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Saturday,  May 25, 2024 1:21 PM 

The promotional push of Incredible India

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  •   03-11-2015  10:41 am

The promotional push of Incredible India

The beaches of southern IndiaWith a core belief that now is the time for India “to be in minds of the people,” the tourism office's participation in multiple travel industry events this past fall and winter is far from coincidence.

Anil Oraw, director of India Tourism Toronto, recently sat down with PAX to discuss the board’s highly visible presence in the Canadian travel trade, especially as of late.

With business dealings between Canada and India increasing in recent years, Oraw said that it’s time to highlight the country’s profile as a travel destination to Canadians. And, as more air connections are made available between the two countries – such as Air Canada’s Toronto-Delhi service commencing in November – the push to promote travel to India is growing even stronger.

“It’s time to be present in the minds of both agents and travellers,” he said. “India is known to Canadians for many reasons – the culture, the food – and now our objective is to introduce the aspect of tourism."

Regarding the board’s presence at industry events, Oraw said it’s a two-way street: while tour operators launching a new brochure or product often approach India Tourism to be present at their events, he said the board is just as likely to take a proactive approach and pursue partnerships with the various companies conducting events.

According to the director, the promotional push by India Tourism is taking place in markets around the world, as global arrivals to the country continue to increase. Last year, India welcomed 7.5 million international arrivals, up approximately five per cent from the previous year. In 2013, 250,000 Canadians travelled to India and while final statistics for 2014 were not available at the time of the interview, Oraw said that number will likely be even higher.

A scene from one of India's many festivalsWhile many first time Canadian travellers to the country head to the main tourist attractions such as the Taj Mahal in Agra or the ancient cultural sites found in the country’s south, he said the board is also actively promoting destinations in eastern and central India that have been less-explored by travellers alongside the more popular attractions.

With Canadians of all ages visiting India (including many cruise passengers making a stop at the country’s many ports), Oraw said the destination draws such a wide range of travellers due in part to the many types of travel opportunities available there, from a sun vacation on the beaches of Goa to exploring the Buddhist aspect of Indian culture in Calcutta to adventure opportunities in the Himalayas. In addition to activities such as wildlife excursions, festivals (such as the spring festival of Holi, which was held March 6 this year) and yoga, Oraw added that hot air ballooning and homestay programs (similar to a bed and breakfast) are among the new activities being promoted in the country for 2015.

When it comes to travel agents inquiring about the destination, he is most often asked about pricing, the country’s infrastructure and inquiries about hygiene and safety. While he admitted that the country’s infrastructure and travel amenities are continuously improving, the board invites agents to see the destination for themselves through the many FAM trips offered by various tour operators.

“A lot of agents haven’t been to India, so we are here to give these agents a chance to see India for themselves,” Oraw said.One of the sights travellers to India can see on a wildlife excursion...

Recent developments for travellers include a new Incredible India hotline, providing 24-hour assistance from the country’s Ministry of Tourism, and an increasing number of countries which can take advantage of India’s electronic travel authorization (ETA) program for visas upon arrival. Oraw said that the ETA program will eventually include Canada (44 countries are currently eligible) in the coming years.

With all these recent developments, it’s hardly surprising that 2015 will be a busy year for India Tourism. The board is currently scheduled to have a presence at several travel shows and seminars, with delegates travelling across Canada to spread the message about India as a tourism destination in cities such as Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal. Online campaigns promoting the country will continue throughout the year (with a focus on the spring and summer months), which will include exclusive offers available from tour operators and other travel partners.

“When people visit, they fall in love and become transformed by India,” Oraw said. “It’s one of the world’s oldest civilization and still growing – there must be something to it.”

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