New Delhi: Traditionally a lean season for the tourism industry in India, the ministry of tourism has been trying to change the perception about the monsoon season as being a season less suited for travel and sight seeing.
At a seminar organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), titled ''National Seminar on Monsoon Tourism'', Leena Nandan, joint secretary of the ministry of tourism said that the ministry is working with various states to develop promotional packages for monsoon season, which would be announced soon.
Nandan said that foreign tourist arrivals in India have increased by 14.3 per cent in 2007 in a year on year comparison with 2006, and therefore the time has come to try to attract tourists during the lean season as well.
We have to innovate to attract tourists during the monsoon period," she said adding, "prime packages that can be offered at this time are honeymoon packages, Ayurveda rejuvenation holidays, houseboat cruises and rain walks", she said.
Nandan said states need to have focussed plans in place for monsoon tourism aimed at stakeholders such as hoteliers and tour operators.
She pointed out that West Asia is good market for promoting monsoon tourism along with Europe and the United States.
"The marketing should be consumer oriented and activities should be planned during any monsoon package," she said, adding that the tourism ministry is already doing special promotions with the US Travel & Leisure magazine and vacation guide.
Madhya Pradesh Tourism taking the lead
Ashwani Lohani, managing director of Madhya Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (MPTDC), which was the co-sponsor of the seminar, said the state offered unexplored beauty that could be cashed in during the monsoon season.
Listing out the selling points to attract tourists during the monsoon, Lohani said, "good roads are a must if we have to get tourists during this rainy season." He pointed out that roads in MP have improved appreciably during the last four years.
"Another important thing is good signages," he said adding, "we have put 150 signages along the major highways and our plan is to increase the number to 400 and cover all major roads." He said that the signages are colour coded, and a tourist would be able to make out whether the place is a wildlife sanctuary or a heritage site, etc. basis the colour.
Lohani also said that the state of Madhya Pradesh is planning to set up a 24x7 control room to aid distressed tourists. He said the four cities of Bhopal, Indore, Gwalior and Jabalpur had leveraged mobile phone technology to help and inform tourists about different tourism sites in those cities. Lohani advocated tax incentives during monsoon season to attract more tourists.
In his welcome address, former tourism secretary M P Bezbaruah said that the magic of the monsoon rains can be a major tourist attraction in India.
"For this," he said, "imaginative packaging is the key as monsoon is the season that fires imagination."
Bezbaruah said that good packaging can help India to overcome the lean season, which "has many positives like lush green environs, filled up water bodies, etc."
Goa has the first mover advantage
Subhash Goyal, chairman of Stic Travels Pvt Ltd, pointed out in his concluding remarks that Goa was the first Indian state to promote tourism during the monsoon season.
"Today, Goa hotels have 100 per cent occupancy during this period," he said.
Goa's monsoon initiatives, coupled with successful monsoon promotions by Kerala highlighting Ayurveda packages shows that it is possible dispense with the traditional lean season.
The states of Kerala, Uttarakhand and Assam also shared information about monsoon tourism initiatives taken by them.