Colours, vibrancy, culture and flavour. These are the words that spring to mind when one closes one’s eyes to imagine beautiful India. With each metre of the destination dotted in heritage, history and diversity, it promises something for everyone who ventures into its lands. Tatiana Tsierkezou investigates.
“Whether you aim to explore the folklores of India’s dramatic past, shop with family and friends or are looking for a spiritual sojourn, India’s ultra-diverse offerings have an experience for everyone. With a history going back thousands of years, multi-faceted traditions, a myriad of dining experiences and the alluring contrast between old and new, all its sights and sounds are worthwhile,” noted general manager, Louis Sailer, The Leela Palace New Delhi.
Expressing his obvious appreciation for the country, director of sales and marketing, The Ritz-Carlton Bangalore, Debanjan Kundu added: “Bustling and serene, timeless yet irrepressibly on the move, India dazzles and delights like no other place on earth. The culture is very distinctive.”
As the destination rapidly builds its reputation as a year-round destination, working on further developing niche products such as wellness and medical tourism; adventure and wildlife tourism; film tourism; monsoon tourism; golf, polo and sports tourism; along with MICE tourism, India is pulling out all the stops to boost its touristic portfolio and further entice important markets, such as that of MENA.
“India and the Middle East share common cultural and business interests. Trade between the two regions is expansive,” declared general manager, Kempinski Ambience Hotel Delhi, Puneet Singh who explained that the emerging world of medical tourism in India has the potential of attracting impressive numbers from the MENA region.
Also echoing this sentiment was director, India Tourism – Dubai, I. R. V. Rao, who declared that India has rapidly emerged as a destination for medical and wellness travel for the GCC market in particular.
Rao shared some visitor statistics with TTG: “The Gulf and Middle East region is an important market for India. There has been a consistent growth of foreign tourist arrivals from this region to India over the last three years with the year 2014 having registered growth of around 19 per cent over the previous year.”
In an effort to better capture these fruitful markets, on an annual basis the regional office of India Tourism in Dubai organises various promotional activities such as tourism road shows, food festivals, medical seminars, among others, in GCC countries.
Rao continued: “Some of the countries, particularly the UAE, the KSA, Oman, Yemen, Bahrain, Egypt and Turkey have registered a significant growth and are emerging as major tourism generating markets for India from this region.”
But medical and wellness tourism aside, what else attracts MENA to India? Answering just this was general manager, The Zuri Kumarakom, Kerala Resort & Spa, Sarat Valsraj: “Monsoon season is a major attraction for the MENA region that drives business to the resort for the period of July to September, with occupancy levels of 75 per cent from the region.”
And in an effort to cater to the discerning needs of these markets, Valsraj told TTG that the resort offers Arabic menus, in-room Qiblas and Arabic speaking staff, while commenting that Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait and Qatar show the most interest.
SHARING THE MAGIC
In a bid to further stimulate tourism from MENA, India has various strategies in place to spread the word and educate travel and tourism entities on what this eclectic country has to offer.
First and foremost, accessibility to the country has been streamlined, benefiting travellers and ensuring a hassle-free experience.
Rao elaborated to TTG:” [Last year] the e-Tourist Visa [was] made available for citizens of 76 countries, and this has proved to be a game changer for Indian tourism. In Q1 of 2015 around 75, 859 tourists arrived in India by availing the e-Tourist Visa facility, registering a growth of 1198.7 per cent over the same period of the year 2014.
“From the UAE there was an increase of 1.8 per cent in the tourist traffic to India during Q1 after the launch of the e-Tourist Visa to UAE nationals,” he said. But also facilitating this tourism traffic, is the development of further air links.
Referring to this was director of sales and marketing, Park Hyatt Hyderabad, Mausam Bhattacharjee: “Airline connectivity is gradually increasing and there are more than 40 flights per week from the UAE alone. Besides this, there are daily direct flights from Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.”
Adding to these beneficial developments, Tourism India has been implementing key initiatives to cover areas such as infrastructure development, promotion and marketing, familiarisation trips, skill development, use of technology for service delivery and the promotion of safe and honourable tourism.
Finally, on a mission to better inform not just MENA, but the whole world on India’s vast tourism portfolio, Tourism India is redeveloping its website to showcase all tourism related services in a unique way.
Rao declared: “Virtual Walking Tours have been introduced in which users get 360-degree views of the destination. They can access, tag and review points of interests, and also view the interiors of several key locations.”
The website now facilitates the booking of domestic air tickets, train tickets, bus tickets, hotel rooms and tour packages, and offers various other useful features.
Rao concluded by sharing that the Ministry of Tourism is also in the process of having its promotional website translated into Arabic, as well as simplified Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Russian and Spanish.
A healthy relationship with MENA and the introduction of these infallible initiatives, makes it inevitable that India’s strong bond with this region will further blossom.