A short term ‘Tourism Strategy’ for India: Comprehensive state specific tourism strategies are vital

By Surjith Karthikeyan

India known for its ‘cultural diversity’ and ‘Unity in diversity’ has immense tourism potential. Though lot of initiatives had been taken, the question is how to make it stand out and enhance its popularity in the international arena. As the global tourism market has just recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic, tourists may cut down their budget on traveling. Thus, with its competitive prices and services, India could take this opportunity to raise its popularity in the international market.

Comprehensive State specific strategies are required, firstly, to establish the city branding endowed with their unique features; secondly, to accurately define and target their target tourist source cities, and do intensive and effective tourist promotion there; thirdly, to enhance tourists’ experience by cultivating high-quality souvenir market and finally, establishing comprehensive State tourism Apps on electronic devices.

City Branding with Unique Feature

What are the unique sceneries in each Indian State is the most important selling point that needs to be looked for. Just like, if you think of Beijing, the image of the Great Wall will appear; think of Los Angeles, Hollywood will appear; think of Venice, Gondola will appear; think of Paris, the Eiffel Tower will appear; think of New York, the Statue of Liberty will appear. The State tourism departments need to find unique selling points that could represent their image and make this unique image attractive, impressive and catchy. Impressive slogan for each State is imperative to brand its cities as a wonderful place to relax and a break from daily busy life. An on-line campaign for city slogans for wider participation from both home and abroad enables people to know about State and its specialities much better. 

Target Major Tourist Sources for Promotion

Tourism related activities may need to focus on selecting target cities. The States could first sort out the list of cities with direct flights to its major cities, and draw up candidate target cities based on the frequency of flights. Second, according to the nationality information of tourists entering the particular State every year, the tourism departments could further develop a list of the number of tourists from various countries. Combining the two lists, the tourism departments may find the promotion in target cities and could go further to differentiate tourist groups into groups, say, silver tourist groups, younger generation aged 20-30 etc. Furthermore, one could categorize tourists by another criterion, namely first-time tourists and repeat tourists. 

Adopt Comprehensive and Intensive Promotion

Integrating online and offline promotions coupled with an integrated strategy of going out and bringing in simultaneously, tailored promotion schemes and applying different intermediaries for different targeted groups is important. One option is to make use of major local social media for tourism promotion, especially utilizing social media influencers. The State Governments can encourage local hotels and restaurants to hire the social media influencer to experience their accommodations and food and post them on social media which will attract the attention of their followers. On the other hand, the tourism departments themselves could also publish articles on various social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram etc. to attract fans. 

The TV show undoubtedly enjoys a broad exposure to its audiences all around the world. Thus, for exposing the specific State in popular local TV shows in the target market, the respective State Governments may tie up with popular shows in international countries or coordinate with them for the filming of the show here which may attract a large number of the tourists.

Official publicity and endorsement from state government tourism officials is equally important. By participating in international exhibitions or conferences, the officials could consciously mention its tourism industry and highlight its long history and splendid culture which has a huge role in promoting tourism.

Strengthen Relationships with Tourism Intermediaries 

State Governments may strengthen its relationships with travel agencies, by inculcating a culture of assistance in visa, hotel and transportation arrangements and building business relationships with tourism intermediaries in target cities. If State tourism departments wanted to attract tourists from other countries, it would definitely need the help of their local tourism intermediaries who understand the market needs and consumption habits of local people very much. Tourism departments could use local intermediaries to learn about how to make potential customer groups interested in certain travel destinations. So it is very crucial to find reliable intermediaries in target cities.

Cultivate Creative Souvenir Market

‘Creative Souvenir Market’ could encourage tourists to spend more as well as to add more value to the visiting experience. Souvenirs designed with good quality are carriers of traditional historic and cultural elements for the city, extending the memory of international tourists till longer than their stay in India. For the souvenir designing, creative ideas through collaboration with professional design teams, or through a design competition open to the public, including tourists visiting the city, is necessary. For souvenir manufacturing and marketing, the district tourism authorities can build partnerships with private professional firms in this field, to bring down the cost and to target the clients better.

Design a Tourism App with Multiple Service

Some State tourism departments have official tourism Apps which need to be further developed with a well-designed package of information regarding their tourism. The design and operation could be outsourced to professional companies. Tourists may be advised to download the App, where they can check in real time the tourist volume, bus schedules, and QR code for guides at a certain scenic spot, so that tourists can accordingly optimize their itinerary, and achieve a better experience. Also, integrated information about hotels, restaurants, shopping places, food delivery, can be accessed in the app, where booking and enquiry can be made directly. It can also serve as a social platform where service providers can introduce themselves in detail, and where people can give ratings and share experiences and comments. 

(The author serves as Deputy Secretary, Government of India. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the FinancialExpress.com.)