Other day I was reading the interview of a top Indian bureaucrat. The gentleman – let him call Mr. X – has been a top official with the Central Tourism Ministry under Government of India (GOI), has been involved with the famous “Incredible India” campaign, and is considered to be a top destination marketing expert of the country.
During the interview Mr. X has said something that is very significant. We all Indians take pride in the diverse tourist attractions of India, such as mountains, jungles, sea and desert. It is the presence of so many natural features that has made India such a colourful tourist destination.
However, Mr X has said that it is this multifaceted “destination personality” of India that has made it so difficult to promote India abroad as a tourist destination. And why is India’s multifaceted personality – resulting from her diversity – a problem in promoting the country as a favoured tourist destination? Because it makes it difficult to make a proper “branding” of India. You will fail to decide how you will brand India – as a country of mountains, jungles, sea beaches, or anything else. Collective promotion of all the features robs every feature of its due glaze, making it look much less insignificant and attractive than actually what it is. The target audience comes to know about all the features present in this land, and fails to notice the speciality of any of them.
I understand what Mr. X has said. It is true. Whenever we think of a country, there is a certain geographical feature that comes in our mind, such as snow clad mountains in the case of Switzerland, savannah and wild beasts when we think of Kenya, blue ocean and golden sea beaches when we think of Mauritius or Caribbean Islands, and so on. But just try to think of India, and soooooo many features come into your mind, leaving you both thrilled and confused. (The irony of having too many?)
Well, my humble self has a small suggestion, and I feel that the Tourism Ministry already has this idea in its mind.
Since the plentiness of India’s geographical features is creating a branding problem, then why do not we go for “customized branding” in the context of the country where we are promoting our motherland?
For example, when we are trying to promote India in Switzerland, then it is stupid to talk about the beautiful snow-clad mountains that we have, because that will understandably fail to woo the Swiss people. So we should tell them about precisely all those features that they do not have – the desert of Rajasthan, the golden beaches of Goa and Andaman & Nicobar Islands, etc. Similarly, while promoting India in Mauritius and Caribbean Islands it is meaningless to talk about the golden beaches of Goa and Andaman, but highlighting our mountains and jungles (with rich wildlife) will be a great idea. And again, trying to woo the people from countries like Kenya and Tanzania through our jungles and wildlife will be a foolish plan, but they can be enthused to visit our land by talking about the mountains and sea beaches (yes, these countries have beautiful Kilimanjaro, but they will always find visiting Himalayas a good idea).
We can make customized promotion in terms of our “soft assets”, as well. For example, Buddhism is so popular in some countries like Japan, Thailand and Sri Lanka. We can promote India in these countries (the Tourism Ministry is already doing it) by promoting those Indian spots that have strong links with that religion. This will certainly draw a number of tourists from these countries, and that is already happening actually.
I think the Tourism Ministry has already taken some steps in line with customized marketing. It is only that they have to take the concept more seriously.