred students and they will get the opportunity to interact with employers and can also ensure pre placement offers. So far brands like ITC, Taj, Oberoi, Marriott, Westin, Accor Hotels (Swissotel, IBIS, Novotel), Lemon Tree, HHI, Peerless & Kaizen Group of Hotels, IHG (Holiday Inn), Lalit, Hyatt, Mayfair, Monotel, Kenilworth, Pipal Tree, Radisson, AmbujaNeotia (Altair &Raajkutir), Swarn Group of Hotels, Stadel, Ramada, Hotel Fern Residency, Akash Sarovar, Swiggy, The Sonnet, Imperial Bodhgaya, PVR etc. have confirmed their participation as employer.