Ask a foreigner who has visited Delhi about what is there to see in Delhi and all you’ll get is a blank. This is because for years and years, Delhi has been just a transit point for the foreign tourists who are headed to otehr destinations.
The domestic traveller, meanwhile, hardly spends a day or two in the Capital and then moves on to some other location.
But all this is going to change. See Graphics
'Junction city' is soon going to be upgraded to a 'destination'.
And bringing this about is the official motto of the Commonwealth Games—Welcome to the historic city of Delhi.
With 174 centrally protected heritage monuments and hundreds of smaller monuments, dozens of museums, traditional showcases like Chandni Chowk offering a typical ethnic shopping and food experience and a number of architecturally magnificient religious places, Delhi is emerging as a standalone, one-stop tourist destination.
Slowly, yet steadily, the number of visitors is increasing. As many as 10.93 lakh foreign tourists came to Delhi last year.
For the Commonwealth Games, the authorities are expecting at least 1 lakh tourists. And this increase in tourists has a direct bearing on the city's commerce.
"As it is Chandni Chowk is a popular hub. During the Games, the number is bound to increase. This will directly help the traditional artisans and craftsman in the walled city," said Mansoor Hasan Siddiqui, general secretary of Shahjahani Dilli RWA.
Tourists during a mega-sporting event always benefits the host city. More than a year after the Athens Olympics Games 2004, Games' chief organizer Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki had confessed that Greece was still reaping the event's benefits.
Greece saw a jump of 15 per cent in tourism and Athens 20 per cent increase, she claimed adding, "Employment kept rising partly due to the jump in tourism."
People in the tourism industry already have plans. Vijay Thakur, president of Indian Association of Tour Operators, says, "We are planning not just tours around Delhi but also heritage walks in Delhi."
From India Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC) to Delhi Tourism to small time hotel operators, every single agency is busy getting rooms ready for the tourists.
While ITDC is trying for a capacity addition of 5,000 three-star rooms apart from its three big-draw hotels, the Delhi government that is augmenting this with a Bed & Breakfast service.
"This is for the first time that efforts are being made to cater to basic issues like meeting of shortage of hotel rooms. Already 1,300 rooms are available under the Bed & Breakfast scheme. We are expecting more," Delhi Travel and Transportation Development Corporation (DTTDC) Managing Director Rina Ray said.
Brand Delhi is what is being marketed. And Delhiites are expected to participate in this completely.
"We plan to go in for a big advertising campaign from September asking the Delhiites to participate actively in the Games. At the same time, the
campaign will be aimed at attracting not just international and domestic tourists but also Delhiites themselves," Ray said.
Earlier last week, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, too, had taken a similar stand. "Our city is already a green city, we can now make it a clean city. No amount of planning without the people's participation can succeed."
The authorities are confident. As Ray put it, "We need to roll it out and iron out all the problems by the end of the September."