WTTC II released their statewise rankings for the year 2017, a study conducted every two years. On this occasion, secretary tourism, Mrs. Rashmi Verma applauded the spirit among states to do better and compete among themselves, giving them an ongoing competitive edge. She was quick to point out that while some of the considerations behind the rankings were beyond the scope and purview of the state tourism departments, others were very much falling within their down domain. Issues like law and order, urban development and also governance were larger state subjects. However, marketing initiatives, being pro-active in pursuing investments were within their domain. She emphasized that while tourism can pursue others outside, the priorities must be always be with what you can do! This is so true, that states still have plenty to do, and should not always find excuses. Verma also pointed out that the North Eastern states were coming out of the cold, so to say, and were poised for a break through. In this context she mentioned the forthcoming travel mart to be held in Guwahati in the first week of December, later this year.
She talked of perceptions being important for tourism, how during her recent visit to World Travel Market in London, every other journalist was only asking for her comments on the attack on the Swiss couple. The sense of security was most imperative for tourism to grow and we have to keep highlighting how such incidents were most unfortunate, but also isolated and rare.
Current WTTC -II chairman, Pawan Bansal, who is also the CMD, Air India mentioned his own familiarity with the North East, having served there for over 15 years in his IAS capacity. He talked of the various government initiatives in increasing air connectivity, especially with the UDAN program, and highlighted how Air India was in the forefront of this big change. Bansal also welcomed the initiative of WTTC-II in working upon state competitiveness, and complimented Hotelivate, the leading hotel consultancy organization headed by Manav Thadani, for having done an excellent job with the study.
Also speaking on the occasion, Minister of Tourism for the state of Uttarkhand, Satypal Maharaj ji who also was the only senior representative from any of the state tourism departments. He talked of the quintessential tourism product of his state, nurturing what is truly unique in cuisine, arts, temples, spirituality and tradition. He committed his state to the larger tourism effort of the country, and the PM’s drive to take the country forward on the path of economic development.
Coming to the awards themselves, the study had broken efforts into different parts and zones, and given points for different acts and omissions. The study was most comprehensive and came out with some surprises, some not so much.
That in many categories, many of the North Eastern states were at the bottom, inspired the study to create an additional award, among the 8 states in themselves.
What was perhaps glaring was the comparison of a city state such as Delhi, compared to the over-arching state of Maharashtra? I wondered if the next step should be make this city specific and not state specific, as then the comparison fails. I would recommend that instead of looking at 30 states, they could look at 120 cities across the country.
Do the states take such a study seriously enough? If we go by the representation, most of them were most poorly represented. There was one minister, from Uttarakhand and one secretary, that from Sikkim. The rest were represented by tourist officers in Delhi, their resident commissioners. How do we make them understand the importance of events such as these, and of studies such as these? This is in itself a challenge!