It has been more than a week since the first ever Tamilnadu Travel Mart came to a close, and it is time now to take stock and retrospect. What are the lessons learnt? How to avoid the glitches? What are the things that are to be done to make the next one in 2019 even better? The dos and don’ts, and so on..
And what better time than now to have a word with the man at the helm of affairs, Ligi George, Chairman of CII Tamil Nadu Travel Mart. Ocider Editor-in-Chief Nishiraj A. Baruah chats up with the industrialist who is also the Managing Director of Madurai based Madras Suspensions Ltd.
Considering tourism doesn’t enjoy industry status, but more of a service sector/provider, what’s CII’s role in it?
Right, it doesn’t fall under industry category, but tourism is too big a revenue and employment generator to be ignored. It contributes significantly to the economy. Besides, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi paying a lot of importance to tourism and providing a direction in showcasing the country, we at CII, as a leading industry body, must play an active role in it.
Looking back at TTM, what are the things that you would have done differently?
As the first-ever event, I am fairly satisfied with the way the travel mart turned up. But yes, we could have had more buyers from outside the country. We also couldn’t accommodate many domestic buyers and had to stop the registration process after we arrived at a certain number. We weren’t sure if we could handle them all. We could have also showcased more of Tamilnadu. What you saw is just 30 per cent of the state; I would have been happier if we could have presented at least 50 per cent.
So what stopped you?
Though the preparation process started a year back, the Tamilnadu government took a while to come forward to support the event. Yes, we had full support from the government of India, but the state government was apprehensive – something like this had never happened in the state before. And without the state government, it was a huge challenge to bring the stakeholders together. Work was slow, as everyone played a wait and watch game. That’s what Indians do. They wait, watch and then follow.
Now that TTM was a success, what kind of on-ground developments do we hope to see in the tourism sector?
The government of Tamilnadu in association with Asia Development Bank (ADB) is investing Rs 400 crore on various touristic projects. They, I believe, is making the blueprint now. I do not know the specifics but my guess would be that they might use the money for a facelift of all monuments in the state, for better facilities like toilets at the tourist sites and, of course, in developing other infrastructure like roads.
As for the private sector, they would be going for an active marketing drive, selling Tamilnadu across all Indian states. They would now move away from Madurai, Trichi and Chennai – which frankly doesn’t need selling – to market other aspects of the state. Instead of just selling only temples, they will sell kingdoms now –The Chera, The Pallava, The Pandya and The Chola – the four regions we divided the state into.
Lot of Europeans visit Tamilnadu – the Germans, the French and those from the US and the UK. But are you also planning to explore newer markets?
We will definitely explore newer markets and will get buyers from there in the next TTM. Tamilnadu already has a presence in European markets, but now we will market the state in, say, North America, China and South East Asia that are not really exposed to India in general and Tamilnadu in particular.
What about Pakistan?
Always welcome (laughs). We would love to have tourists from Pakistan. It’s the people to people connect that helps. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to get visa clearances and so forth.
So what are the new products that are likely to be showcased in the next TTM?
Jain tourism, for one. In and around Madurai, there are several ancient Jain caves with stone carvings – these can be an absolute delight for the Jains. In fact, Madurai itself has a sizeable Jain community. We would also like to promote watersports and the beautiful beaches. We can also promote golf tourism.
Yes, many people do not know this, but Tamilnadu has some very scenic golf courses/clubs in hills stations such as Kodaikanal, Ooty, Coimbatore, Chennai and Coonoor. I should know. I am a golfer myself and play there often. We can develop week-long packages for fanatic golfers like the Japanese.
Finally, any destinations you would like to recommend to Ocider readers?
My favourite places for a family holiday in Tamilnadu are Kotagiri and Coonoor. It’s peaceful. Ooty is also pretty but a bit too touristy. And if you are visiting Kodaikanal, do it during the off-season, like I do, when it isn’t crowded.