Out of the box thinking needed to promote tourism: Shekhar KapurSeptember 6th, 2008 - 6:39 pm ICT by IANS
Khajuraho, Sep 6 (IANS) Internationally acclaimed filmmaker Shekhar Kapur electrified tourism industry honchos at a conclave here Saturday, stating home truths about the state of the sector and urging them to think out of the box if they wanted to move ahead.He also felt that India’s burgeoning teenaged population, constituting 15 percent of the world’s population in the age group, would drive a new internet revolution by reverse engineering social networking sites like Facebook and urged the tourism industry to leverage on this to further its growth.
Kapoor was speaking at a freewheeling session on ‘The Way Forward’ on the concluding day of a two-day retreat of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) India Initiative here. ‘Mapping the Future’ was the theme of the retreat dialogue.
“Hey guys, you’re living in the past. What’s all this I have been hearing about master plans? You’ve got to look into the future,” maintained Kapur, whose much-acclaimed “Elizabeth” (1998) won six Oscar nominations.
“Everybody is obsessed with India but why are foreign tourists not coming here,” the director wondered, adding: “Why can’t you guys think out of the box and offer short breaks instead of these all-encompassing heritage and cultural experiences?”
In this context, he noted that cities like Las Vegas and Macau attracted huge numbers of tourists through their casinos, which were only one part of their MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences, exhibitions) offerings.
“Why can’t we offer MICE packages? After all, casinos take up only one-third of the space. The rest is taken up by the hotels, conference halls and (stage) show areas,” Kapur contended.
He also made out a strong case for targeting younger audiences for promoting tourism in India.
“Fifteen percent of the world’s teenage population lives in India. I call this the influence economy. The new Facebooks and the YouTubes will emerge from India and a reverse cultural stream will emerge as more and more youngsters get access to broadband connections.
“It is for you (the tourism industry) to reach out to this critical mass and leverage them to promote India to their peers and contemporaries,” Kapur maintained.
The retreat, the fourth to be held in India, brought together a cross-section of experts from the tourism, hospitality and aviation sectors, as also filmmakers, politicians and bureaucrats to devise a roadmap to take the tourism sector forward in a rapidly globalising world.
Among those who participated in the retreat were WTTC president Jean-Claude Baumgarten, Sri Lanka Tourism chairman Renton de Alwis, India’s Tourism Secretary Sheelbhadra Banerjee, Kerala’s special commissioner for industries Amitabh Kanth, WTTC India Initiative chair Radha Bhatia, film directors Kapur and Shyam Benegal, former civil aviation minister Rajeev Pratap Rudy and Rajya Sabha MP Jay Panda.
Explaining the concept of the retreat, WTTC India Initiative secretary general Rathi Vinay Jha said: “This is a unique platform that brings together industry leaders and policy makers to identify best practices and find constructive solutions for the growth of tourism in India.”
Jha has just completed a hugely successful stint as director general of the Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI) that saw the organization scaling dizzying heights.
WTTC launched the India Initiative in February 2000 to raise awareness of the crucial role that travel and tourism plays in the development and growth of the country’s economy.
On its part, the India Initiative has identified these priorities in a manifesto titled “The Tourism Imperative and India Impact of Travel and Tourism on Jobs and the Economy”.