Can the Modi-Xi meet help boost Tamil Nadu’s tourism sector?

TE Raja Simhan ​Chennai | Updated on October 10, 2019 Published on October 10, 2019

Workers carry a hoarding for installation as preparations are underway for the second informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in the coastal town of Mamallapuram, Tamil Nadu.   -  PTI

Here’s how Tamil Nadu can boost this sector

Despite its rich cultural heritage and abundance of tourists spots, Tamil Nadu is still not in the itinerary of foreign tourists who prefer to visit the Taj Mahal, the forts of Rajasthan, the beaches of Goa or take a cruise on Kerala’s backwaters. Tourists give the State a miss due to factors like bad roads, stink, garbage and beggars.

It is high time that all agencies concerned work in unison to make​ ‘Enchanting Tamil Nadu – Experience Yourself’ — the marketing slogan of the Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation — a reality and make the State a part of global tourist destinations.

Tamil Nadu need to be projected as a ‘must visit’ destination. The weekend informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mamallapuram provides the State a golden opportunity to enhance its brand as a destination of choice among foreign tourists. By adding the neighbouring temple town of Kanchipuram, the State can create an unique tourism package, that can attract tourists.

TTDC’s ‘Enchanting Tamil Nadu’ campaign brochure has a picture of the Shore Temple in Mamallapuram/Mahabalipura​m, which is a UNESCO-declared World Heritage site, along with Five Rathas and Arjuna’s Penance.​ ​

The ​department launched the marketing campaign ​in 2003-04​, and since then, it has become a symbolthat encapsulate​s the rich and varied tourism wealth of ​the State. It represents ​heritage, ​history, ​culture and ​​spirituality that form the core strength of tourism in Tamil Nadu​. The phrase ‘Experience Yourself’ strikes a chord with tourists in India and​ abroad​.​

Working together: The need of the hour

Out of 33.81 crore tourists that visited Tamil Nadu in 2015, just 46 lakh were foreigners. This number has been gradually increasing in the last four years, and in 2018 it was 3,919 lakh (61 lakh foreigners).

There is a large scope to attract more foreign visitors. However, this requires a concerted effort among various stakeholders such as Tourism Department, the authorities of highways, ports and airports. Unfortunately, this is lacking at the present juncture. Each department is working in a silo.

In the last two years, the Chennai Port Trust and the Airports Authority of India have taken a number of initiatives to spur the infrastructure to make it tourist friendly. In October 2018, a modernised cruise terminal was inaugurated at the port with financial assistance of ₹17.24 by the Centre.

An exclusive yacht parking, single-window (integrated) clearance of Customs, Immigration and Security is to be provided. However, since the launch, the terminal has not seen much activity. “Chennai is not in the itinerary of the global cruise operators due to lack of support infrastructure,” a shipping agent said. Issues like poor roads and dirty surrounding put away tourists, he added.

The AAI, Chennai, showcased the rich culture of Tamil Nadu in the airport itself. On disembarking from plane, a visitor can see huge sculptures of Nataraja, and picture of the State’s rich culture and heritage. This is a big welcome change that visisors liked.

But, the actions of the Chennai airport and ChPT is not enough. Tourists expect the same kind of experience during their stay and visit to various places. This is what is lacking, and the government need to work on it.

Mamallapuram’s facelift

“In two weeks, if the government can completely turnaround Mamallapuram ahead of the Chinese President’s visit, why not the same be done to places like Kanchipuram or Marina Beach,” an industrialist said. “The entire place stinks. If local people don't feel like going there, how can we expect foreign tourists,” he added.

For the weekend summit, the entire Mamallapuram has got a complete facelift; and the road leading to the coastal town has been is free of encroachments. One can only hope that the same continues after the summit. The same should be done to all tourist sites to make the State an attractive destination, sources said.

Strategy to improve tourism

Despite many shortcomings, Tamil Nadu continues to be one of the top destinations for tourists, both domestic and international. The State has four international airports in Chennai, Madurai, Tiruchirappalli and Coimbatore; and two major ports Chennai and Thoothukudi as connecting points.

The countries which constitute major share of tourists are US, UK, Canada, Australia, Russia, Germany, China, Malaysia, Singapore, Japan, Italy, France, Sri Lanka, Oman and Bangladesh, according to State’s Tourism, Culture and Religious Endowments Department’s policy note.

The policy note says that the to improve tourism, the State could follow the following strategy — integrated development of high-priority tourism infrastructure in high potential tourism circuits, encouraging private sector and community to participate in tourism, participate in domestic and international marketing meets, develop coastal tourism, improve coordination among multiple agencies, and enhance connectivity, utilities and tourist services.

Further, the government is actively looking at development of Meetings, Incentives, Conventions, Exhibitions (MICE) Tourism, promotion of environmentally- and culturally-sustainable and socially inclusive tourism development, development of Eco-tourism holistically without causing damage to the environment and wildlife, and capacity building and human resources development for sustainable tourism and destination management through employment generation, poverty alleviation, environmental regeneration, advancement of women and disadvantaged groups.

All these initiatives of the State government can happen only if there is a coordinated effort among multiple agencies to make Tamil Nadu a ‘must visit’ destination in India.

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Published on October 10, 2019
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