The elephant is seducing the dragon at the Beijing Olympics.
India has leveraged the Games as a marketing venue for tourism, since there is a ready advertising audience of five lakh Olympics tourists and athletes in the capital this month.
Ji qing Yindu, deng ni lai: a passionate India waits for you, said the first-ever Incredible India jingle on Chinese radio on Monday. The 30-second jingle with an English voiceover by a Chinese radio jockey will run all week on a music channel popular among the Chinese youth and foreigners.
Since August 1, the Taj Mahal and south Indian dancers gleam at 20 busy subway stations in advertisements put up only for the Olympics. “Since Beijing has diverted transport from private vehicles to subways this month, we can reach a wider audience of Chinese and foreigners,” India Tourism Director Shoeb Samad told HT in his Beijing office that opened in April on the 29th floor of a luxury high-rise.
Travel brochures, yoga booklets and the tourism website are in Mandarin. But the office pantry stocks chai, Haldiram snacks and Maggi noodles for Chinese visitors who attend Know-India seminars conducted in English and Mandarin.
Together, India and China make up almost 40 per cent of the world’s population, but India is a little-understood nation inside its largest trade partner. Last year, about 4.62 lakh Indians visited China, but only around 90,000 Chinese visited India — up from 1,371 Chinese in 1981 and 62,000-odd in 2006.
Most Beijingers have not heard of Mumbai but they enjoy Bollywood dances played on Indian restaurant screens. “Only 20 per cent of my Chinese clients visiting India are tourists. The rest are businessmen,” says Vivek Prabhakar, chief representative of Travel Network Services, Beijing.
Prabhakar says most Chinese hit the Delhi-Agra-Jaipur belt, but his office is now introducing them to Kerala. Mumbai-Ajanta-Ellora is next on India’s marketing list, along with Bodh Gaya and Nalanda to target Chinese Buddhists.
Samad’s whiteboard displays lists of Beijing’s international schools. He has met six principals to market study tours to India and more meetings are lined up in Beijing and Shanghai.
For India, budget does not seem an issue for this venture. The Tourism office has sponsored 18 Chinese travel agents to fly to Hyderabad for a conference next month. Online contests are planned, with free air ticket rewards.
The hardsell also relies on gold embroidered zardozi. Several unstitched lehengas were sent from Delhi — as tablecloths — for the Indian Embassy’s Olympics party held last weekend.