In the three months since the Mumbai attacks, there’s been a world of changes in India, all of it good in terms of security and even better in terms of marketing efforts on the part of India tourism, as well as many of the tourism entities that rely on business from North American travelers.
The India Tourism Board has mounted the “Quintessential India” campaign as part of a multimillion-dollar budget earmarked for overseas marketing for 2009. To promote India in a more aggressive way, the tourism entity has almost doubled the financial assistance for promotional activities undertaken by travel agents, tour operators and hoteliers. The tourism ministry currently has seven international media campaigns running in Europe, the Americas and Asia-Pacific.
Indian tourism offices overseas have also been advised to liase with media and travel trade in their respective regions and organize familiarization tours to Mumbai and other important regions of the country. At the same time, it’s important that tour operators and travel agents make consumers aware of the beefed-up security in the country and the fact that people are starting to travel there again with little or no fear.
makemytrip.com Keyur Joshi, CEO of makemytrip.com, with offices in New York, says, “What happened in Mumbai was unfortunate, but life has to go on. This issue is affecting all parts of the world. So what we’re doing is putting up our guests at hotels that have been pre-checked and we’re sending them to places that are safe and secure and we make sure they don’t go to places where they shouldn’t be going.”
Joshi, who works out of India, says that since the Mumbai incident, security has been tightened across the country so there aren’t many places where one has to worry about sending travelers. “But still,” he adds, “they should feel secure. After all, you’re on holiday and you shouldn’t have to feel at any given point in time that you’re not secure. If you go to any of the hotels in India now, you’ll realize there’s been a big increase in security. The bags are being screened, the cars are being screened—there are all kinds of checks and metal detectors.
“To be honest, since the trouble in Bombay, things have progressed very well and people have come on our tours and gone back without a trace of feeling anything negative or feeling nervous. We’re very sure that nothing like this will ever happen again, but what we really want to make sure is that people won’t feel like it can happen again,” he says.
Makemytrip.com has 10 programs to India in budget, four-star and luxury categories with both general and regional itineraries, including India’s luxury train programs. Its 16-night Rajasthan Heritage program visits Delhi, Neemrana, Mandawa, Khimsar, Jodhpur, Udaipur, Dungarpur, Bijaipur, Deogarh, Jaipur and Agra. The $2,199 program includes 16-night accommodations twin sharing, daily breakfast, sightseeing tours and transfers as per the itinerary by air-conditioned car with an English-speaking local guide, elephant ride in Jaipur and a boat ride in Dungarpur, portage at airport and hotels, and all applicable taxes. The company is also offering special fares on Air India. Call for fare rates.
swain tours Ian Swain, of Swain Tours, says his India sales are slow, but at the same time, he also admits that, “India is the smallest destination our company has as far as the number of passengers goes. It’s a place where there seems to be more of a desire to travel in groups as opposed to traveling alone and, of course, at Swain, all we do is customize for individuals…. So I think we get a disproportionate or less share than other companies who do the groups. We get the people who want it totally customized so if they want to spend three extra days in Agra to see the Taj or in Raj to do some shopping, we can do that, but you can’t on escorted tours. That being said, we have a reasonable group going off in early February, so we do groups, but it’s not like the organized escorted ones with a formatted itinerary.”
But at the same time, Swain says they had no cancellations from travelers who booked before the Mumbai attacks or since. “Americans are very resilient. They evolve. I’m not saying they get used to it, but they’re certainly comfortable with it. They don’t enjoy it or condone it, but they’re comfortable with it. They realize things can happen and happen anywhere, they just hope that it doesn’t happen where they are.”