Mar­ket­ing chal­lenges for the state

Ma­ha­rash­tra Chap­ter Chair­man of the In­dian As­so­ci­a­tion of Tour Op­er­a­tors (IATO), Hi­man­shu Agashi­wala speaks pas­sion­ately about the chal­lenges in mar­ket­ing Ma­ha­rash­tra to inbound clients.

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Ev­ery­one is talk­ing about the chal­lenges of mar­ket­ing In­dia as a des­ti­na­tion to the rest of the world. Per­haps what would also help is if we zoomed in to look at the prob­lem at hand state-wise. The In­dian As­so­ci­a­tion of Tour Op­er­a­tors (IATO), Ma­ha­rash­tra Chap­ter has done ex­actly that. Hi­man­shu Agashi­wala, Chair­man, IATO–Ma­ha­rash­tra, speaks strongly about four main chal­lenges that the inbound tour op­er­a­tors and mem­bers of IATO face when they ser­vice their over­seas clients.

He says that Ma­ha­rash­tra has a beau­ti­ful coast­line with des­ti­na­tions like Tarkarli, Har­i­haresh­war and Sri­vard­han. “It even boasts of the best wildlife in Tadoba and sur­round­ing places. How­ever, mar­ket­ing of this des­ti­na­tion has proved to be very chal­leng­ing for us due to poor in­fra­struc­ture that is un­suit­able to inbound tourists and lack of ini­tia­tive from the state gov­ern­ment de­spite re­peated di­a­logue with them.” Clean toi­lets

He un­der­lines the fol­low­ing is­sues that need im­me­di­ate at­ten­tion by the state gov­ern­ment. “A very ba­sic need of clean pub­lic toi­lets in Mumbai is still lack­ing de­spite our Swacch Bharat Ab­hiyaan. Once we take them out on city tours, there are no fa­cil­i­ties avail­able ex­cept ‘Su­labh’ which is not suit­able for for­eign tourists. We es­pe­cially han­dle a huge num­ber of cruise pas­sen­gers and they are dis­ap­pointed by the fa­cil­i­ties avail­able,” Agashi­wala adds. Lack of guides

By far, the tour op­er­a­tors’ big­gest woe has been the lack of gov­ern­ment-recog­nised guides. There are only a hand­ful of guides since most of them are non-op­er­a­tive. There is also a huge de­mand for for­eign lan­guage guides as well as English-speak­ing guides. This has spiked up the rates that of­ten go up to Rs 15,000– 20,000 per day, per guide. “After two years of ne­go­ti­at­ing with MTDC and the state gov­ern­ment, they have now an­nounced guide course to be con­ducted by the state. We need at least 200 more guides in Mumbai alone,” he says. Bulk tick­ets at Ele­phanta

The big­gest sell­ing point of Ma­ha­rash­tra is the Ele­phanta caves. Agashi­wala adds, it is im­pos­si­ble to buy tick­ets in bulk even though they han­dle around 1,000 tourists ar­riv­ing by cruise on a sin­gle day. The on­line ticket fa­cil­ity is pos­si­ble only if we have names and pass­port num­bers which is im­pos­si­ble to know in ad­vance. “We also have to carry huge amount in cash to buy the tick­ets. We have sug­gested to sell bulk tick­ets in ad­vance with a three-month va­lid­ity but the ASI man­age­ment has done noth­ing so far. Apart from this, there are in­nu­mer­able prob­lems we face at the Mumbai Port, start­ing from mul­ti­ple checks of guests by CISF, in­ad­e­quacy of Im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials for em­barka­tion, no per­mis­sion to park coaches near the Green Gate, and so on,” Agashi­wala adds.

After two years of ne­go­ti­at­ing with MTDC and the state gov­ern­ment, they have now an­nounced guide course to be con­ducted by the state

Hi­man­shu Agashi­wala Chair­man IATO–Ma­ha­rash­tra

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