While many Indians are travelling overseas, the real opportunity lies in our own backyard with domestic tourism poised to grow exponentially. This was the theme of the seventh ADTOI annual convention against the backdrop of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh By Steena Joy
It was with a purpose that the Association of Domestic Tour Operators of India (ADTOI) organised its seventh annual convention in Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh (MP). What better reason than to showcase a temple city, known for its exquisite and world famous sculptures. Speaking at the opening ceremony, guest of honour, Nagendra Singh, Member of Parliament, Khajuraho, said, “India is a small part of global tourism so we have to work harder. Even countries smaller than ours are attracting more tourists than us. If we offer better facilities for domestic tourists, it will automatically benefit the international tourist. We need good roads, good buses, good connectivity and good airports like the new Khajuraho airport because even domestic tourists are now flying.”
Singh opined, “I have visited some tourist places which are in such a bad state that we are better off not showing them to tourists. We have to also develop unknown places as tourist destinations. Don’t make stereotypes of destinations. Instead work on the strengths and ethos of each destination. Here human ingenuity is the need of the hour. I am having difficulty in convincing airlines for connectivity. Air India has agreed to operate direct flights from Delhi between October to April. We have to convince them for a longer duration. We have also spoken to other airlines for connectivity from Kolkata, Mumbai and Hyderabad.” He also informed that the Patna to Chattarpur Road will be ready before the coming peak tourist season.
The road ahead
Dr Venu V, former secretary, Kerala Tourism said, “I have seen the birth of ADTOI. The association has gained in strength and members. Recently on a vacation, I took a road trip to Orchha, Gwalior and onward to Rajasthan. I would say that 90 per cent of the roads were of international standard. This is a big change. India is at the cusp of international quality roads and domestic tourism is set to explode. Using such good roads, Khajuraho is only a six hour journey from Delhi, so it becomes a weekend destination. This is the exciting new future for India’s domestic tourism. I congratulate Madhya Pradesh, the host state, for always firmly focusing on the potential of domestic tourism. We should move away from old traditional packages and innovate.” He believes that tourism should become knowledge based. “Knowledge should become more and more relevant in the tourism mindspace. ADTOI is a powerful forum for discussing the creation of new tourism products” he said.
Tanvi Sundriyal, assistant managing director, Madhya Pradesh State Tourism Development Corporation (MPSTDC), was optimistic about the future of domestic tourism, especially in her state. “We received six National Tourism Awards in one go last year! We want investors/ entrepreneurs to come to MP. We have the willingness to support a simple land allotment policy. Only Rs one lakh is the reserve price for heritage properties and a 90 year lease is granted. Three heritage hotels will soon become functional.”
Domestic = Winning strategy
Vinod Zutshi, tourism secretary, Government of India, felt that Khajuraho is a must experience must visit place. He said, “It matches our National Tourism Policy. Pehle Swadesh, Phir Videsh. Domestic tourism is on the upswing and a billion + tourists is a do able proposition. Focusing on domestic tourism will be a winning strategy for India. Religious tourism forms a mainstay of domestic tourism. The ministry’s role is to be a proactive facilitator and handholder to the private sector.”
Jyoti Kapur, president, ADTOI, was clear about the association’s mandate. “We have to push domestic tourism. That is why we decided to organise our convention in Khajuraho. We wanted to promote this spiritually and culturally rich destination. This is a great platform to showcase this temple city and the nearby attractions like Raneh Falls, Panna National Park, etc. ADTOI aims to generate employment and tap local talent, strengthen tourism infrastructure and preserve our culture.”
The convention also witnessed several informative and thought provoking business sessions which were conducted with industry experts on the panel. During the session on Domestic Tourism: Managing the next billion, Hari Ranjan Rao, managing director, MPSTDC said, “A billion + opportunities will come only if we think innovative every time, everywhere. Recently we invited several wedding planners to develop Orchha as a wedding destination. We held the Jal Mahotsav to unlock the potential of water bodies in the state. Most of the islands we have are part of forest land, so we could not exploit them for tourism. But we realised that this problem can be resolved through special permissions from the District Forest Office. So now we plan to invite the private sector to unlock this potential. Besides, when we talk about a billion + tourists, we need to worry about sustainability and carrying capacity of a place. Capacity building in tourism sector is grossly neglected.”