Friday, January 15, 2010

When Place go Aces!!





SAURABH KUMAR SINHA, ANURAG JOSHI | IIM S

“Athithi Devo Bhava” - The practice of respecting the visitors and tourists is ingrained in Indian culture. In India we celebrate our unity in diversity. Tourism is no exception to this. Our country has a varied range of tourist destinations and experiences to offer in all seasons. International tourism accounts for the second largest source of foreign exchange earnings for the Indian economy. As far as domestic tourism is concerned, it helps us to understand various cultures and promote national integration among the citizens. It is this cultural and natural potential that has been the motivation behind the huge investments in marketing. Today, every state’s tourism ministry is adopting several ways to brand their tourist destinations. The Union Ministry of Tourism in collaboration with Ministry of Railways, Ministry of Culture and CII is promoting the “Incredible India” brand to establish India as a dream destination.

The hurdles on the trek....
The Ministry of Tourism is confronted with several challenges on its way to develop India as a preferred tourism destination. Foremost being the sense of insecurity faced by prospective foreign and domestic travelers. The terrorist attacks last year have only helped in aggravating these concerns. Secondly, people in different parts of the world have different perceptions about India. For domestic tourists, low per capita income also restricts the middle class and the lower class from exploring new places. The infrastructural facilities like hotels, roads and electricity are also not up to the expectations of tourists. Transportation and accessibility also rank among the major problems especially in the rural and hilly areas. Also many tourist spots are not up to the standards with respect to cleanliness. This has led to dissatisfaction and negative publicity.
What is being marketed..
India has always attracted tourists from across the world through its rich culture, religious beliefs, natural landscape and historical monuments. Much visited destinations like Varanasi, Manali, Agra, Kerela, Goa and Delhi have provided memorable experiences to many tourists. By exploring ways to further diversify the offerings, the tourism ministry is concentrating on newer avenues of eco-holidays, rural tourism and medical tourism. In medical tourism, special attention is being given to market the wisdom India possesses in Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy. In addition to this state governments have been directed to identify the best hospitals and decide price bands for specific treatments. A new category of medical visa has been introduced by the Ministry of Home Affairs for patients and their attendants. Cruise travel has recently been introduced as an option for those who wish to have a totally different experience. Adventure and trekking are also being given due importance because of the potential India possesses due to its landscapes. The ongoing snow festival in Gulmarg with a series of snow sports coupled with traditional dance is an example of innovative ways of exploiting the opportunities India has.

Promotion.....
The Ministry of Tourism has used almost every weapon in its arsenal to promote tourism in India.
Incredible India is an established brand which essentially captures the wonderful experience that one could expect by visiting India. The next major step taken in increasing the visibility of Indian tourism are Familiarization Tours under the Hospitality Scheme. The Hospitality Scheme allows the government to invite travel agents, journalists, photographers and tour operators from various countries to let them experience the multidimensional potential of tourism in India. After gaining insights and experiencing the colors of vibrant India they help in generating overseas markets. Many such familiarization tours have been taken to restore the confidence of foreigners after Mumbai terrorist attacks. Hosting of major tourism business gatherings has also been exercised. Recently, India hosted the PATA travel mart which was attended by 374 international buyers and sellers belonging to 301 organizations.
Reinforcement of the Incredible India brand is equally important in the long run. In this regard the event Incredible India @60 was organized in Singapore, Beijing and Shangai. Here the cultural heritage coupled with Indian cuisine was on display, together with photographic exhibitions. The recently launched Incredible India magazine was also distributed. In yet another significant step the Marketing Development Assistance (MDA) has been extended to provide better financial assistance to approved tourism service providers including hoteliers, travel agents, tour operators and transport providers. They gain financial help for international events organization and participation, sales-cum-study tours and printed advertisement in overseas media. At the same time the ministry has not been reluctant in adopting online marketing techniques either. Search engine optimization, video sharing, search advertising, blogs, forums and separate websites are already in use to increase brand awareness. Websites like www.incredibleindia.org are handling increasing traffic with loads of feedbacks. In its mission of attracting more foreigners due weight age has also been given to domestic tourists. In May 2008, the campaign “Sare Jahan Se Acha” was rolled on in major TV channels and cinema theatres as a measure to recreate the interest of Indians towards exploring it. The message of “Athithi Devo Bhava” has also been regularly reinforced to gain responsible tourism. The frequency of road shows and advertisements, national and international, has been increased for better brand knowledge.

Market research and feedback
With such numerous promotional activities, it is equally important to monitor their returns. The Market Research Division has been established with this aim of compilation, tabulation and dissemination of data and information on various aspects of tourism. It monitors the effectiveness and efficiency of marketing measures and provides information for future policy formulation. Periodical surveys are also undertaken to assess the profile of international and domestic tourists, expenditure patterns, tourist preferences and satisfaction levels, availability and adequacy of infrastructural facilities at tourist centers, etc.


The road ahead....
India has come a long way in developing itself as a dream destination for international tourism. Tourism ministry, with its consistent efforts and innovative measures, has been instrumental in this regard. Yet, there is lot more to be done. The security concern remains a limitation and is hampering the international footfalls in Goa and eastern India. Similarly, much has been done to assure cleanliness and hygiene through cleanliness drives and responsible tourism but they have not proven to be adequate enough. The promotional efforts to attract tourists – both international and domestic- by different state governments are commendable but a lot needs to be improved to make their stay a pleasant and memorable one. To increase the brand value of Indian tourism, it is important that the tourists have a lifetime experience which results with them and many more coming again.
In recent past, different states have positioned their tourism in a manner that communicates their tourism potential. Kerala positions itself as the “God’s own country” to highlight its natural beauty while Madhya Pradesh is attracting tourists by its “Hindustan Ka Dil Dekho” campaign. These campaigns with such appealing taglines have been successful in increasing the number of tourists. These taglines try to capture the unique value proposition that each state is capable of offering to its visitors. For example, India’s third largest state, Maharashtra boasts of a complete package that is enriching from all angles. It ranges from the unexplored wildlife in Vidarbha region to the ancient temples and caves near Aurangabad. On one hand it has the largest coastline with some untouched beaches and sea forts, while on other it boasts of metro life in Mumbai and Pune. Therefore, it positions itself as “Maharashtra unlimited”. On similar lines, Chhattisgarh has launched the “Full of surprises” ad campaign to position itself as a state which is waiting to be unexplored.


Kerala – God’s Own Country
Kerala stands out as the pioneer of State Tourism in India in terms of marketing initiatives and is listed on National Geographic’s “50 Must See Places in the Lifetime to Visit”. It is Kerala’s unique Brand Positioning strategy that has helped it in attracting global attention. Kerala has efficiently branded dance forms like Kathakali and Theyyam and used its cultural heritage as a pedestal to attract global attention.
The state government spent approximately Rs. 25 Crores in 2007-08 for ‘Destination Kerala’, and budgeted Rs. 13 Crores for investment this year (2009 - 10). The heavy spending on the tourism industry shows the importance given to building its brand equity by the State Government. Also the budgeted spending is 75% more than the spending in the year 2008-09, which shows that the government is trying to protect the ‘Destination Kerala’ brand against an increased competition from other states like Goa and New Delhi. The state government also allocated Rs. 38.2 lakh (2009 -10) for marketing activities alone, of which a huge percentage is to be spent on advertisements using mass media tools. A separate budget for marketing activities clearly hints at the rapidly developing trend of leveraging a state’s natural and historical relevance to generate revenues. Tourism alone contributed Rs. 114.4 billion in 2008 – 09 and provides 8% of the overall employment for the state.
A lot of Eco-Tourism initiatives have been taken by the Government of Kerala in order to tap the projected growth of 13.31% in the area and differentiate Kerala from Goa. This includes increased spending on maintenance, cleaning of beaches and measures against protecting its wide spectrum of flora and fauna. The core strength (product) of Kerala is its 550 km coastline comprising of large stretches of beaches and backwaters. Kerala has successfully augmented this core product through careful sub-branding of products like Boat Race, Dance forms, Arts and Ancient Medicine. Leveraging on the heritage of Ayurveda to promote Medical Tourism is another strategy by the Kerala Tourism Ministry. Kerala has shown the way to other states and India that effective marketing programs can generate great revenues for a place and also serve as an incentive for preserving its natural and cultural heritage.



Delhi – Where History Meets Future
If there has been one state which has made a commendable improvement in attracting tourists it is Delhi. Handling concerns regarding security, inefficient transport and environmental pollution have been on the top priority list of the Delhi Government. Delhi also has the added advantage of being the national capital and hence global recognition is not a problem. It also receives maximum number of foreign tourists in comparison to other states with a 16.6% (2008) share of total foreign visits in India.
Delhi Government had earmarked Rs. 14.25 Crores (.27% of Total Outlay) for 2008 and is successfully projecting its ancient history to attract tourists using monuments like Qutub Minar, India Gate, Red Fort, Jama Masjid etc. Dilli Haat and Garden of Seven Senses have also been developed to attract local tourists. In order to understand Delhi Government’s marketing strategy we need to realize that visibility has never been an issue for New Delhi. What was important was to be in the news for good reasons. This is where Bhagidari, Delhi Metro and Commonwealth Games have proved very useful for DTTDC.

  • ‘Bhagidari’ is a Government Citizen Partnership program initiated by Mrs. Sheila Dikshit in 2003 appealing to the citizens of Delhi to be more responsible and to gather support and consensus for major policy decisions. The program attracted eyeballs from across the country with the advertisements in leading national newspapers helping in generating positive reactions. This was the first time that a state government was using print media so effectively to promote a program that encouraged Government Citizen Partnership. The logo of ‘Bhagidari’ showing two hands joining together became the Brand element that Delhi needed badly.
  • Metro: The speed of work and timely completion of Delhi Metro Project also provided the state with appreciation from not only India but also all across the globe. It has become an example for other upcoming infrastructure projects in India. It is only one of the five metro stations across the globe to be profitable despite the absence of Government subsidies (Delhi Metro recorded an Operating Revenue of Rs. 305.27 Crores with PBT Rs. 19.98 Crores in FY 2008). Delhi Metro has all by itself developed as a brand more powerful than any other existing ones (i.e. Monuments and Places across Delhi) and stronger that even brand Delhi itself.
  • Games 2010: The Commonwealth Games to be hosted in Delhi in October have provided it with an opportunity to not only attract tourists from abroad but also sports enthusiasts from India. The event promises to be a cocktail of Sports, Entertainment and Tourism. Hence the DTTDC has planned many tourism incentives like trips to Agra, Jaipur and neighboring states like Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand for sportspersons. The expected 15% increase in number of foreign tourists will be handled through the development of a Commonwealth Games Village near Akshardham on NH-24. Print advertisements in leading newspapers are being used successfully by the Delhi Government to leverage the opportunity provided by the Commonwealth Games. There have been media reports of the contractors appointed for the task of Commonwealth games being slack in their work. But Delhi government is taking every possible step to ensure the timely and successful completion of what could be the jewel in its crown.

Delhi has so far successfully utilized the recognition and brand image development provided by Delhi Metro and Commonwealth Games. Meanwhile the Bhagidari program has been successful in creating enough noise (through print advertisements) such that Delhi has been able to position itself differently in the tourism market.


Goa – Merry Goes Round
Tourism for Goa is a major revenue generator as the state attracts tourists both from India and abroad. The tourism industry has a strong multiplier effect here, affecting a lot of other business activities. Goa had a 2.5% share of total foreigners visiting India in 2008 and is among the top 10 states in India in terms of number of foreign tourist visits.
The State Government of Goa allocates almost 2% of total expenditures incurred on development of Arts and Culture and Tourism. In order to ensure tourist safety (which has been the state’s major concern after the Scarlett Keeling murder case); the Goa Tourism Development Corporation started the ‘Radio Taxi in the State of Goa’. This ensured not only better transport facilities for the tourists, but also provided employment opportunity to the unemployed youth who were allotted the taxis under this scheme.
The core product offered by Goa is its beaches but the major differentiation strategy used by the Goa Tourism Ministry has been to develop Goa as a destination for the entertainment industry. The Entertainment Society of Goa (ESG) is the nodal centre looking after the entertainment related activities in the state. ESG has been organizing the International Film Festival of India since 2003. In fact in 2007 at the 38th IFFI, a ticketing system was used, which first of its kind for India.
As per the Goa Tourism Department, it is currently targeting tourists from Portugal, South Africa and Middle East. The competition from less expensive destinations like Cyprus and festivals in Europe are being addressed while devising the pricing strategies for air fares, beach services and taxi rentals. The state government also organized Road Shows in South Africa to attract tourists.
The kind of activities promoted and the stress on creating a separate ‘Brand’ for Goa all indicate how the state has evolved in terms of attracting tourists. Increasing competition from Kerala and Northern – Hill States has forced it to constantly upgrade its marketing strategies to keep the cash registers ringing.

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