"Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going."
- Paul Theroux

AIRDA NewsDesk

Message of the Month

October 2018

One of the things I often think about relates to the tourist, or visitor who comes to our shores. Someone who could be visiting us for the first time, or perhaps is a regular visitor. So what brings someone to India for the first time? (And what brings someone again and again?)

Closely linked to these thoughts are other questions. What kind of impressions do we create in the first place? Do we live up to the magic that India conjures up in someone’s mind? Do we come across as people who are friendly, welcoming and helpful? Are we truly inspired and protective about our past and heritage? Do we come across as responsible citizens, especially in the space of keeping our environments sustainable and clean?

That’s a lot of questions (!!!) and I must say that I am fairly pleased with the answers that come to mind. There’s still a long way to go, and I am sure we will get there, with participation from the departments of tourism and private sector enterprises in the hospitality industry. Constructive awareness of some of the issues described above is on the rise, and many of our tourism-centric operations and services are being managed with due diligence and care.

So let me gather my thoughts and try to answer these questions in a structured kind of way.

Do we create the right first impressions?

India today, is a whole new world and people are beginning to like what they see. But you will always find two faces in that mirror – the India you want visitors to see, and the India you don’t. While there can be a marked contrast here, this is a level of reality that we must learn to accept – because it’s okay to find a contrast that can serve as constructive feedback.

But I am happy to say that the India we want to show to our visitors is something we can be really proud of – our fast modernizing cities and infrastructure, our innovative streams of technology impacting the lives of people and the future of our industries, and more importantly, our levels of comfort in the hospitality industry.

Are we committed to preserving our past and heritage?

There’s a visible positive here as well, and the tourism industry at large is responsible for positive outcomes linked to increasing awareness about protecting our history and heritage for future generations. We have also seen some outstanding work done here through public and private partnerships – via projects that have the benefit of size, scale, focus and attention.

And yes, there is a whole new millennial generation that is aware and concerned about preserving our past and heritage – and that is extremely heartening to see. This emerging generation needs no flag bearers – they are inspired from within.

Are we friendly and welcoming?

Yes, we are – right from our warm and welcoming namastes, to the garlands we place on our visitors to make them feel very special. I also feel we are courteous and helpful in our own little ways. Even to visitors from another country that we could meet in the marketplace for instance, or at a tourist location. I think we as a people are always ready to help and assist.

Do we come across as responsible and caring citizens?

I would like to limit the scope of that question to the hospitality industry, where there is an increasing concern to contain and limit the use of disposable material (such as plastic) and find new solutions for products and processes that have for long been overlooking the obvious. So there is renewed concern out here, and concern that is backed by new initiatives to sensitize people and processes toward influencing the changing of habit. I can see the ripple effects of this effort reaching far and wide.

Will our visitors remember us for the things that make us proud?

Looking back at my own experiences in handling and assisting overseas visitors, I have often found that there could be two clear ways that visitors would visualize this. There is an India that they expect to see, and there is an India that they eventually end up seeing.

And quite honestly, there could be a divide between these two viewpoints that is visibly varied and different. The point I am trying to make here is that each visitor comes with his unique little window and makes his observations. We see what we want to see, we ignore what we want to ignore.

But it is our responsibility to make sure that people – our visitors – remember us for all the right reasons. Because there is so much our wonderful country has to offer – there is so much to see, so much to experience and so much to take back home.

Each one of us can be an ambassador of goodwill. If we as individuals present the right face of the India experience, we can make a huge difference.

And there could be a whole new meaning to the greeting of “Namaste”.

 

B. S. Rathor
Advisor & Member - Executive Committee


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