For years, Italy qualified as a “fertile territory for high-level outgoing tourism” to the world, which has slowly changed its travel style from hit and run, even in cases of package tours where the average duration of a 10 to 15-day stay did not exceed 24 hours in a single location in the program, to a more selective type of tourism, influenced mostly by stimuli from European tourist boards.
Among the stays in exotic locations, mainly in the eastern hemisphere, due to the lower cost of highly-qualified structures compared to western offers, a new type of travel began to be favored by the Italians: cultural travel, spirituality – Buddhism, body and mind care, medical tourism, and many others, not least of being yoga that identifies the “India” destination where this discipline has been practiced for thousands of years,
The Italians have come to know better that this country over the last three years, the period of the mission of Mr. Gangadhar Chilka, Director of Indian Tourism based in Milan.
At the end of his term, Mr. Gangadhar will leave to his successor a difficult legacy to be managed: the “dynamism” that has branded him “volcano of ideas, implementation of events” and visual promotion (advertising).
Following a poll conducted by the writer among the Italian travel trade, the results indicated that no other foreign tourism board in Italy paralleled what it did for India travelers in the form of advertising presence and promotional activities on the Italian territory.
From January to December (August inclusive)
“The planning of my promotional activities is included in the annual budget that incorporates Greece, Cyprus, and Malta. Upon the confirmed approval of my activity regarding the promotion plan, I put it into action,” said Mr. Gangadhar, when he was met in his office in Milan.
“It starts with the participation to the major tourism fairs, around six in Italy, as well as that of archaeological tourism in Paestum, and a few more in Cyprus, Malta, and Greece, plus, other minor events and presentations where India tourism participates as a sponsor of sporting and cultural activities, bringing India into the picture – wherever possible!”
To the vortex of the presentations, i.e., meetings with tourism and/or economic operators to illustrate that the destination India does attend occasionally, also the Indian Ambassador and its Consul based in Milan attend. India is a vast country, and its attractions affect a multitude of potential tourists that would take a lifetime to visit, stated Mr. Gangadhar.
Question: Mr. Gangadhar, how many events can you manage to personally conduct in a year?
Mr. Gangadhar: Roughly 30, including Greece, Cyprus, and Malta, although more if it would be required. I then include the month of August in the plan to be present at folklore meetings (as a sponsor) where the festive audience participation is massive and the image of India obtains greater benefit.
Q: What is the ratio of economic “yield” advertising as opposed to events?
Gangadhar: The two activities have distinct however complementary channels. The media of various categories is privileged: that directed to travel agencies and tour operators, congress publications in particular. This keeps alive the image of India and stimulates the planning of travel to the destination. The free-of-charge participation of guests to events/presentations are welcomed: they assure a return of the image and fully justify the advertising expenditure. But the dialogue with the guests has perhaps a higher value since it establishes a human approach.
Q: Which are the destinations that you suggest to visit in addition to those better known?
Gangadhar: There is still an unpublished part of India to many Italians: this is South India. This destination has a wealth of culture, art, archaeology, ecological reserves, and wild animals reserves that include tigers, rhinos, elephants, etc., folklore and much more… plus the simplicity of its inhabitants – simply a part of India waiting to be discovered by tourists.
Q: How can you maintain such a “busy” pace without losing sight of details and addressing internal activities?
Gangadhar: I practice the yoga discipline every day. My daily activity begins focusing on philosophical reflections on the behavior of the mind. This exercise does “charge” me and gives me the ability to act with confidence and alleviate all forms of fatigue. And I also like to share said benefit: I forward to many people the result of my thoughts; surprisingly I receive great acclaim.
Q: Do you have a special message to be addressed to the readers of this article?
Gangadhar: Yes, a message addressed to all those who travel to India. Recently it has been established a toll-free line to assist tourists from every country traveling to India: The Tourist Helpline in 12 languages. This service is active day and night to support anyone in need of help of any kind. The toll free number is 1-800-11-1363.
I bet that if this rare example of loyalty to the job would go into the social circuit, it would receive lots of thumbs ups!