Gujarat pushes the pedal on tourism

Our Mumbai Bureau Mumbai | Updated on March 12, 2018

Mr Sanjay Kaul

Two crore travellers were expected to experience Gujarat Tourism this financial year, a growth of 15 per cent over the previous twelve months. The Commissioner of Tourism and Managing Director, Tourism Corporation of Gujarat Ltd, Mr Sanjay Kaul, IAS, explains that the state is on course to achieve this targeted number.

Data available from April 2011 to January 2012 shows a tourist count of 1,81,83,801. Of these, foreigners and NRIs constituted close to 3.5 lakh tourists, but that number too has grown by almost 18 per cent. Overall growth has been helped greatly by Gujarat Tourism's ongoing promotional campaign in India and abroad, explains Mr Kaul, in an e-mail interview with Business Line.

Edited excerpts:

Where have these tourists come from? And how do you see this changing?

The domestic tourists are mainly from Maharashtra and neighbouring states, while the international tourists are mainly from the UK, the US etc. Yes, the constitution will change as the state gets promoted prominently across India and abroad. Domestically the tourist flow will increase from the distant states while internationally, the numbers would increase from the traditional source markets of the UK, the US, etc.

How has the 30-month old ‘Khushboo Gujarat Ki' campaign with Amitabh Bachchan changed things for Gujarat Tourism?

The campaign has been a mega success in terms of all round visibility. Whether it is TV, radio, print or outdoor, one can't simply miss the campaign. Internationally too, we are present in the major in-flight and travel magazines of repute; and the campaign has run on channels such as CNN, Sky News, etc. Gujarat Tourism is now something everyone is talking about.

There is a buzz in the market about the tremendous tourism potential in the market. One can just ask any hotelier or tour operator in Gujarat and they will vouch that due to this campaign, their business is simply roaring like the Asiatic Lion.

There is a series of films featuring Amitabh Bachchan being shot currently. How will this pan out?

The second phase of the campaign has just been shot. It will be out in the market in two to three months. This campaign talks about the other major attractions of Gujarat, like Navratri, Rann Utsav, Modhera, Patan, etc.

Within Gujarat, what are the most popular tourist destinations? Which are gaining popularity the most?

The most popular destinations are those which you are seeing currently on the campaign - Somnath, Dwarka, Gandhi Circuit, Lothal, Dholavira and Kutch.

Saputara, Gujarat's own hill station, is gaining immense popularity as a weekend destination for neighbouring cities in south Gujarat and Maharashtra border. Rann Utsav has emerged as an exotic event along with the International Kite Festival.

What is the approach to Golf tourism? Would it be leveraged for sports tourism? If yes, do we expect Gujarat to host major tournaments? Or would Golf be an added attraction for MICE tours?

Not many people are aware that Gujarat is a great place for golf tourism. There are world class golf courses in the vicinity of Ahmedabad and Vadodara. The Government is soon launching a campaign on the same. Already, a few major tournaments have been organised in Gujarat. Golf tourism has inherent strength of its own in Gujarat and can be promoted standalone. However, MICE can certainly partner along with golf tourism in Gujarat, as both are complementary.

What is the percentage of MICE among all travellers? How is this growing? Traditionally, Goa would be the destination to beat for MICE?

There is no such authentic data on MICE travelers in Gujarat at this juncture, but I can safely say that there are lot of medical conferences and industrial conferences of national level happening practically every second month or so in Gujarat. MICE in Gujarat will always do well, since Gujarat is one of the most industralised states in the country and extremely well connected to major metros/cities of India.

That is the reason so many convention centres have sprung up across the state. The biggest one is the Mahatma Gandhi Convention Centre at Gandhinagar, which is built to international standards. For Gujarat, MICE is something which requires no extra effort, since Gujarat is all about business and MICE is all about networking.

Gujarat is positioned as a destination with something to offer for the entire family. Between culture, heritage, pilgrimage and wildlife, what is it that draws the tourists? Or is the mix of all of them working?

The USP is obviously the mix. Heritage or pilgrimage or wildlife is not standalone. There is something for each member of the family in Gujarat. Hence, it is this unique mix which draws tourists to Gujarat. Also, safety is a necessity condition for tourism and in turn for the family. Gujarat offers diversity coupled with safety.

What are the marketing initiatives undertaken to promote Gujarat abroad? Have there been specific initiatives for the diaspora? What are the plans on this front going forward?

The campaign is going on successfully abroad also. The diaspora is being reached by NRI-based magazines plus the international feed of national TV channels, and the digital campaign. The same would continue in the near future.

Have you explored joint promotions with other state tourism boards?

Gujarat has recently signed an MoU with Goa Tourism (last year) and we are planning to sign other such MoUs with the fellow state tourism boards. The idea is that the states get together and offer better packages to the tourists and understand the needs of the tourists in their respective states. A tourist nowadays is an informed person and thus it is necessary that his concerns on travel are jointly met by the states.

In the digital space, several tourism boards like Kerala have been quite active. What has Gujarat's experience been?

We have been late starters in digital space. The digital space is certainly part of the Bachchan campaign, and social media, especially, is the in thing now. In the coming months, you will see a major activity by Gujarat Tourism in the digital space across major national and international portals both in the general and travel domain.

Published on March 29, 2012

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