A star treatment for tourists, in Gujarat

Virendra Pandit | Updated on November 23, 2017 Published on September 29, 2013

Narendra Modi

Amitabh Bachan

Amitabh Bachchan, Narendra Modi have successfully sold the story of the State as a tourism destination

Both of them are the ‘mega-stars’ of their domains, each with a huge fan following.

They both are tech-savvy and know how to use the latest gizmos as force-multipliers. They both overcame initial setbacks to soar to stratospheric levels.

Branding with big names

As Amitabh Bachchan hosts the seventh edition of Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC), Narendra Modi is challenging New Delhi with a probable Aur Kaun Banega Pradhan Mantri? The former is the Brand Ambassador of Gujarat Tourism, the latter is, in his own way, branding and marketing Gujarat to his political constituency across India. Therefore, when they came together in 2010 to promote tourism in Gujarat, the results were rather predictable.

Tourism is basically a service industry in which traditional Gujaratis did not exactly excel. Moreover, the State’s continuing policy of prohibition and lack of proper infrastructure were seen as major deterrents to attracting tourists.

In pre-2010 Gujarat, tourism meant mainly pilgrimage rather than pleasure jaunts, for which the cash-rich Gujaratis invariably went to other States or abroad.

When Bollywood icon Bachchan became the tourism ambassador of Gujarat, things began to change. “We have not paid him any money for promoting Gujarat tourism. All he had requested us was to provide him with a bed long enough for the comfort of his tall frame and wi-fi at places where the advertisement films were shot,” Modi told Business Line recently. Bachchan has so far shot some 15 ad films, in phases, across Gujarat; he was in the State in August for the purpose.

Spotlight on culture

Not just people from other States but even Gujaratis were, for the first time, realising the history and heritage of Gujarat. His ‘Khushboo Gujarat Ki’ campaign has grown tourism in the State by 14 per cent — double the national average. Between 2010-11 and 2012-13, the State Government’s tourism budget also increased from Rs 183 crore to Rs 340 crore, mainly to create better infrastructure and promote various initiatives.

Modi’s efforts to promote ‘business tourism’ began with the launch of the first Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors’ Summit in 2003.

Over the last decade, the biennial event has not only become a byword for wooing global business capital, but has now expanded horizons to agriculture.

In September, the State Government hosted a Vibrant Gujarat International Agricultural Summit that attracted over 4,000 farmers from across India to Gandhinagar. Many of these farmers used the opportunity to visit various places of pilgrimage or tourist interests.

An otherwise arid Gujarat boasts of five hills — Girnar, Pavagarh, Saputara, Tarang and Shatrunjaya — besides the world-famous Gir Forest and the great temples of Modhera, Dwarka and Somnath. The State has great potential in archaeological, cultural, wildlife, festival and medical tourism. It has forests and natural ecosystems, monuments and heritage structures, beaches and coastal sites, and gardens and lakes. The State Government also has plans to encourage water sports and adventure tourism.

Luxury on wheels

On the lines of the famous Palace-on-Wheels, a luxury train called the Royal Orient Train, launched in 1994-95 as a joint venture between Indian Railways and Tourism Corporation of Gujarat Ltd (TCGL), has been a major attraction between Gujarat and Rajasthan.

TCGL has created eight tourist hubs equipped with modern infrastructure, facilities and services. Gujarat now has an international airport at Ahmedabad and eight domestic airports.

Gujarat boasts of some 540 places of tourist attraction and has double this number of hotels and rest-houses to suit every budget.

Besides, the State Government is also trying to promote the ‘home-stay’ model wherein registered families can have tourists staying at their homes as paying guests. This gives the tourist a first-hand experience of how hospitable Gujarat really is.

Published on September 29, 2013
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