Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan's campaign to promote tourism in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's home state, Gujarat, has seemingly inspired the Himachal Pradesh government, which now aims to rope in celebrity in order to boost the "sluggish" tourism industry in the state.
"The campaign, launched by Bachchan to promote tourism in Gujarat, has yielded rich dividends. We too have plans to rope in celebrities for promoting tourism in Himachal Pradesh," said Major Vijay Singh Mankotia, vice-chairman of the tourism development board, in an exclusive interview with HT.
Mankotia, who had recently held discussions with the Gujarat's tourism and civil aviation minister, Saurabh Bhai Patel, said, "I learnt that Bachchan's campaign had drawn tourist from across the country towards Gujarat in a huge number. Having a celebrity brand ambassador will be a rewarding investment for our state," said Mankotia, who was the tourism minister in the previous Congress regime. He added, "We still have to finalilise on the celebrity."
During the previous Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) regime the tourism department had approached Himachal-born Bollywood star Preity Zinta to become the brand ambassador. She had initially agreed to the offer, but later the move fell through. The government then had planned to rope in another state-born Bollywood actress Kangna Ranuat, who had expressed her willingness for the offer.
Meanwhile, Mankotia has said, "The proposal to rope in a brand ambassador will be kept before chief minister Virbhadra Singh, who also holds the tourism portfolio with him.
The decline in the number of tourists in the state has become a matter of concern for the state government as well as the hospitality industry, which has been struggling past three years. The catastrophic flood of Uttrakhand in 2013 has also hit the tourism industry in Himachal.
Fear in minds of visitors has resulted in less inflow of tourists. Another reason for the decline is poor air connectivity. There have been no flights for the state capital airport for the past three years and at Bhuntar airport in Kullu, the flights are irregular.
In 2013, there was a decrease of 32.33% in tourist arrival. The overall decline in 2013 was 6.30%. However, in 2014, the inflow increased to 7.83%. The dipping tourist inflow has been concerning the state government. What is adding to the worries of tourism department is that the number of foreign tourists visiting the state is declining over the years.
Tourist arrival (lakh)
Year Indian Foreigners Total
2005 69.28 2.08 71.36
2006 76.72 2.81 79.53
2007 84.82 3.39 88.21
2008 93.73 3.77 97.50
2009 110.37 4.01 114.38
2010 128.12 4.54 132.66
2011 146.05 4.84 150.89
2012 156.46 5 161.46
2013 147.16 4.14 151.30
2014 159.25 3.90 163.15