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Tamil Nadu tourism still treads the temple trail [Chennai] [Times of India]
[August 09, 2014]

Tamil Nadu tourism still treads the temple trail [Chennai] [Times of India]

(Times of India Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Tamil Nadu may have topped in attracting domestic tourists and ranked second in drawing foreign tourists but the state government is yet to tap this potential to translate the visits into revenue. Promotion has not gone beyond temple tourism and the government is yet to include the private sector. In neighbouring states, brand building by the government and investment by the private sector has generated jobs and benefitted communities.

In contrast, Tamil Nadu tourism's marketing initiatives are limited to advertisements about Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation (TTDC) hotels and tours on Google and messages on mobile phones and Facebook, as per plans for 2014-15 set out in the policy note on tourism, presented in the state legislature on Tuesday. Brand promotion includes a plan to rope in brand ambassadors but the government has not fixed a deadline for the initiative.

The policy note for 2012-13 listed "adventure tourism, niche tourism (golf, billiards, polo and skiing), cruise tourism, ecotourism, sea tourism (sea planes, aeroplanes, hovercraft)" as new segments. Even the more realistic ideas relating to ecotourism and adventure tourism have taken off.

TTDC's profits have declined from 16.3% in 2012-13 to 11.9% in 2013-14 though there is a marginal increase in turnover, which officials say was mainly from income from exhibitions and sale in restaurants and bars at its hotels. Room occupancy has declined.

Experts say the government should brand the state, allow private entrepreneurs to invest and create an environment sensitive to the needs of tourists. UN World Tourism Organisation has spelt out community development as a goal for tourism promotion. "Each time we travel, use local transport or buy products from a local market, we are contributing to a value chain that creates jobs, provides livelihoods, empowers local communities, and ultimately brings in new opportunities for a better future," said UNWTO secretarygeneral, Taleb Rifai in his world tourism day message in June.

It's not a message TTDC has taken note of. Tourists who visit Tamil Nadu are at a loss for connectivity and clear information.

Tourism assistance booths are not run efficiently at airports, bus stands and railway stations. "In the domestic circuit, most tourists will be pilgrims. The stress on temples sometimes bores foreign tourists. The government should focus on promoting different spots and allow private players a stake instead of trying to control the sector," said M K Ajith Kumar, president, Asia Pacific Tours.

"TTDC is renovating hotels but doing nothing to ensure repeat customers. Management of a few were outsourced but there are no checks on them," said a former tourism department official.

(c) 2014 Bennett, Coleman & Company Limited

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