Punjab feels proud of the holy city that welcomes visitors from across the world. Though visitors arrive with lots of expectations and plans to explore Amritsar, on reaching here, their smiling faces turn gloomy and sad when they are not able to get even the basic information regarding the city in an efficient and easy manner.
The reasons are whimsical, as firstly, there are no directions to reach the tourist information centres and the staff deployed there are not competent enough to answer the questions of international tourists. Simply opening the doors of tourist information centres and flooding them with maps cannot help tourists.
The government's department of tourism had opened three such centres few years ago, one each at railway station, Golden Temple and Wagah border and till now no directions and signs have been installed to help visitors reach these offices.
Shockingly, many locals too have no idea about the existence of tourist information centres and similar is the case with most visitors. The centres do not have multi-lingual staff as a result European tourists especially Germans, French and Italians have to suffer.
After the HT team visited the tourist offices at the railway station and Golden Temple and brought to the notice of the officials the lack of signs and directions, their standard reply was that the tourism department is planning to add these signs. The most basic action that could have been performed during the time of opening of these centres has not been performed so far.
According to district tourist officer Balraj Singh Kang, "The information centres remain open between 9am to 5pm where tourists are helped in the best possible manner." However, as per a survey done by the HT team the reality is opposite. The information centre at Golden Temple remains closed on Sundays when there is maximum rush of tourists, whereas the centres at railway station and the Wagah border remain closed on Mondays.
Anneeth Kaur Hundle, a research associate in anthropology at Makerere University in Uganda who is in Amritsar on a short visit with the family, had no idea if tourist offices existed in the city albeit she visits here each year.
"My colleagues have also been to Amritsar several times and they also never came across a tourist information office here. This shows that department of tourism is inefficient and they need to take a cue from tourism departments of countries like Singapore or Switzerland," says Hundle.
"The famous saying associated with India that here guest is god does not seem to hold true in Amritsar since the city is filthy despite being a tourist hub. If we clean up or decorate our home when we have to receive guests, why not our city? Are tourists to the city not guests of the city?" adds Hundle.
The tourist board can perform well only if hotel professionals are involved in the team as they can manage tourism in a better and professional manner
Rajan Gill, MD, Radisson BLU, Amritsar
Directions must be marked to reach any tourist information centre and deployment of quality staff with right qualities is a must, who can assist tourists from any part of the world
Anneeth Kaur Hundle, international visitor
The tourist information officials must have a uniform and must have knowledge of many languages
Vikram Singh, marketing director, Hyatt, Amritsar
Trained and multilingual staff, including guides, is required like other famous tourist destinations of the world
Dilkiran Kaur, topper in tourism management course, 2013, BBK DAV College, Amritsar
We are making best possible efforts to help tourists through information centres
Balraj Singh Kang, district tourist officer