New flavours in India’s platter

India Tourism is pulling out all stops to make the India experience incredible. MOT is showcasing new flavours and experiences among tourists, trade operators and agents. Suman Billa, Joint Secretary, MOT, tells TRAVTALK more.

Peden Doma Bhutia

Q The India stall at this year’s ITB Berlin had a few new elements such as virtual reality. What are the various media used to engage more people to raise awareness about the country?

It is about the experience we give our visitors, we realise that when people come to a trade fair they come for business but we also feel the need to make it lively and attractive, to give them a flavour of what it is like to be in India. The virtual reality piece is something that we have created because India is very popular for certain elements and so it’s also something fun to do for people and perhaps click a selfie. That’s not all, it also helps us to keep a track of people as once they have taken the picture they need to log in to our social media platform from where they can retrieve the picture. So, it’s a good way to create a database of trade operators who come here. It’s also a good way for us to get a list of the attendees and of course the ones who are interested in the India market. This year at ITB Berlin we had a lot more cultural performances, a yoga programme and some fun activities involving Bollywood. One of the things we did this year is to ask states to bring their artists to these fairs where we have created a platform for them to perform.

Q How do such fairs help promote a country as varied and big as India. What’s the difference between roadshows and fairs?

Fairs are important from the point of view of retaining connectivity with those we do business with, because it’s important for you to come face to face with your business partners. It’s a good way to connect with them but fairs also tend to be very busy as the buyers have several competing meetings to attend. One needs to evolve a combination of trade fairs where we retain business and continue with client base but we also need to do roadshows where we bring in new business. The roadshow format is more suitable for getting new business.

Q India has a lot of bad press to fight when it comes to safety and security. How is the Ministry of Tourism working to correct this image?

This concern was very live three years ago but now I don’t think this issue exists as prominently as it did before. Firstly, we have appointed a PR agency now. All the 100 positive things that happen in India go unreported, but when one bad thing happens gets prominence, so we are working with the PR agency to look at all positive things that happen in India, especially with regards to women. That’s a perspective that people need to get about India.

Secondly, we have strong social media handles in which we are propagating these messages, we also have an Incredible India EU handle.

And thirdly, last year we got a DRV workshop, DRV is the largest tour and travel agent association in Germany. We flew in 60 people from Germany into India and divided them into four groups – East, West, North and South. We told them to travel, go around and then come back to Delhi and have a debriefing. Once back, they unanimously said that the India they saw is nothing like what they had in mind, and that’s exactly what we wanted. We didn’t want them to sell it because we are asking them to, we wanted them to experience the real India. We are planning such exercises with other countries as well.

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