Tourism on the Rise. But not Mysuru. Why?

By N.K.A. Ballal, Retd. Sr. Vice-President, ITDC

One crore or 10 million arrivals! We Indians should be proud. We have crossed this magical figure this year. Of course, this arrival figure includes tourists, business people, medical tourists and students.  An achievement no doubt but nothing to brag about.

Singapore, our neighbour gets about  15 million tourists!  The foreign arrivals crossing the 10 million mark, this pushed the country’s foreign exchange earnings to over 27 billion dollars. However, what is commendable is that this increase in numbers is in spite of the bad publicity India is getting abroad.

I am glad, our Tourism  Minister K.J. Alphons, an ex-bureaucrat from Kerala, is not happy and is trying to get more people to visit India. The Minister, in a recent interview, has said that tourism sector is contributing nearly 6.88% to India’s gdp and had a 12% share of jobs in the total employment figures in 2017. Commendable indeed.   We are just talking of the direct employment and not the indirect employment like transportation, handicrafts etc., which this industry develops.

Tourism on the rise?  Excellent news. But is Karnataka benefiting from this? The answer is a big “no.” From 2014 onwards, the inflow of foreign tourists to Karnataka and Mysuru is declining. Surprisingly, the domestic tourism is flourishing in our State. And in our city too. Why do foreign tourists avoid coming to this “God’s Gifted State?” This State has everything a tourist wants to experience — beaches, waterfalls, world class temples, unesco sites,  Palaces, wildlife, trekking, the list is endless and with an improved infrastructure still we are not able to attract any tourist to this State. It is time, the government set up a expert committee to look into this aspect and take corrective steps.

Take our own Dasara, the flagship festival of this city. Is the vast crowd of the locals, foreign students and villagers an indication of its success? Why is that international and well-heeled domestic tourists of India avoid this city during the festival? For the economy of a city to prosper international and well-heeled domestic gentry have to come in and stay apart from the budget tourists who would form the bulk of arrivals. It is also important to “reinvent the wheel” by adding new attractions to the city to ensure that the average stay of tourists coming to the city is increased from the present  1.4 nights to at least 2 nights.

During my recent visit to the US, I had an occasion to visit the City of Memphis, the birth place of pop star Elvis Presley. One of the star attractions of that city is his home called “Graceland.” Locally, he is addressed as “King Presley.” His home displays everything from his underwear, bills, TVs, plane and his 8 cars. It is said that he used to watch 3 TVs at one time and his home has about 14 TV sets all over including 3 in the kitchen. Entry ticket a steep 47 dollars (Rs.3,000). The rush is unbelievable. Contrast this with the pathetic display at our own  Jaganmohan Palace Museum.

Mr. Randeep, try to convince the prince to be the Brand Ambassador for this city. The Private Durbar of the royal family should be marketed and sold at a premium.  “Tea with the Royalty” is another idea which can be considered.

The present local administration under the stewardship of Randeep is going all out to promote tourism to this city. Sir,  it is suggested that next time a  tourism meeting is convened, some outside tourism experts be invited to get some out-of- the-box suggestions. It is also suggested that some “fam” tours are arranged, wherein the owners or contract managers of leading in-bound travel agents based at Mumbai and Delhi are invited to give them a first-hand knowledge of the improvements your administration has made for this city. One can also show some lesser known destinations around this city like Melkote etc.,  to these travel agents.  It is time we get more international tourists visiting this city and this is the only way to get this city back in the international circuit.

Last week I had been to Lalitha Mahal for dinner and I was pleasantly surprised to see the rush in the Food Street near the Lalitha Mahal Palace Hotel gate. Nearly 30 cars were parked and hundreds of locals were enjoying their food. A staff of the Lalitha Mahal Hotel told me that several of their guests too come to enjoy the food in this street. And their food and beverage business has come down lately after this food street became operational. High praise indeed.

Our Municipal Commissioner, however, should ensure that Food Inspectors are asked to check periodically the hygiene aspect of this street and also insist on the stall holders to use disposable plates and glasses only. Now that a food street has become a reality, why not think of a hawkers market? Somewhere near the Exhibition Grounds. It can be a new tourist attraction and employment generator to the young local population. The city too would become a hawker-free zone.

[ananthballal@gmail.com]

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