The star tourism product for karnataka

Recently, my friend Rohit Hangal posed an interesting question on one of the Tourism Groups on Linked In. His question was:

If we had to chose among one ‘attraction/destination’ in ‘Bangalore/Karnataka’, what would that be and the reasons for it – Scouting for that one ‘Star Tourism Product’.

I love the question, because I believe the bane of Indian tourism is trying to ‘sell’ too many things at the same time.

Therefore, let me attempt an answer:

I don’t think I know Karnataka well enough to pop up all of the options. But having spent too many years in Management Consulting, I cannot avoid the temptation to develop a framework to find an answer. So, here is my 2-bit on this.

It should be:

- Relevant – relevant to the target market. If we assume the target market is the 25 to 45 year old India urban-dweller, then we better make sure s/he is truly interested in what we come up with. if we assume that the market is 60+ year Caucasians, that is another story.

- Defensible – we must be able to able to ‘defend’ it from other competing offerings. that is, there should be no threat of it becoming a ‘me-too” product. Would any World heritage work? Unlikely, since many other states also have ‘world heritage sites’

- Desirable – the people of Bangalore / karnataka (ie. the ‘owners’ of the attraction) must feel that this is a ‘desirable’ facet to promote. If ordinary folks are in some way not quite convinced, all of the effort will go in vain. For, every time the tourist comes into contact with the real product, there will be a strong possibility of disappointment.

- ready – the product must be ready for sale. Which means, a reasonable amount of necessary infrastructure (both core & tourism infrastructure) should already be in place

Any ideas?

St Mary’s Island near Malpe beach, Udupi, Karnataka

Here are bunch of photos of St Mary’s Island, taken by my photographer-friend Nagesh who has roamed this coastline since his childhood (and who is, incidentally, shooting India’s first fully digitally shot movie). Since¬†they are such lovely snaps, I decided to let the story follow the photos.

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As I wrote sometime ago, if Karnataka gets its act together, it has everything going for it to emerge as India’s top tourism destination. Here is more proof.

St Mary’s island is a little slip of land about 30 minutes out into the sea from Malpe Beach in Udupi. As you can see in the photos, God certainly let loose on this one; it is gorgeous and I can say this with the certainty of someone who has seen a fair number of beaches and islands across the world. The island is full of crystallised basalt rock, a unique rock formation found in very few places in the world, the most notable being the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. And, the sea between the island and the long curve of the beach at Malpe is placid and gentle (or at least looks that way).

As I stood on this little island last week, it was clear that it is crying out for a bit of tender, loving attention. Continue reading

Agumbe, the tallest & wettest place in Karnataka

agumbe-mist-on-hills-karnataka-photo-picture.jpg(Agumbe photo courtesy : JP)

Last week I discovered Agumbe (pronounced Aagumbe). A quick one hour drive, straight up over 14 hair-pin bends took me from the coastal city of Udupi to the heights of Agumbe. And guiding me to Agumbe was the man who is most likely to put Agumbe firmly on the map – Jai Prakash, known to all and sundry as JP.

JP’s story is atypical. JP hails from Udupi the charming coastal town in Karnataka. And for a youngster from a nice south canara middle class family, he landed the ultimate prize Continue reading

On a passenger train from Mangalore to Madgaon on the Konkan Railway

26 stations separate Madgaon from Mangalore on the KR2 passenger. It took me 7 hours and I didnt mind it one bit. And, yes, the KR2 passenger has one reserved compartment and seats allotted are zealously guarded by the TTE. So, go ahead and climb on it the next time you are in the west coast. It is a great journey.

This is a particularly blessed land. As you go north to Goa, you get the sea on your left and masses of open, rolling country on your right. And to make it all very agreeable, the train runs over innumerable rivers and goes through long tunnels that have the exotic smell of damp red laterite soil; the same smell that greeted me in my grandfather’s house deep in the Keralan country, every morning when the dew was fresh on the ground.

And, now for my 10-second primer on the Konkan railway. The four Konkan coastal states (Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka & Kerala) hold 49% and the Indian Railways hold 51% of the Konkan Railway corporation. About 20 odd scheduled passenger trains run on Konkan railway in addition to a number of cargo trains. It has about 1900 bridges and 91 tunnels. The celebrated Mr Sreedharan, who then went to do a number of Metros in urban India, was the first head of the company. His team got the job done in about 7 years time and if other Indian government projects are anything to go by, this verges on the truly miraculous.

Like all big developments, the locals love it and hate it by turn. Continue reading

Will serendipity help me fill my Konkan trip?

And how.

I am back from almost a week of wandering up and around the Konkan coast from Mangalore to Madgaon. Which of course, explains my absence from this blog. But, I am back with many stories that should give me lots of posts over the next few days.

Here is a sneak preview. The people I met over the week include:

  • The banker who dumped a promising international banking career to become a farmer in the highest peak in Karnataka..
  • An engineer who gave himself up to his passion for photography and who is filming India’s first digital photography movie..
  • A singer/contemporary of Remo who was part of all the recent history of Goa – from the Portugese defeat to the retreat of the hippes..
  • A fascinating Estonian who can’t figure out why Indians never say ‘I don’t know’, but say ‘her husband expired’…
  • Olga from Barcelona, who does knock-out Spanish food at Ingo’s…

and so many more.

Watch this space. It gets interesting.

Click here for the first post on planning my recent Konkan trip.

Click here for all my Konkan posts.

Click here for all my Goa posts.

Karnataka : India’s best tourism destination?

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(Karnataka map from Totalkannada)

From the rolling, cool country of Coorg to the azure blue seas around Karwar just south of Goa & Maravanthe just north of kerala, from the elephant & tiger reserves of Kabini & Nagarhole in the Nilgiris Biosphere to the historical poetry of World Heritage Sites such as Hampi & Pattadakkal, Karnataka is a state with a hell of a lot of tourism oomph. Unfortunately, the state tourism bureaucracy has managed to keep this one of India’s better-kept secrets.

In spite of which, of late, tourism has blossomed here only because of the desperate need of Bangalore‘s denizens to escape the city on weekends.

While Karnataka’s tourism future has Bangalore as its possible saviour, what about the other strong potential tourism states, such as Orissa or Madhya Pradesh?

Oh, and another thing. Talking of Kannada oomph – Aishwarya Rai & Shilpa Shetty, the 2 most-est current hotties of Bollywood & Deepika Padukone the babe-in-the-making are all from Karnataka. Coincidence or what?

Click here to read all my posts on Karnataka >>

Homestays in Coorg

Did you know that the little area called Coorg on the border between Karnataka and Kerala (southern india) was a separate state? In 1950, with Indian independance, Coorg was made into a separate state. It lost this status and was merged into Karnataka in 1956. Kodavas, the inhabitants of Coorg are an interesting people. Speculation about their origin covers a wide range of options with some claiming that they are desendants of Greek soldiers who came with Alexander the Great and others saying that they are desendants of the peoples of Mohenjadaro. Whatever their origins, it is clear that they are a martial race, have good-looking women, spin tall yarns and make a mean pork-curry. Which four aspects make them an interesting people to home-stay with.

HolidayIQ has a fairly comprehensive list of “public” home stays in Coorg. Click here to get the full list of Coorg Home stay. You can also find all Coorg Hotels, Holiday Packages for Coorg, Coorg Photos, Coorg traveller reviews and Coorg maps.

Here is a photo of one of the homestay options in Coorg.

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Click here to find an earlier post on Homestays in India.

Click here for all the vacation options you can try out.

Click here for my posts on ‘Secret Indian Holidays’.

And, if you would like to discover my favourite posts among the hundreds I have written, click here.