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Brand India

Twenty-eight states should be treated as twenty-eight countries.’ In another context, it could have invited a charge of sedition. Shalini Singh writes.

india Updated: Jun 25, 2011 23:48 IST
Shalini Singh

Twenty-eight states should be treated as twenty-eight countries.’ In another context, it could have invited a charge of sedition. But this was Piyush Mathur, MD of Nielson south Asia (a top global information and measurement company) making a case for ‘selling’ India’s hinterland at last year’s advertising festival in Goa. Several states have already taken the cue. ‘Old’ destinations such as Goa and Kerala are trying new ideas to get in more pleasure-seekers. Learning from others and emboldened by the success of the Incredible India campaign, even states such as Bihar are making a stronger than ever pitch. There is reason to believe the states. According to the UK-based World Travel and Tourism Council, India will be a tourist hotspot till 2020. The states have begun to aggressively promote themselves of late:mega bucks tourism campaigns by top-notch advertising agencies, Bollywood stars as brand ambassadors, big budget documentary films showcasing the sites are in the pipeline. Brand India has been emerging in a spanking new avtaar since 2002. It was also the year when Incredible India (I.I.) — the R1000 crore campaign promoting tourism in India was launched by the ministry of tourism. The campaign’s creative head, V Sunil of W+K Delhi, says, "We started post 9/11,when the travel industry was in a bad shape as people didn’t want to come to Asia. The idea was to remove India’s clichéd impression as the land of snake charmers." Adds Amitav Kant, ex-joint secretary of the tourism ministry, "India is bigger than 23 countries of Europe, the states need to create their brand identities to penetrate global markets."

“We’re following the typical brand extension cycle of products and services in the tourism industry, where India is the mother brand and the states are the ‘variants’, each one with its uniqueness,” says Ajay Macaden, director of travel & hospitality at Nielson. Here are some of the states that are dressing up.

Jammu & Kashmir

Brand ambassador: Last year, rumours of two former beauty queens, the unknown Sindhura Gadde and popular actor Priyanka Chopra, did the rounds, but neither was selected.

Promotion plans: The new policy will emphasise on developing infrastructure. Gulmarg is getting a new golf circuit, idea being to make Kashmir a ‘golfers paradise’. Heritage tourism is being pushed in Srinagar by developing forts and old grandeur of residential homes. The state is cashing in on all seasons: trekking, motor rallies, water and winter sports in winter, spring as the tulips season with Asia’s largest tulip garden being expanded and summers for domestic travellers. There are also plans to start ‘nomad tourism’ where people travel with nomads in Kashmir and Ladakh. A cable car project is underway as well as a Buddhist sites circuit development from Srinagar to Baramulla in the north.

Budget allocation: R50 crore to create facilities in the old city for tourists.

Tourist inflow: From 4-5 lakh in 2006 to a ‘record-breaking’ 7.2 lakh (excluding 4 lakh pilgrims) in 2009 for Kashmir despite five months of unrest.

— Toufiq Rashid

Northeast

Brand ambassadors: Assam, inspired by Gujarat, is still undecided over which Bollywood star to bring in, while Tripura is caught between ‘homeboy’ tennis star Somdev Dev Barman and cricketer Sourav Ganguly.

Budgets: The eight NE states — Arunachal Pradesh (AP), Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura — have been allocated R430 crore up to 2010-11, up by R120 crore of the earlier four fiscals. Nagaland has given Rs 11 crore for rural tourism and promoting model villages.

Tourist inflow: Sikkim has been a favourite, with tourist numbers increasing by 10% every year. Assam had more domestic tourists in the last few years given its geographical advantage. The jump is due to relaxation of protected area regime from Sikkim and Arunachal, and downturn in militancy.

Campaigns: Most govts are yet to come out of the typical ‘sarkari’ festival moulds. The better projects are being promoted by private players or cooperatives. Meghalaya depends on the Meghalaya Tourism Development Forum, a body of businessmen, adventurers, tour operators and hoteliers that develops new destinations, like the strawberry growing village of Sohliya. And the cooperative Young Mission Adventure Club is developing three villages in AP with help from NABARD along on the lines of Sikkim Village Tourism.

— Rahul Karmakar

Uttarakhand

Brand ambassador: Actor Hema Malini for the Sparsh Ganga campaign and cricketer Mahendra Singh Dhoni was made ambassador for Corbett National Park that turned 75 last year.

The road ahead: To target high end tourists. The state has two airports at Dehradun and Pantnagar. The latter became functional this month. But air connectivity is still an issue. Two more airstrips at Pithoragarh and Chilyanisaur are in very bad shape. “Air strips are lying unused. The state needs to promote community tourism and strengthen infrastructure,” says Pankaj Sah, tourism expert.

Rs 50 crore have been earmarked for redeveloping Naini Saini airstrip at Pithoragarh reveals an official.

Tourist inflow: 1.5 crore tourists during the state creation in 2000 which increased to 2.3 crores in 2010.

Other plans: The state’s also pushing for a separate tourism and adventure university in Pithoragarh.

— Anupam Trivedi

Bihar

Brand Ambassador: Tourism minister Sunil Kumar 'Pintu' says that chief minister Nitish Kumar is the sole brand ambassador for Bihar tourism.

Future plans: Being the centre of Buddhism, tourists visit places like Bodh Gaya. The state is set to embark on an aggressive campaign like Incredible India to showcase its history and sign up with a channel for a documentary.

Tourist inflow and budget: In 2009, Bihar became India’s party destination with 4.2 lakh foreign tourists, compared to Goa’s 3.7 lakh. Foreign tourists went up by 50% in 2010 since 2008, domestic travellers by 12%.— Vijay Swaroop

West Bengal

Building the brand: The tourism department has recently roped in O&M, the agency behind the popular Madhya Pradesh tourism’s Hindustan Ka Dil Dekho campaign and Gujarat’s ads with Amitabh Bachchan. “Like Kerala’s God’s Own Country, WB has come up with Beautiful Bengal,” says state tourism minister Manab Mukherjee.

Tourism budget: The state has allocated Rs 120 crore for tourism over the next two years and more is needed, say tourism department officials.

The hitch: In Delhi, there are 285 tour operators registered with the government, while in Bengal, there are only three.

Tourist inflow: In 2009, WB ranked 5th among foreign tourists and 9th among domestic tourists with over 2.05 crore domestic travellers every year.

- Joydeep Thakur

Karnataka

Branding: It has of late branded itself as ‘Mini Incredible India’ and as the country’s fourth most popular destination with 5 lakh foreign tourists annually. The largest number of ayurveda and integrated medicine centres make it a top spot for medical tourism.

Vision and budget: The state is making tourism its largest economic activity. Budget has increased from Rs 15 crore to Rs 250 crore aiming to be among the top two destinations in the country by 2016-17.

Next in line: Heli-tourism is set to start, with four circuits and 20 helipads. Forest and tourism departments are using the mystic life of forest brigand Veerappan to woo tourists to jungles of the Charmarajnagar district in the south. The move is similar to Rajasthan’s to offer tourists a taste of Chambal ravines and interaction with surrendered dacoits. Construction of eco-tourism facilities with an investment of Rs 104.43 lakh is ongoing in Veerapan’s village.

— Salil Mekkad

Madhya Pradesh

The ad that worked: After two earlier campaigns, MP tourism has landed a winner with the latest one. It showcases the state through the dying art of shadowgraphy. The voice-over is by homegrown actor Raghuveer Yadav and the shadowgraphy is performed by a Kolkata-based group, the only team performing shadowgraphy professionally in Asia. The state now plans to launch it in English to target the domestic market — the fastest growing for them. The jingle, MP ajab hai, sabse gajab hai, has recently started airing on FM radio channels.

The state used to promote: with its previous campaign Hindustan ka Dil Dekho through a bio-scope ad. On the anvil is ‘caravan tourism’, ‘Safari Madhya Pradesh’, ‘Go Camping’, and ‘Bed and Breakfast Scheme’.

Tourism budget: R50 crore has been spent in the last five years with the shadowgraphy campaign costing R5 crore.

Tourist inflow: From 2006 to Sept 2010, 9.6 lakh domestic and 10.6 lakh foreign tourists. Officials maintain that on an average the state registers 5-10% increase in tourists every year.

— Gaurav Chandra

Rajasthan

Brand focus: Rajasthan is now looking to become an adventure and rural tourism destination after being popular for its forts and royalty. The new ad campaign launched in mid 2009 with the tagline, Get Carried Away, aims to encompass all that the state has to offer.

Drawing in the crowds: The focus is on domestic tourists who comprise 95 percent of the target audience. The state has introduced desert safaris and hot air balloons. While the balloons will travel to various cities in the state, the desert safari on all terrain bikes has started in Jaisalmer. To promote rural tourism, a model village costing Rs 50 lakh each is being developed in each district over the next five years. Events like the Jaipur Literary festival have added to its tourist attraction.

Tourism allocation and inflow: The budget has been hovering around R25 crore for the last few years, with a 10% hike being sought every year. Foreign arrivals have gone up by 20% last year.

—Urvashi Rawal

Gujarat

Brand ambassador: The country’s biggest celebrity Amitabh Bachchan was roped in last year.

Price tag: The half a dozen advertisements under the Khushboo Gujarat Ki campaign on air since the last six months featuring the Big B cost the state around Rs 40 crore. The state government says tourist inflow has increased by 40 per cent in recent months after airing this campaign.

The state has been pushing: Festivals like the 10-day Navratri (USP — Garba), Uttrayan (kite-flying) and remote locations like the south Gujarat tribal concentrated Dangs.

Now it is also promoting: Buddhism and golf tourism, perhaps taking a cue from Bihar and Kashmir respectively. The state is also looking to increase capacity in terms of infrastructure and carving out new destinations like six odd beaches on the lines of Mandvi.

— Prasad Nichenametla

Goa

Brand icon: Popular TV actor Prachi Desai was roped in last year to target the younger segment in the domestic market.

Price tag: The state spends Rs 18 crores annually on tourism. Desai was paid Rs 3 crore.

Tourist inflow: Last season saw a 15-20% increase compared to the previous year.

The state has been promoting: Goa’s famed beaches have long established its primary identity as India’s party destination.

Now it’s also pushing: Heritage sites, forests and backwaters. Goa’s being pitched as a holiday destination to European countries and the east including Japan, focussing on the ‘young traveller’. It also plans to tie-up with neighbouring states such as Karnataka and Rajasthan to have their ‘own circuit’.

— Shalini Singh

Kerala

First in line: Kerala was one of the first to brand itself, in 1989, with the tagline God’s Own Country. Its recent campaign Your Moment Is Waiting was launched last year costing Rs 7 crore for two months.

Now it’s also pushing: Untouched Malabar in the north and branding itself as an ‘intellectual destination’. The Hay Literary Festival will have a permanent venue here, while its International Film Festival is gaining popularity. Legendary German filmmaker Werner Herzog was the chief guest in 2010. “The state has all potential to become an intellectual destination,” opined writer and MP Shashi Tharoor, who is working overtime for twining Thiruvananthapuram with Barcelona.

Tourist inflow: Kerala’s share in the country’s tourism went up from 9 percent in 2005 to 11 percent in 2008, and tourists went up by nearly 30 percent.

— Ramesh Babu