The 6th Association of Domestic Tour Operators of India (ADTOI) annual convention and exhibition is scheduled to be held on October 12-13, 2012 at SKICC in Srinagar, which would provide impetus to the tourism position of the state. A lot has been written about the tourism potential of the domestic traveller and how it is a vital catchment that needs to be given its due. From spending capacity, reliability (which is international travel advisory proof) and the changing demography and mindset, the domestic traveller is raring to go and all they need is a well crafted and seamless travel experience within the country be it inter-state or even intra-state tourism.
Infrastructure development cannot be compromised, taxation woes need to be solved and PPP models need to walk the talk. Clean and hygienic highway rest rooms need to be constructed to enhance and improve the quality of travel. Women friendly, and child friendly travel is the need of the hour. Vivek Mathur, general manager, Madhya Pradesh Tourism, says, “Domestic tourists have always been on our priority list. In the last four years, there has been a significant increase in the number of tourists coming to Madhya Pradesh, which was 3,58,00,000 in the year 2011 including both national and international. To cater to the domestic market, we have introduced special packages from Hyderabad, Delhi, and other destinations. The connectivity and facilities to all these religious destinations have improved. We have opened up many regional offices in the country and been aggressively marketing. We recently released with a book on unknown destinations in Madhya Pradesh which provides the information on the lesser known destinations around popular sites so that it gives people a chance to stay at least a day more.
The domestic traveller is also looking for an experiential holiday and is ready to move around India to see unique sights and sounds. Each state and union territory has a special panorama to offer. One needs to highlight the niche and present and sell it well to the discerning traveller.
- The Freedom Trail of India is an interesting itinerary that can be explored. The state governments along with the private sector can design a special freedom trail journey of India that can cover unique spots of the country. While sites like Mani Bhawan, Red Fort, Sabarmati Ashram, Jallianwala Bagh, Cellular Jail, etc, have always been in the limelight there are numerous others which have remained hidden, never acquiring the importance they deserve.
- Textile tourism can also be an interesting option to choose from. India’s well defined sarees, fabrics, weaves have their own story to tell, From Chanderi and Maheshwari, to the Paithani, Banarasi and Kanchipuram, each has its own specialty. This can be clubbed with fashion experts who can provide the much needed inputs.
- West coast/ east coast tourism, wherein more than one states can be covered in the plan.
- Coffee and Tea plantation tourism can be worth exploring.
- India’s river tourism is untapped. This sector can be developed further and built as a circuit.
Music, dance festivals, wildlife circuits, sports circuits etc can be made more structured. Subhash Goyal, president, IATO says, “India is a land of religions and religious destinations. There is no other country in the world that has four major religions — Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism and Christianity at one place. Even for, Islam, that originated in the Middle East, we have some of the holiest Sufi shrines that are visited by people from all over the world. There is a need to develop them into long haul destinations. A country like Saudi Arabia, after oil, gives due importance to developing religious tourism in the country. They have a separate ministry of Haj, which attracts that world’s largest tourist traffic. It is high time that we have a separate ministry for religious affairs (tourism) so that we can tap the maximum out of it.
Ravi Luthra, joint secretary, ADTOI says, “These days, religious tourism is on the verge of becoming more of a five-star culture, and it all depends on the state. I have seen a lot of private players coming up in the market who have realised the importance of developing them into business sites. For instance, Katra has been developed by private players and doing exponentially well. I do not see much role of the government in developing the infrastructure in and around these pilgrimage destinations, rather it is driven more by business needs. Next year, it will be interesting to know about the role and success of the government stepping into managing Kumbh Mela and catering to the millions of tourists there.”
Power of social media
Social media is only gaining strength by the day and one cannot ignore its power. Tour operators need to use technology and social media to position, promote and place their product in the most effective fashion. Through social media networking, domestic tourism will get its share of publicity and the government machinery in the state can use this tool to effectively speak about their tourism USPs, special events and highlights once in a month and year. The mobile technology is evolving by the hour and travel discussions are slowly taking place through a click of the button.
Training of staff on destinations
No doubt technology is getting stronger by the day, but one cannot take away the role of human intervention especially if the itinerary is unique and customised. Here, it is extremely important to have a travel guide and consultant who knows the circuit and destination thoroughly. States need to start specialist programmes with tour operators with an aim towards knowledge of the product.
Working as partners
The public and private sector needs to work in tandem, this will lead to definite developments which is long standing and stable. Apart from PPPs, the private sector within needs to work as partners, mainly hotels, airlines and tour operators need to be complimenting each other and building the tourism product as a team.
Domestic tourism is a reality and the more we ignore its potential the country stands to lose every passing day. Discussions at conventions definitely brings to fore interesting topics and issues, but it is crucial to take these discussions out of the convention halls and make them implementable realities – as too much analysis leads to paralysis.
(With inputs from Heena Mahajan)