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Monday, 15 May, 2017, 16 : 17 PM [IST]

Atithi Devo Bhava?

I am amazed at the kind of tourism prowess displayed by a quaint city during a recent trade show abroad. At the annual feature of its country’s tourism showcase, Nuremberg, a German city popular for the Nazi trials ensured no visitor went back without being treated to its unique display of solidarity in promoting the tourism agenda. Each service provider of the destination and its local populace enthusiastically contributed in making the visitor experience rich, memorable and appreciable.

Such a gesture of joining of forces with a common aim to welcome more tourists to the country in particular and the region in general, is something that the government and citizens in India should take note of. During my interaction with the international exhibitors and visitors at the event about India, they showed an once-in-a-lifetime aspiration to visit this ‘colourful’ nation. In fact, I encountered two girls while taking a stroll in the local market who greeted me with a ‘Namaste’ on discovering my Indian lineage, while a local directed and accompanied another delegate to her hotel when she lost her way in the by lanes. Although all this adulation filled me with a sense of pride, I was left wondering if we as a nation are seriously making any efforts to extend hospitality beyond our hotels and the usual meet and greet? The answer is a clear no. When have we seen the entire city in unison to ensure a hassle-free experience for visitors from different parts of the world? So much so that the entire public transport system was involved in the process of transfer and transit of delegates to venues of various programmes across the three days of the event. On one of the occasions, the traffic signal on the road was brought to red for the smooth passage of the some 1,000-odd delegates to the venue.

One needs to understand that tourism is not the sole responsibility of the government, but needs to percolate down to the local community. Tourism is an industry where the involvement of the people of that destination is just as important as the destination itself, and that is the realisation that seems to have escaped most of our communities. The reality is we are not accustomed to the idea of tourism promotion beyond the government-level and the entire focus seems to be zeroed on only that fact. We run a number of advertisements on how to treat foreign guests, but the situation on the ground is quite different. The stray incidents of foreign students being manhandled in India and callous comments from some quarters of the higher echelons defeat the entire purpose of tourism promotion.

It is time we as a nation started taking the lead in caring for a foreign tourist rather than just preaching the ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’ mantra.

Disha Shah Ghosh
Chief Sub-Editor
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