‘White tourists fare better than blacks, browns in India’

April 23rd, 2008 - 12:12 pm ICT by admin  

By Kavita Bajeli-Datt
Jaipur, April 23 (IANS) Skin colour matters as far as visitors to India are concerned, says a fourth generation South African Indian who claims to have faced “racial discrimination” himself, particularly in the country’s northern parts. Dinesh Naidoo, vice-president of the Association of Travel Agents in South Africa who was here to attend the first Great Indian Travel Bazaar, said white-skinned people are given better services and preference over browns or blacks.

“I have come from the country where we have seen what apartheid could do to a country and to its people,” he said.

Narrating an incident, Naidoo, who is managing director of Serendipity Tours in Durban and has visited India 42 times, said: “Once I entered a five-star hotel in New Delhi wearing a chappal and a T-shirt. The guard did not let me enter even though I was staying there.

“At the Jaipur airport, a porter bypassed me and took the luggage of a white-skinned tourist.”

“I don’t know why this mentality is seen here,” he said at the panel discussion on “Tourism as an engine for economic growth”, which was chaired by Leena Nandan, joint secretary for tourism.

The three-day travel mart has been jointly organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), the tourism ministry and Rajasthan Tourism.

Nandan said “Racial discrimination is not at all an issue in the country,” but Naidoo had a different story to tell.

“This is the first time I have raised the matter in the presence of government officials. We have to address the issue,” Naidoo, who first visited India in 1996 after he started the company, told IANS.

“How can one be judgmental? A customer is a customer. They consider brown-skinned people not worthy. I have got several requests from visitors to India to add Dr or professor in their names. When I asked them for the reason, they said just a mere Mr. does not assure them good services,” he added.

“This I have seen is more common in north India as compared to south India,” explained Naidoo, whose forefathers came from Andhra Pradesh.

“I annually send 5,000 to 6,000 tourists to India and have earned Rs.120 million revenue for India. If I face such a situation, what can I say to the other Indians who come from South Africa?

“In South Africa, the buying power of a black and brown person is more than the white-skinned. How can the industry shut its eyes to this fact?” he asked.

Naidoo said: “I have seen that no one talks about racial discrimination in India, though everyone acknowledges the fact, especially those who are affected. We have to discuss and tackle the issue seriously.”

The other issue that hinders the growth of tourism is the behaviour of taxi drivers and guides. “They are not paid well by the tour operators and so they depend on shopping commissions. I remember a group after visiting India told me that their driver did not talk to them as they were not shopping,” he said.

“As they are not paid (guides and drivers), it kills the services on the ground. The tour operator has to understand that they cannot help but train them and also pay them good money. This could lead to negative growth,” he stressed.

Naidoo also wants the government to promote the country through Bollywood and cricket. “This is the best way to showcase brand India. We can sell packages around the world through such mega events as is commonly seen in other countries.

“Why did no one announce packages around the Indian Premier League cricket matches? This was the best way to promote India.”

Talking about the impact of Hindi movies, he said there seemed to have been a rise in the number of Indian tourists visiting Durban after the movie “Race” was fully shot in the city. Naidoo also said the Indian officers posted at India Tourism Offices abroad should know the local languages and should aggressively market brand India.

(Kavita Bajeli-Datt can be contacted at kavita.d@ians.in)

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