Marketing Indian tourism destinations

(Promo video from Kerala Tourism, directed by one of Kerala’s successful cultural exports – ace movie director Priyadarshan)

We all know that Kerala has done a great job of marketing itself as a tourism destination. Goa is pretty good at it too. So is Rajasthan. Unfortunately, most of the other states have floundered. What is up? Here is my take on tourism destination marketing in India…

There are 2 critical parts to marketing a tourism destination (like marketing anything else from Soaps to B-school professors) – the product & its communication. Kerala has a product that can stand on its own – natural beauty that is not just awesome but very different from the rest of India. In addition, it has a social experience quite unlike most other states in India. All it needed to get ignited as a great tourism destination was a brilliant ad campaign that evocatively captures the product – natural beauty. Kerala tourism did just that. Similarly, Goa has a great product too. It too has a great natural beauty, particularly beaches in addition to a really laid-back social experience – once again very distinct from the rest of India. Rajasthan touts its obvious associations – “Royalty” and “Desert”.

Clearly, if you have an obviously interesting tourism “product” like Goa, Rajasthan and Kerala, all you need to do is to focus on advertising.

The problem gets more complex if the virtues of your product are not so visible, which I think is the issue with most Indian states. They simply do not have a clear, compelling tourism proposition. As a tourist, you equate Kerala with the Backwaters and Ayurveda and Goa with beaches and Feni – what do you equate, say, Karnataka or Madhya Pradesh or Gujarat with? Nothing really. For most Indian states, tourism ad campaigns are simply not enough (although they are a decent beginning). If they are serious about tourism, they have to define their tourism product. Unfortunately for many of them, the tourism proposition is not as obvious as for Kerala, Rajasthan and Goa. They will need to work harder.


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