The following Article was published in "THE SUNDAY STANDARD" by By Vishakha Talreja on 30th Jun 2013
State of Incredible India gets new wings
More than a decade ago, then Kerala Tourism Development Board chairman Amitabh Kant branded the state ‘God’s Own Country’ and spun a winning tourism campaign around the theme, kicking off a trend in state tourism marketing. Today even Chhattisgarh—a state born at the turn of this century—has a focused campaign to promote tourism in the state, while Haryana, never top of the mind as a leisure destination, is hardselling the fact that its highways have a motel every 30 km.
There’s more: Andhra Pradesh has hiked its tourism marketing budget eight-fold, Tamil Nadu is promoting its lesser known gems like Yelagiri, Megamalai and Yercaud. Karnataka wants to attract more tourists from Asian countries, moving beyond the conventional source market and is planning road shows and advertising in those countries. With glossy ad campaigns, catchy taglines, high-profile ad agencies and brand ambassadors, the state tourism boards are trying every trick in the marketing book to woo domestic and foreign travelers.
Kerala too is out to promote its lesser-known destinations as well as to emphasize that it has something to offer everyone. “We first promoted Kerala as an upmarket tourist destination. Now to attract more tourists to North Kerala (which is not frequented by tourists like Kovalam and Allepey), we have started the ‘Wake Up to Malabar’ campaign. This promotes Bekal and Wayanad,” says tourism director S Harikishore.
Kerala Tourism has also unveiled a set of fresh theme-based commercials that depict “God’s Own Country in a new light”. Shot by filmmaker Santhosh Sivan, the TVCs depict the state’s core offerings of beaches, backwaters, culture, hill stations and ayurveda. The idea is to use different films to target the interests of different travel audiences, like Ayurveda in Europe and beaches in Russia.
In the same vein, Goa Tourism is promoting niche segments through its ‘Rediscovering Goa’ campaign. “We are promoting festival tourism, sports tourism and also monsoon tourism. So the pitches show Goa in a different light. For instance, during monsoon, we focus on activities like river rafting, kayaking, nature trails and waterfalls which are generally not associated with Goa,” explains Nikhil Desai, managing director, Goa Tourism Development Corporation.
Meanwhile, Tamil Nadu, which ranks second in foreign tourist arrivals and third in domestic tourist arrivals, is out to promote new destinations with its campaign not only from the business point of view but also for propagating eco-tourism. Its ‘Enchanting Tamil Nadu’ campaign has been running for 10 years now. “To ease the pressure on destinations like Ooty and Kodaikanal and to conserve their eco-system, we are promoting places like Yelagiri, Megamalai and Yercaud. Our special campaign to promote lesser known tourist centres has definitely helped us,” says its Commissionerate of Tourism. The state registered a 32 per cent increase in tourist footfall in 2011 and a 34 per cent increase in 2012.
Alongside new destinations, the states are also exploring new source markets. “Even though Europe is the biggest source market for us, we want to focus on US and North America and Asian countries to bring in more tourists,” says G Satyavati, director, Karnataka Tourism. The state with the tagline ‘One State, Many Worlds’ has Rs 10 crore as its publicity budget and an additional Rs 15 crore allotted from the ‘Special Development Plan’ to promote its backward districts.
Almost all the state boards are promoting niche tourism segments to woo more travellers—Haryana is promoting highway tourism while Goa, in a bid to become a 365-day destination, is marketing monsoon tourism. “It’s important that states develop a niche to promote and market themselves. We only have our busy highway to promote, so we are doing that,” says Sunil Bhatia, head, marketing, Haryana Tourism. The state has developed 42 resorts with a total room strength of 800 along its highways to earn revenue from tourists.
New kid on the block Chhattisgarh started its campaign, ‘Chhattisgarh- Full of Surprises’, five years ago. Chhattisgarh Tourism Board managing director Santosh Mishra calls his board the “start-up company of tourism” but says they’ve registered a 30 per cent growth in tourists. “Though we can’t say how much of this can be attributed to the marketing campaign, I can say for sure that now more people know about sites like the Chitrakoot waterfall and Bastar,” he says. The state has stepped up its tourism marketing budget by 20 per cent in the last one year.
Ogilvy and Mather’s executive creative director Ajay Gahlaut, who worked on the popular Incredible India campaign, says most states are focused on domestic travellers. For their part, the state tourism boards agree that domestic tourists are very much on their agenda, and says that’s because the segment is much bigger than the inbound travel segment. In 2011, according to the ministry of tourism, there were 851 million domestic tourist visits and only 19.5 million foreign ones.
Which, perhaps, explains why the tourism boards are opting for 360-degree domestic campaigns. Madhya Pradesh, which has ‘Heart of Incredible India’ as its tagline, has launched a video campaign that is being played in multiplexes before the new Hindi film Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani. “In spite of the ban on tiger tourism, we managed to increase our domestic tourist numbers by 20 per cent to 5.30 lakh last year. We saw an increase in foreign tourist arrivals too,” says Raghvendra Kumar Singh, managing director, Madhya Pradesh State Tourism. The state will spend `33 crore this fiscal on its marketing, up from 25 crore last fiscal.
However, tour operator Richa Goyal Sikri of Stic Travels points out that even though states are aggressively marketing themselves, “most travelers still don’t know how to go and buy a travel package for an emerging domestic destination”. Probably that’s what the state tourism boards need to focus on once they are done with their advertising campaigns.