India aiming to tap historic ties


India aims to tap into its traditionally strong relations with countries in the Middle East and Africa to boost tourism from these regions.

And as part of these efforts, India will be represented at this month's MTF through the Government of India Tourist Office (GOITO).

The Indian Tourist Office took part in the inaugural fair last year, a senior Indian official said.

"India's relationship with the countries in Africa and Middle East has been traditionally very strong in trade and commerce over the centuries. Thus, there is a very good prospect to convert this relationship for tourism and travel purposes," said YK Jain, the director of GOITO's Johannesburg office.

He said India's vastness and diversity makes it a destination for all tastes and interests and the current figures of 5,000 tourists from Egypt and 146,000 from Africa do not reflect the vast potential for tourism links between two regions.

"The Government of India Tourist Office with some of its partners from the travel industry will be trying to bridge this gap at their booth no 226 at the Mediterranean Travel Fair," said Jain.

"India and Egypt share a common tourism asset of having a civilisation which is more than 5,000 years old. Travellers from Middle East and Africa will therefore find the archeological and historical sights in India of great interest.

"These sites have not only been very well preserved but have been provided with adequate infra-structural facilities and accessibility links keeping in view the convenience and comfort of travellers. Several tour operators offer packages to these sites."

Jain also said India is promoting health tourism in the region.

"India offers one of the best systems in Western medicines because of progress achieved in the field of medical education by India after its Independence, The private hospitals in most of the major cities in the country offer medical treatment comparable to anywhere in the world at far lower costs," said Jain.

"Special tours can be organised for people requiring medical treatment in India which can be customised keeping in view there other interests as well.

"Lately the Indian system of medicine called Ayurveda has also made tremendous progress and a number of resorts have come up in the state of Kerala offering packages in this field. This system is not only for ailment of treatments through natural herbs but can also be used for rejuvenation and relaxation through traditional massages."

Jain said the MTF also helped Indian tourism officials renew their contacts with the travel trade in the region at one place.

"Thus it is not only interaction with them but also real education for us. Many of the decision markets from African countries visit the mart and some on the spot decisions are also taken about agents educational tours, joint promotions, workshops etc," he said.

"We also borrow expertise from them about new technologies introduced by them for efficient bookings/services for clients (like-commerce, internet/ online information etc), new packages introduced, new market segments explored and the areas they need our specific help. "Tourism today is more than just about infrastructure and good tourism products. More and more it is about quality of service, reading the psychology of the client and anticipating a tourist's needs and responding quickly."

Jain said India's tropical climate, rich archaeological heritage, hospitable people, varied festivals and cuisines, efficient internal air and rail travel and shopping bargains makes the country an attractive holiday destination.

It is also now projected as an eco-tourism destination because of its long range of the Himalayas, miles of pristine beaches, hundreds of wildlife reserves, islands, river camps.

The tourist office will be highlighting the varied options available to holiday makers in India, focusing on special interest tours like golfing holidays, conference and incentive tours, honeymoon packages, rejuvenation health packages at nature resorts in Kerala, Karnataka and Goa, adventure tourism at Lakshadweep and Andamans and architecture tours.

Jain said the number of participants from India keen to reserve space at the India Pavilion at the fair has increased progressively.

"At India Tourism, our job is to present India as a destination for holiday and other tourist-related activities and to provide a platform for tourism partners to do business for India," said Jain.