India Provides Lessons

I have to admit, one of my favorite television travel shows is “The Amazing Race.”

 Kenneth Shapiro
I have to admit, one of my favorite television travel shows is “The Amazing Race.” Often on the show, the teams travel to India, and it’s virtually guaranteed that at least one contestant will start weeping while they are traveling through the country — either because of the extreme beauty of the landscape or because of the tragic poverty. In fact, India is often described by visitors in such terms — intense, for better or worse.

There’s no doubt that India’s popularity is one of the bright spots in our industry this year. Even though overall tourist numbers to India from the U.S. have slowed, they are still strong, especially given the economic situation. According to official statistics, compared to 2008, arrivals for April of this year declined by just 3.5 percent and, in May, the year-over-year number was virtually flat.

In addition, the U.S. recently became the number-one inbound tourist market for India,
passing the U.K. for the first time in history. Also for the first time, Udaipur, India, was named the World’s Best City in Travel + Leisure’s 14th annual World’s Best Award readers’ survey.

With such strong interest, travel agents would be seriously mistaken not to learn more about this fascinating destination. We think this issue’s cover story, “Myths of India” (page 10), will help.

There is a tendency for some Americans to think that just because a country is less developed, it has nothing to teach us. Fortunately, Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) doesn’t share this prejudice. Recently, Dorgan cited the Incredible India campaign, created by India Tourism, as an example of a successful effort to attract inbound visitors. He was speaking in support of the Travel Promotion Act of 2009, an important piece of travel industry legislation now under consideration in Congress.

“This is a proud moment for the Ministry of Tourism to be acknowledged by the world for its marketing initiative to promote India as a preferred destination globally,” a spokesman for the Ministry said in response.

With a model promotional campaign; worldwide acclaim in the form of prestigious awards; and visitor numbers that remain strong despite the current economy, indeed, India has reason to be proud. — K.S.