Editorial: A push for packing your bags

One also needs to take into consideration, what exactly prompts well-heeled Indians to vacation in exotic destinations in Europe and southeast Asia.
Boat ride at Dal lake
Boat ride at Dal lakeReuters

CHENNAI: The country seems to be taking its business of leisure travel quite seriously, with officials from the Centre and State putting together action plans to resuscitate the industry on a war footing. A few weeks back, State Tourism Ministers got together at the Dhauladhar Ranges in the Himalayas to brainstorm a recovery plan for one of India’s most promising sectors. The result of three days of intense ideation was the Dharamshala Declaration, aimed at recognising the nation’s role in contributing towards global tourism as well as recalibrating its agenda for domestic tourism, which as per stakeholders, has been receiving a step motherly treatment until now.

The Tourism Ministry has also collaborated with the Ministry of External Affairs to identify 20 Indian missions abroad that have recorded the highest footfalls to India. The idea is to come up with nation specific strategies that will attract foreign tourists to the nation. These measures seem wonderful on paper, and will drum up adequate PR for the officials involved as well.

However, promoting tourism to a great extent depends on the quality of infrastructure, both public and private, which is available in a nation. One of the pain points faced by the industry is the mushrooming of boarding and lodging avenues that operate without a hospitality licence in the country. All it takes is to scroll through the reviews of popular hotel and B&B aggregators to get an idea of how pitiable the safety, service levels and quality of food are in two to three star-properties across the country, that are being operated by unscrupulous agents. Strict enforcement of licensing and active participation by the government through timely audits and checks of properties can go a long way.

One also needs to take into consideration, what exactly prompts well-heeled Indians to vacation in exotic destinations in Europe and southeast Asia. Apart from the benefits of world class airports with universal connectivity, there are safe, convenient means of public transport which is almost taken for granted in European cities, thanks to features like Eurail passes and student discounts. It almost seems like these cities were built to be tourist attractions, not just for international travellers but locals as well. The municipal corporations of several megacities take an active interest in branding their cities as more tourist friendly, in terms of the availability of translators, guides at critical points, audio and AR-assisted walkthroughs, and information centres as well as the availability of hop-on hop-off bicycles, a range of cuisines to suit the palate of international tourists. And let’s not forget the role played by nightlife in drawing the crowds.

Thankfully, the government has taken note of many of these factors and is working towards bettering the scenario in the short term. Tamil Nadu has set in place mandatory licensing and registration norms as well as turned its focus to adventure and new experience tourism.

The TTDC is unveiling nine campsites in the State while training its focus on coastal tourism, with special emphasis on watersports like snorkelling, kite surfing, scuba diving and surfing among others. Infrastructure development is also being planned on beachfronts. Plantation and farm tourism, something that destinations like Ubud in Indonesia, and villages in Vietnam excel in, have also been marked for exploration in Theni, Ooty, Pollachi and Kanniyakumari.

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