Tourism facilities are typically designed to cater to outsiders. Tourists visiting prime destinations, looking for plushest of hotels or budget Bed and Breakfasts, consulting online portals for sightseeing options and smart tips— the vacation scene is pretty similar across the world.
New York is no exception. With a record 54.3 million tourists last year, the big Apple was packed with travellers from across the world. But that didn’t satisfy the city’s tourist managers. So who was not visiting New York enough? Apparently, reported City Labs news portal, it was New Yorkers themselves.
So, NYC & Company, the city’s official tourism marketing organisation, has launched a new campaign — See Your City — urging locals to visit their own backyards. “We want to give New Yorkers a new perspective, start thinking of the more than 250 New York City neighborhoods as 250 opportunities to travel,” read the press note issued earlier this month. Selling New York City to New Yorkers, the campaign is promoted through ads on bus shelters, taxicabs, and frequent posts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Our own Delhi can’t beat New York in terms of tourist traffic but gets its fair share. Last year, the capital got 2.3 million tourists, which was 11.5% of the total volume India attracted. Delhi is placed at the centre of the Golden Triangle tourist circuit. It is a short drive from India’s top hill stations. Of course, many treat the city as a transit destination and the capital also hosts frequent sarkari and business day-trippers.
But for those who stay longer, Delhi has a lot on offer. With 174 national monuments including three UNESCO listed heritage sites, and more than 1,000 culturally important places, ours is one the world’s oldest living cities. Its museums and art galleries boast of some of the best collections and travelling exhibitions. The Aravalli Ridge and the many bio-diversity parks have the most amazing flora and fauna. But how many Delhiites visit these places, unless one is escorting visiting relatives and friends on a sight-seeing city tour? Does the absence of Delhiites on its tourist circuit bother our tourism managers at all?
It is not just the obvious touristy draws. Most residents know very little about neighbourhoods other than their own. In Delhi, we are happy to live in silos. Between Lutyens’ Bungalows, upscale neighbourhoods, middle class DDA and ‘builder’ flats, the working-class unauthorised colonies and urban villages, Delhiites exist pretty much in compartments.
The Metro may have provided better connectivity to some parts of this vast city, but how many actually use the mass transit for exploring Delhi? Most of us travel to work, attend classes, shop in malls, socialise in Connaught Place or Khan Market and, occasionally, to eat out in Old Delhi. Yes, weekends see massive crowds at India Gate and families picnicking at the Lodhi Gardens. But then, Delhi’s outdoor activities are limited to select parks, lawns and, of course, Dilli Haats.
Incidentally, the American concept of staycation — vacation in one’s own city— is a trend picking up in Delhi. Checking into a five-star hotel offering off-season discounts, families love to experience the pleasure of fine dining, spa, pool and 24x7 room service. But not many combine it with exploring the city’s monuments, forests, theatres or simple walks down those lanes through the city’s many heritage clusters and traditional bazaars.
October to February is promoted as Delhi’s peak tourist season. This winter, while we better resolve to start exploring the many Delhis the city holds in one, the tourism department should also widen its marketing pitch to include local tourists. Pitched well, the otherwise defunct hop-on-hop-off buses could be a big pull. The DMRC could promote unusual destinations and interesting neighbourhoods on its metro map. The city is a lot more than any of us knows it to be. And it’s fun, even easy on the pocket, to feel away at home.