The Indian government has seemingly not made full utilization of the rich Sports Tourism potential that this country is fortunate to enjoy. Given the fact that India enjoys a highly rich geographical diversity, there is little wonder that we witness the practice of such a vast range of sports on our soil – ranging from skiing in the snow covered Himalayan regions to water sports like scuba diving and snorkeling in the coastal regions.
And this vast range of sports opportunities offers a great destination marketing proposition to the “Incredible India” campaigners, i.e. the mandarins of the Indian Tourism Ministry.
The Indian Tourism Ministry can use these sports facilities to lure a huge number of potential foreign tourists who are sports freak, and will love to practice their favourite games in an ideal locale. So the question is, does the Tourism Ministry promote and market these sports facilities properly among the potential target audience?
One can argue that these sports facilities are already well known among foreign tourists. After all, it is a common experience to find foreign tourists participating in skiing and trekking in Himachal Pradesh, scuba diving and snorkeling in Goa or Lakshwadeep, etc. Yes, it is true. But we must remember that most of these tourists come to India primarily for traveling, and avail these sports facilities on the sidelines of their travel (or as part of their travel). It is not that common to come across foreigners who have come down precisely to play these sports (though sometimes we ofcourse find foreigners to have come down for trekking, mountaineering, etc.).
Personally I feel that the Tourism Ministry should market these sports facilities very aggressively, with a special team having exclusive focus on this area. The Ministry should try to ensure that almost all foreign enthusiasts of relevant sports (skiing, scuba diving, snorkeling, etc.) not only come to know about these sports facilities, but also get enthused to come down to India simply to experience them.
For that the Ministry has to carefully craft very captivating marketing campaigns, which will unfailingly catch the fascination of the target audience. The Ministry should also be careful about marketing the right “product” to the right “potential customer”. For example, while marketing the skiing facilities in Himachal Pradesh, the Ministry can target the USA and the European countries, where people are known for their love for skiing. And while marketing water sports facilities like scuba diving and snorkeling, primary focus may be given on countries like Australia and New Zealand, where people are known to be passionate about water sports. It may be true that while marketing a geographical feature (such as mountains), our main focus should be on countries where people are not familiar with it (for example Singapore), and will therefore be thrilled to come to India to see the feature themselves. However, while marketing a sports facility we must focus mainly on the country where people are familiar with the sports, and can identify themselves with the same. In case they are not interested in the sports, they will not get enthused. (Just imagine marketing a gala Cricket Event in the USA).
Since Sports Tourism caters to a niche market, it is comparatively easier to formulate “cumulative” marketing and promotional campaigns covering a huge chunk of appropriate target audience at one go. For example, while marketing Goa-based scuba diving facilities in Australia, the Ministry can make a direct campaign at the scuba diving associations and organizations of Australia.
I suppose the Tourism Ministry should immediately form a special team exclusively focused on promoting and branding India as an ideal “Sports Destination”. And it should come up with various customized punch lines depending on the target audiences, such as “Himachal Pradesh – Your Ideal Skiing Destination” or “Goa – The Heaven of Scuba Diving”.