Understanding and Evaluating Gujarat Tourism

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Gujarat has all the ingredients to become one of India's leading travel destinations - natural beauty, rich heritage, ancient archaeological sites and a colourful culture as well. Yet, Gujarat tourism has not met success in comparison to destination branding success stories such as Kerala, Rajasthan, Goa, etc.

The primary aim of this study was to study destination Gujarat and probe for the reasons behind this phenomenon. A secondary aim of this study was to explore destination branding as a concept by evaluating Gujarat tourism and in the process understand how domestic and foreign tourists choose destinations for travel.

The literature review highlighted issues such as critical success factors behind destination brands, growth of destination brands on the internet and the main points of the current tourism policy of Gujarat. There was a lack of information on Gujarat Tourism and hence a research was conducted which had both qualitative and quantitative components. The results from this research were used to compare destination Gujarat with three other competing states.
Finally, on the basis of the research findings and analysis it was recommended that Gujarat has the potential to become a top tourist destination if it manages to create a distinct identity and strong brand associations via effective marketing strategies.

INTRODUCTION

Since centuries Gujarat has been a vibrant melting pot of cultures, traditions and movements. It has also been blessed with a unique natural landscape and architecture which includes ruins of a long forgotten ancient Harappan civilization at Dholavira and Lothal to the abode of endangered wildlife like the Asiatic Lion and Wild Ass not found anywhere else in the world; from the holy town of Dwarka to the glorious Modhera Sun Temple built by the Solanki rulers.

Yet, unlike rival tourist states such as Rajasthan, Kerela, Andhra Pradesh and Goa, Gujarat has still not been able to fulfill its tourist potential. Much of it is due to an inability to carve out a unique identity and develop offerings which attracts more tourists.

The objective of the study ‘Understanding and Evaluating Gujarat Tourism' is to understand Gujarat as an emerging tourist destination and on the basis of research suggest recommendations for it to be amongst the leading tourist destinations in India.

The main reasons for choosing this topic as an area for study are:

* Marketing destinations provides an immense challenge to any management student in my opinion. It is an extremely complex product which has a mix of natural beauty, heritage, culture, tradition, folkart, food, etc. The study provides an opportunity to understand and analyze the marketing of such a product

* Most of the academic articles that I came across on destination branding were written in a global context. A few case studies have been written on successful tourist states such as Kerela, Uttarkhand, etc. There is no recent research as such done on Gujarat tourism or its marketing and branding initiatives

* Around six years ago, research had been done in MICA on “How to attract foreign tourists to Gujarat”. However, this project was not academic in its outlook and much has changed the way communication flows since then

LITERATURE REVIEW
Destination Branding

To understand, Gujarat as a tourist brand it is imperative to understand the concept of destination branding that has been looked upon by various academicians.

Tourist Destinations

Tourism destinations are products of history and culture. To some level, a successful tourist destination is one which can connect instantly with the cultural background of its potential tourist. If one looks at the meanings associated with a particular place, some of them are shared by the local community whereas others are shared by global cultural communities. For example, a place like Manali or Rishikesh attracts tourists from all over the world.

Hence a tourism destination may generate certain internationally shared meanings which can constitute a standardized platform from which a culturally differentiated market communication can take its point of departure and provide a distinct flavor. An effective portrayal and communication of these meanings is what ultimately helps the tourist decide one place over another.

Concept of Destination Brands

In today's age of globalization, intense competition between destinations is forcing various states to build a strong distinct destination brand which can help differentiate one state from another and attract tourists as well as investors. To create this unique identity and build the competitive edge , it is important to study the microenvironment, tourist behavior and trends, strategies adopted by other successful tourist destinations, evaluation of its own strengths and weaknesses, etc. as a basis for coming up with effective communication strategies.

Hence the marketing of places has received more increased interest and become accordingly more sophisticated over the last three decades.

Also from a marketer's perspective, many have shied away from the topic- arguing that places are too complex to be included in branding discussions since they have too many stakeholders and too little management control; they have underdeveloped identities and are not perceived as brands by the general public. And yet, destination branding is one of today's hottest topics among place marketers - from Switzerland and New Zealand to Hawaii and Costa Rica. (Piggott, 2001)

As per the World Tourism Organisation, this century will mark the emergence of tourist destinations as fashion accessories. The choice of holiday destinations will help define the identity of the traveller and in an increasing homogenous world will set him apart from the hordes of other tourists (Lurham, 1998)

As style and status indicators destinations can offer the same consumer benefits as other more highly branded lifestyle accoutrements such as cars, perfumes, watches and clothes. All are used to communicate, reflect and reinforce associations, statements and group memberships and in the same way tourists use their trips as expressive devices to communicate messages about themselves to peers and observers. Travel for leisure is often a highly involving experience, extensively planned, excitedly anticipated and fondly remembered. Souvenirs and props trigger and display those experiences - photographs, videos and ‘wish you were there' postcards are shared with friends and relatives, and logo emblazoned merchandise and luggage labels proclaim ‘ been there, done that' to any observers who care to notice. (Clarke, 2000)

So, what exactly is a brand ?

In marketing terms a brand represents a unique combination of product characteristics and added values, both functional and non-functional, which have taken on a relevant meaning which is inextricably linked to that brand, awareness of which might be conscious or intuitive. (Macrae, Parkinson, & Sheerman, 1995)

Brand advantage is secured through communication which highlights the specific benefits of a product, culminating in an overall impression of a superior brand. The image the product creates in the consumer's mind, how it is positioned, however is of more importance to its ultimate success than its actual characteristics. Brand managers position their brands so that they are perceived by the consumer to occupy a niche in the marketplace occupied by no other brand- thus, for marketers, the value of a successful brand lies in its potential to reduce substitutability. Brand managers differentiate their product by stressing attributes they claim will match their target markets needs more closely than other brands and then they create a product image consistent with the perceived self image of the targeted consumer segment (Schiffman & Kanuk, 2000).

When consumers make brand choices about the products including destinations- they are making lifestyle statements since they are buying into not only an image but also an emotional relationship. (Sheth, Mittal, & Newman, 1999). Consumers have their own brand wardrobes from which they make selections to communicate, reflect and reinforce associations, statements and memberships; in effect, ‘ consumers enrobe themselves with brands, partly for what they do, but more for what they help express about their emotions, personalities and roles. (Chernatony, 1993)

When one speaks about destination branding, a few attempts have been made at defining it.

Some of these definitions include,

‘Destination branding is a process used to develop a unique identity and personality that is different from all competitive destinations.'

‘Destination branding is selecting a consistent brand element mix to identify and distinguish a destination through positive image building.'

‘Destination branding is about combining all things associated with the 'place' (i.e., its products and services from various industries -- agriculture; tourism; sports; arts; investment; technology; education, etc.) that collaborate under one brand. Its aim is to capture the essence of the destination, in a unified manner, and can be consumed simultaneously at a symbolic and experiential level. It is then used to market those unique added values to consumer needs and sustaining its success in the face of competition.'

From the above we can infer that destinations behave just like products. Thus they also have a life cycle of their own during which they need to constantly stay relevant and salient if they are to remain successful destination brands.

Tourism area life cycle shows the stages a destination goes through, from exploration to involvement to development to consolidation to stagnation to rejuvenation or decline (also known as the “tourism destination life cycle”)

Just like product brands, image is all important and how a place is represented can inspire people to visit and revisit it. (Coshall, 2000) Never was the saying ‘accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative' more true than in destination branding. Destination marketing requires foresight and planning but it is not an exact science and branding offers destination marketers an opportunity to communicate key place attributes to their intended audience. Branding can help bridge any gaps between a destination's strengths and potential visitor's perceptions.

Place reputations are not made in a vacuum and neither are tourist choices, so place marketers must establish how their destination's image compares with those of its key competitors. How the destination rates according to ‘wish you were here?' appeal and celebrity value is critical. Do tourists regard it as a fashion accessory, a must see place on every aspirational traveler's shopping list or as a fashion paux- somewhere with no conversational value and even less C:\Users\MIHIR\Desktop\1.jpgstatus.

The represents a celebrity matrix and illustrates a range of destination brands measured on the axes of emotional appeal and celebrity value. Obviously, how people relate to any destination brand depends on their own individual interests, opinions and experiences, and such

On any positioning map, however, brand winners emerge as those places which are rich in emotional meaning, have great conversation value and hold high anticipation for potential tourists. By comparison, brand losers are places with little meaning, even less status, virtually no conversation value and zero anticipation for tourists.

Problem places are those destinations which are talked about for the wrong reasons and, far from holding an emotional appeal, actively repel potential tourists. Places which currently offer little emotional pull face an uphill task if they are to ever become destination winners. Other destinations which do have emotional pull but currently have limited celebrity value hold huge untapped potential and could be tomorrow's winner destination brands.

The challenge for their marketers is to craft identities for these destinations which convey and build on their emotional appeal and which turn them into places with high celebrity value. The message here is that rich, strong destination brands seem clearly differentiated and have a sense of being somewhere worth visiting.

Thus, today destination brand building is all about developing a rich, relevant brand personality. ‘Developing' is the key word here as successful brands never stagnate; instead they reflect and respond to changes in consumer's lives while the brand's core values remain the same, its personality will continue to evolve. (Morgan, Pritchard, & Pride, 2002)

Over a period of time, any successful destination brand will have an emotional bond with its stakeholders and more importantly the tourists who have visited the destination as well as potential tourists. An excellent example of this, is Mumbai the commercial capital of India which has over decades has established its image as the ‘City of Dreams' or the ‘City that never sleeps' which reflects the impact and emotional connect it has built with one and all.

To successfully create such an emotional attachment a destination brand has to be:

* Credible

* Deliverable

* Differentiating

* Convey powerful ideas

* Enthusing for trade partners

* Resonating with the consumer

A destination which is currently building such a brand proposition around its stunning natural environment is New Zealand. (Harris, 2000) A geographically disadvantaged destination, New Zealand is in the process of building a strong brand to double the country's foreign exchange receipts to more than 3 million pounds by 2005.

Delving further into the concept of brand personality for a destination brand, one can say that a brand's personality has both a head and a heart - its head refers to the logical brand features, while its heart refers to its emotional benefits and associations. Brand propositions and communications can be based around either a brand's head or it's heart; head communications convey a brand's rational values, while heart communications reveal its emotional values and associations. Brand benefit pyramids sum up consumer relationships with a brand and are frequently established during the consumer research process where consumers are usually asked to describe what features a destination offers and what the place means to them.

(Morgan & A, 2002) The brand pyramid can be instrumental in helping to distil the essence of a destination brand's advertising proposition. This refers to the point at which consumer's wants and the destination's benefits and features intersect - any communication should then encapsulate the spirit of the brand.
The Challenge of a Destination Brand

Examples of countries being influenced by external pressures to adapt and change their marketing activities or whose marketing is seriously compromised by events outside their marketer's control, highlight the fact that destinations are not a single product but composite products consisting of a bundle of different components, including accommodation and catering establishments; tourist attractions; arts, entertainment and cultural avenues; and the natural environment. (Buhalis, 2000) Destination marketers have relatively little control over these different aspects of their product and a diverse range of agencies and companies are partners in the task of crafting brand identities. These could include local and national government agencies, environmental groups and agencies, chambers of commerce, trade associations and civic groups. While packaged groups normally have an obvious core- so their advertisements can anchor themselves to product performance and attributes - with destinations the situation is much less clear. (Morgan & Pritchard, 1999)

Yet destinations have very strong and pervasive associations for tourists which if skillfully orchestrated, can provide the basis for brand building. (Baloglu & Brinberg, 1997)Today's tourists are not asking ‘what can we do on holiday?', but ‘who can we be on holiday?'. They are increasingly looking less for escape and more discoveries and that creates an emotional connection which marketers can exploit through branding. The challenge beyond that is to make the destination brand live, so that visitors truly experience the brand values and feel the authenticity of a unique place
Factors leading to successful tourist destinations

At the core of any successful tourist brand, is a clear set of brand values - emotional and functional, a robust brand identity, an attractive brand personality and an efficient and targeted communication strategy.

Another critical factor that impacts the brand image of tourist places is the flavor and image of the local inhabitants. Studies have proved that a place's image is more often than not shaped by the ‘typical' local people and their culture.

Destination image, similar to the image of products and services can be seen as a multi-item construct, implying that the sum of the attributes, are the elements of final composite image. This comes in line with Gensch who argues that product image is evaluated by its attributes. So, basically destination images are the result of individual attributes plus a more holistic image.

The following table contains some of the critical success factors identified for destination branding (Baker & Cameron, 2008):

Strategic orientation

1. Visitation statistics are included and the destination's main markets are quantified and segmented

2. The main competition is identified

3. Tourism trends are identified

4. A long-term orientation is adopted

5. The importance of international competitiveness is recognised

6. The need for infrastructure improvements is highlighted

7. The need for integration with national/regional tourism plans is recognised

8. Residents attitudes to tourism are considered

9. Local cultures, values and lifestyles are considered

10. Wealth and job creation and quality of life for residents are primary aims

11. The issue of overcrowding is addressed

12. The issue of environmental problems is addressed

13. The issue of seasonality is addressed

14. The benefit of tourism to the destination is quantified

15. Scenarios are developed

Destination identity and image

16. The need to develop brand identity is recognized

17. Brand associations are identified

18. The need for image development is recognised

19. Positioning is discussed

20. The need for coordination of industry promotional material is recognised

21. Recognition to ensuring the promises made in marketing communications are conveyed to visitors

22. New and innovative forms of communication channels are addressed

23. The need to improve branding and brand awareness is recognised

24. The importance of experiences to tourists as opposed to tangible propositions is recognised

Stakeholder involvement

25. National government agencies are involved in planning

26. Local government agencies were involved in planning

27. The area tourist board/area tourist office was involved in planning

28. Local residents were involved in planning

29. Local businesses were involved in planning

30. The need to improve communication between stakeholders (public, private and residents) is recognized

31. Leadership is addressed to give greater guidance to stakeholders.

Implementation, monitoring and review

32. The timescale for each task is included

33. The need for monitoring and review is established Evaluating destination brands

The strategic brand analysis framework comprises three main parts:

* Tourist analysis,

* Competitor analysis

* Self-analysis.

First, a destination must conduct a systematic tourist analysis. It should focus on identifying relevant new trends and developing a thorough understanding of tourists' motivation for travel.

Secondly, a destination should also carry out a competitor analysis. A destination needs insights into the competitors' advantages and disadvantages in order to improve its own competitiveness. For example, by capitalizing on perceived niche market opportunities that rival destinations have so far failed to respond to.

Last but not the least; a destination should aim to identify its true position in the market through the systematic preparation of a critical self-analysis.
Highlights of the Gujarat Tourism Policy 2003-10

Objectives

With a view to accelerating the pace of economic activities through tourism, the Government of Gujarat had announced the tourism policy for a period from 2003 to 2010. As per this, the following were some the key objectives

* To initiate event based tourism

* Chalking out of tourist circuits

* Attention to be paid to tourism related infrastructure

* Adoption of innovative marketing techniques and promotional tools

* Developing manpower in the area of tourism

* More private public relationships

* Facilitation through Government policies for quick development

* District Administration should play a more proactive role in tourism activities

Incentives to the private sector

The policy envisages privatization and incentivisation of all competitive and commercial activities of the tourism corporation of Gujarat Limited. Under this strategy the following incentives will be made available to the private sector:

* Tourism will be given status of industry

* Incentive package for new tourism projects

* Strengthening of infrastructure facilities

* Effective mechanism to build coordination with central government, state government, local self-government and NGOs

* Land acquisition various tourism projects

* Loan facilities will extended for tourism related projects

* Better incentive packages

* A special paying guest scheme to compensate for inadequate accommodation facilities

* Suitable schemes for marketing tourism products

* Reputed consultants will be hired to develop master plans

* Decentralizing the process of development of destinations

* A single window clearance system for speedy clearance

Mechanism for implementation of policy

For implementation of the policy, it is essential on the part of the State Government to play a facilitative role by granting necessary permissions/clearances required by investors in a time bound manner. The facilities of Gujarat Industrial Promotion Board (GIPB) set up to grant necessary clearances on fast track basis under the system of Single Window Clearance will now be made applicable to Tourism Sector also. All projects having investment less than Rs 50 crore will be approved at the Government level and the projects having investment exceeding Rs 50 crore will be approved by GIPB.

The Commissioner (Tourism) and Managing Director, Tourism Corporation of Gujarat will act as the Secretariat of GIPB, for the purpose of investment in tourism projects.
The Vision of the State Government for Tourism development

For the growth of overall development of economic sector and social sector, the State is determined to develop tourism as a key growth sector. It has been decided by the State Government to provide condusive climate for this sector to grow and for the purpose, Tourism has been identified as the Engine of Growth. For the purpose, efforts will be made by way of promoting:

* Hospitality Industry

* Indirect Employment

* Cultural Development

* Infrastructure Development

* Employment Opportunities

* Sustenance of rich heritage of arts and crafts

Proposed Marketing Strategy to attract tourists

The State Government is keen to attract flow of tourists in the State and for the purpose, international fairs like Navratri festival, kite festival; etc will be arranged in the State from time to time. Further, the students of Gujarat shall be encouraged to develop an interest for communication through e-mail with the students and other persons abroad to interact with them about Gujarat and ultimately motivate them to visit Gujarat.

Means to attract investment

The policy promises for long term investment and business opportunities for national and international corporate bodies and private enterprises. The sectors like hospitality industry, eco-tourism, Viswa Gram Global village, Dinosaur theme park, Cruise trips with whale watch, Deep driving and snorkeling snorkeling of coral island, Golf Courses, Royal orient gauge conversion, Special Entertainment Zones, Wayside amenities, etc are the areas to attract further investment in Tourism Sector, leading ultimately to attract tourists flow.

Relationship between Industrial Development and Tourism

The massive flow of investment in industrial sector will increase the frequency of visits by executives of different industrial houses. Further, the investment in infrastructure sector in port and road, will also increase the international trade from Gujarat and particularly from the land locked states. All these developments are expected to play an important role to increase the flow of business tourists.
Gujarat Tourism at a Glance Today

Some of the emerging areas identified by Gujarat Tourism are as follows:

Spiritual Tourism / Religious Tourism

Many of Gujarat's historical monuments represent the great religions of Asia Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Islam, Zoroastrianism and Sikkhism. Gujarat has two Jyotirlings ( Somnath and Dwarka ), two shakti peets ( Ambaji and Pavagarh ), Narmada river (one of the seven holiest for the Hindus) and Narayan Sarovar ( One of the five holy lakes in India ).

Two of the five important Jain sites ( Palitana and Girnar ) are in Gujarat besides a host of popular Jain temples spread across the state at Shankeshwar, Tarangaji, Mehsana,etc.

The Dargahs of Sarkhej and Unjha hold great importance for the Muslims of India.

Also, in Gujarat are Sacred Iranshaw Fire Temple at Udavada, Navsari Atashbehram and Surat Atashbehram. All three hold utmost importance for the Parsi community in the country.

A number of popular spiritual gurus such as Morari Bapu, Asharam Bapu and Rameshji Oza have ashrams spread across the states. These attract followers from all over the globe.

Akshardham is also a very popular temple of the wealthy Swaminarayan sect.

Medical / Well Being Tourism

Medical tourism is seen having a particularly high growth potential because of the availability of high-quality, low cost surgeries at Gujarat's hospitals. The large population of people of Gujarati origin in America, Europe and Africa can be a major growth driver for this segment of tourism.

It is home to some of the finest world class hospitals in the world such as Apollo Hospitals, Wockhardt Hospitals, etc. Care has been taken to ensure such places are set throughout the state at places such as Ahmedabad, Baroda, Surat, Karamsad, Nadiad, etc.

Gujarat is also home to the ancient healing art of ayurveda and fine ayurvedic treatment has been made available to domestic as well as foreign tourists across the state.

Archaeological and Heritage Tourism

The archaeological zone of Champaner, Pavagadh has been acclaimed by UNESCO as the "World Heritage Site1 because of its great mosques, temples, stepwells and forts. There are more than 400 archaeological sites in the Slate including some of the most substantial excavations of Indus Valley civilisation period at Lothal (near Ahmedabad), Surkotada and Dholavira

Cultural Tourism

Gujarat is the land of rich handicrafts like Patola weaving, khadi, bandhani, embroidery, block printing, rogan painting, matani pachhedi, namda, woodcrafts,etc.

Gujrat also possesses a diverse mix of exotic communities from the camel riders of Kutch to the tribals of the hilly regions of Sabarkanta, Dangs, Chhota Udaipur, etc.

Event-Based Tourism

The Gujrat tourism department has created a variety of successful event properties such as Rann Mahotsav, Vibrant Gujarat, Modhera Dance Festival, International Kite Flying Festival, etc.

With the celebration of festivals like Navaratri Mahotsav, Tarnetar Fair, Sharadotsav, Dangs Darbar and Kvant Fair the state intends to put the rich culture of Gujarat on the world map

Business Tourism

Today Gujarat has emerged as an immensely popular business destination and 55 SEZ's in the state reflect the increase in business tourist, air traffic and road traffic

Entertainment and Recreation Tourism

Gujarat has a famous hill station in the form of Saputara. Its vast coastline of 1666km means that there are beautiful beaches all along the coast such as the one at Mandvi. Gujarat also has ample of theme parks, water parks and multiplexes too which provide entertainment.

Wildlife Tourism

For eco-tourists, the state offers opportunities to see a wide range of wildlife including the Asiatic lion and Indian wild ass, endangered antelopes, a variety of deer. etc. It has India's first marine national park. Gujarat is also one of India's most important areas for birdwatchers.

Some Statistics

Total of 33 Memorandum of Understanding (MOUs) involving an investment of INR10.793 crore {USD 2.57billion) were signed at 2007 vibrant Gujarat Global Investor's Summit (VGGIS). Tourism sector registered an increase of 47 % over the investments in 2005 VGG IS

The domestic air-traffic in Gujarat increased from 1.21 million in 2005-06 to 1.93 million in 2006-07 and the international air-traffic increased from 0.13 million in 2006-07 to 0.33 million in 2006-07.

The State witnessed total 12.34 million tourists during 2006 - 07 out of which 12.1 million were the domestic tourists and 0.20 million foreign tourists.

The average contribution of tourism industry to the State's GDP is close to 2.5 %, while the comparable for India is 5.3%. The average foreign tourist spend per person per day is close to USD 700 to 1050 in Gujarat.

The total flow of tourist during the year 2006 - 07 was 12.34 million and recorded a growth of 15% over the previous year. Growth of 18.5 % was also observed in the foreign tourist inflow. With a number of more than 2 lakh foreign tourists in 2006-07 and around 1.75 lakhs in 2005-06.

Recent tourist flows for the year 2008-09 suggest that the number has gone up 15.80 million tourists which include 12.2 million from with Gujarat, 3.2 million from other states and 2.9 lakh from foreign tourists.

Ahmedabad, Ambaji and Dwarka are the major tourist destinations which invited the maximum number of tourists in Gujarat. These three destinations accounted for nearly 33% of tourist inflow.

Almost 77.2% of the tourist flow in 2006- 07 was from within Gujarat. The Share of other states was 20.2%. The foreign tourists accounted for 2.68% in the total tourist inflow.

During the 2006-07 season, the majority of tourist visit for the business purpose (53%) in the state, subsequently followed by religious visit (35%). 8% of the tourist visit for the leisure purpose, which is showing an increasing trend.

Value Chain Analysis

The tourism value chain concentrates on meeting and exceeding visitor's expectations of the internal quality of a destination. Those aspects of a destination that involve every step from pre-visit image, marketing and after sales care and commitment.

Each stage of the visitor's journey is an important aspect. A quality experience along each of the stages would result in a satisfied customer, who will talk to friends and family about their good experience.

There are many ways in which businesses in an area can be made easy for visitor's journey along the chain. Each stage proposes ways in which the key principles can be incorporated into actions. This way would create a sustainable approach to the quality a tourism destination offers.

\As per the above diagram in Stage 1, effective and efficient marketing programs need to be created and implemented just when the tourist is planning his/ her trip and is doing an information search or doing the necessary bookings.

Once, the tourist sets off on his journey, Stage 2 comes into play. Focus should be on providing a smooth, enriching and memorable experience all through this stage. Here all the three functions: logistics, operations and marketing and promotion come into play. This stage also involves a number of services that need to be provided at every point.

The main points of his journey which require attention include:

* Journey to the destination

* Initial Welcome

* Information at destination

Places to stay

* Attraction and activities

* Places to eat

* Infrastructure and environment

* Farewell and Return Journey

* After visit memory and contact

Destination Branding and the Internet

One of the leading thinkers of our times, Bill Gates has said (Gates, 1995):

‘Citizens of the information society will enjoy new opportunities for productivity, learning and entertainment. Countries that move boldly and in concert with each other will enjoy economic rewards. Whole new markets will emerge and a myriad new opportunities for employment will be created'

The 1990's saw growing interest in a new form of organization often referred to as the virtual organization. The virtual organization in this context refers to a network of independent companies, suppliers, customers, even one-time rivals linked by information technology to share skills and cost, and to access each other's markets and resources. A characteristic is that they may have no central office or internal hierarchy (Byrne, 1993). Electronic commerce has facilitated the development of virtual organizations. Hale and Whitlam (1997) define as ‘virtual' any organization that is continuously evolving, redefining and reinventing itself for practical business purposes.

The development of electronic commerce now offers new opportunities for collaboratively marketing tourism destinations. There is the potential to create virtual co-operation, whereby potential tourists can browse through websites of individual facilities at a destination and develop a coherent picture of the destination experience on offer. The creative linkage of web sites facilitates the profiling of enquiries in a way that allows potential tourists to develop their own package of experiences from a visit to the destination.

There is a strong consensus that ‘image' is a pivotal aspect of a marketing strategy for a destination and numerous authors have investigated the use of image in brand formation for destinations. (Chon, 1991) It is argued that despite a multiplicity of products and services under the one brand umbrella, the formation of a brand identity can be achieved to give the destination a common marketing purpose and direction. Examples include the Brand Australia initiative to gain partnerships between all state tourism bodies within Australia; Queensland's ‘Destination Queensland: Beautiful One Day, Perfect the Next! Campaign and the Brand Ireland campaign to promote Eire and Northern Ireland as a single tourism destination. The development of a central brand for a destination faces new challenges and opportunities from evolving distribution channels. While the internet can allow suppliers in a destination to come together to create a strong centralized site, the Internet can also facilitate a stronger presence for individual tourism suppliers in the marketplace, who are now able to reach their potential markets more directly.

Tourism related services have emerged as a leading product category to be promoted and distributed to consumer markets through the Internet (Sussmann & Baker, 1996). The nature of consumer's search activity, involving multiple choices of suppliers and comparison of facilities, prices and availability is facilitated by the search capabilities of the Internet. Increasingly, tourism suppliers are able to profile consumers and provide a selection that is based on their needs. Electronic commerce offers great flexibility for tourism suppliers operating in volatile markets. The promotional message can be changed much more quickly than is the case where the requirement to print brochures leads to long lead times between a policy decision being made and the implementation of that decision. Electronic commerce is very good at handling clearance of perishable capacity close to the time of use and for managing yields effectively. Customers benefit from such channels by gaining immediate gratification for their requests, greater choice, and multisensory, accurate and up-to-date information, an easy to use interface. Similarly, the costs of obtaining information are reduced for customers and the wide variety of information can be represented on one terminal. Many tourism organizations have developed websites with varying levels of interactivity. An interactive web site provides a good opportunity for the multiple suppliers involved in a tourism destination to uniquely fashion together the specific components of a destination offer, which is sought by individual visitors.

Faced with a rapid increase in information availability through the internet, a crucial role is played by the methods used o guide individuals through the enormous range of destination options available. In this sense Internet based marketing is no different to traditional marketing I n that consumers seek to simplify their choice by using a combination of intermediaries, trusted brand names and established business relationships. Within the tourism sector, the role of tour operators has simplified the purchase process of tourism buyers by prepackaging the elements of a vacation that might otherwise be difficult to assemble individually. The use of trusted brand name tour operators and the emergence of branded virtual intermediaries have helped to reduce the perceived riskiness of tourism purchases. The complexities of a tourist destination's routes to market in an electronic environment are illustrated below:

The fundamental distribution channel in the travel industry is made up of three important players - principals, intermediaries and customers. Principals provide travel services to end users. Intermediaries pass on information about these services to potential customers and try to influence targeted customers to use their channel. They also facilitate in customizing the principal's services to the end user's needs and handling paperwork and after sales enquiries. An early move to create an electronic distribution channel was provided by the global distribution systems which represented a closed, dedicated connection of terminals displaying travel information about airlines, hotels, car rentals, cruises and other travel products.

With the evolution of the internet, ‘shelf space' has grown exponentially and has become much more complex, and indeed crowded. Many service principals, tour and travel companies, virtual agents and travel agents maintain web sites and conduct business over the internet. In addition, some web sites offer various levels of travel information and advice, many of which are linked to one or more of the above booking agents.

The PhoCus Wright Study (The Emerging Online Travel Market Place in India, 2006) has projected the idea that online channels would continue to outpace the total travel market growth and online penetration would surpass twenty three percent in the total travel market by 2010.

Due to overwhelming response from the Online Buyers, the size of Online Travel Industry stands at Rs 5500 crores at the end of 2006-07.

Some of the drivers of this industry today are:

* Proliferation of the internet

* Growth of low-cost carriers

* Secure payment options

* Indian railways online portal

Some of the challenges are:

* Low margins and high operating costs

* Poor internet and credit card penetration

Challenges to Tourism Marketing Online

As of 2007, total number of internet users in India was only 129 million. According to I-Cube research 2008, active internet user base in urban India is 45 million. There are 5.5 million people in rural India who have used internet in the past whereas 15.1 million are computer literate. In India the speed of Internet access is very slow (around 7% users had broadband connection even in 2008) and it is the speed of the Internet that acts as bottleneck and determines the speed of navigation and not the effectiveness of navigation design.

Another challenge that exists is that many internet based destination marketing initiatives have created conflict among members where commissions charged to individual businesses for handling booking requests are perceived as being high. Of course, such arguments are not new as commissions charged by more conventional co-operative booking initiatives have frequently been challenged. The internet may, however offer more routes to the final consumer and so an individual organization's dependency on the destination marketing organization may be lessened by the presence of Internet portals.

Challenges may arise when individual tourism suppliers attempt to develop their own individual identities on a global scale via the Internet. Consumers may be faced with multiple tourism suppliers each doing their own thing and promoting to multiple market segments (i.e. lots of channels of distribution/ communication) thereby further confusing the consumer. Other challenges for this medium arise from the complexity of information to new users, copyright and legal issues, and security and privacy of information.

The rapid development and dissemination of www sites created by suppliers and intermediaries potentially increases the amount of confusion faced by consumers when seeking travel information about a decision. The implications of such confusion are that destination marketing organizations have a great opportunity to bring together the relevant suppliers of tourism services in their region under one brand identity. The destination marketing organization would act as a filter for the customers seeking professional travel advice in their region and thus add value to existing services for both customers and suppliers in terms of a strong centralized brand. The destination marketing organization could significantly reduce the amount of potential confusion for suppliers and consumers. The challenge for destination marketing organization is to act as a better filter than other portals or web site operators who similarly set out to be a trusted source of information.

Pollock (1996)noted that ‘the distance between suppliers and consumers is closing'. It appears safe to suggest that winning destinations will be the ones that close the gap fastest. Tourism destination marketing organizations are likely to play a significant role in helping to close that gap through active promotion of a destination to create awareness and also through electronic distribution channels to facilitate customers' demands for speed, accuracy and up-to date information when making enquiries.

Distribution channels are the final link in the tourism marketing system by getting messages and services to the market. However, closing this gap is not an easy task and strategies must adapt to embrace new technology. For tourism destination merely to have an electronic presence is not adequate. It must also have a strategy to bring that presence close to potential customers, and this typically involves alliances with portals and other information intermediaries, and advertising of its presence through new and traditional media.

While new media offers new exciting challenges and opportunities for destination marketing, we should not lose sight of basic principles that underlie the co-operative efforts which are a pre requisite for success. In particular, it is likely that if the stakeholders in a destination do not trust each other with a conventional marketing programme, then merely adding new technology is in itself unlikely to bring about success. Trust and leadership will remain key issues in electronic destination marketing. (Palmer, 1998).

Also, another challenge is that instead of trying to create destinations that people will come to, one needs to use the power and reach of the internet to provide information to consumers when they need it. Hence, organizations need to become contextual marketers. Many authors define this phenomenon as the ubiquitous internet - where the internet will be accessible from almost everywhere. Consumers will be linked to net via wireless phones, interactive television, personal digital assistants or laptops with wireless connections. Consumers will constantly be in a digital environment (Kenny & Marshall, 2001).

As the internet becomes ubiquitous, a traveler would be able to change plans mid-journey through an internet- enabled mobile device while he is still in the flight or a computer terminal, or while he is in the departure lounge or in an airline club. The passenger may also modify his requirements of hotel reservations and ground transportation as his plans change. This is getting reflected in the advancement of mobile commerce technology that is today equipped to provide flight and destination information around the clock, even when the passengers are travelling.

Hence the dilemma faced by any tourism organization faces today is how to move beyond being just a content and information provider to the consumer.

A Case of Successful Tourism Marketing Online

An example of how tourism can be marketed online effectively is highlighted in Amitabh Kant's book ‘Branding India - An incredible story'. Following are some excerpts from his book:

‘Towards the end of September 2001, www.incredibleindia.org was created. As a strategy, the entire work was outsourced to Grey World Wide to ensure that the content was current, accurate and relevant to the target audience. An immense amount of work was put in to create a lively design, which maintained interest and differentiated India as a tourist destination. Our objective was to create a content rich site so that awareness was raised and information provided. Later, different language versions for key markets were created for the site - French, Spanish, Italian, Chinese and Japanese. Since then, several net advertising campaigns have been undertaken to encourage traffic from key source markets, outlays have been enhanced and the results constantly reviewed and monitored.

Having invested and vigorously promoted and marketed incredibleindia.org there was a need to carry consumer demands to their logical stage of fulfilling specific requirement. There was an immense demand to create a bazaar - a market place where consumers could interact and deal with a range of service providers, who were registered and provided quality services. We also needed to bring a range of small-scale service providers, particularly bed and breakfast establishments, which did not have an online presence. There was also a need to build a reservation system that could be utilized by small businesses providing tourism services in addition to accommodation.

However Indian tourism was definitely not equipped to transact business and operate in e-commerce itself. The answer lay in outsourcing e-commerce and building on a private-public partnership to promote and market India as a destination.'

The Incredible India online campaign saw a whole range of innovations. The ministry of tourism shifted from super floating ads to monsters to road blocks, promotional newsletters, chats with eminent celebrities on various aspects of India to advertorials on the featured destinations. Website visits, page views and click throughs were constantly monitored to assess the efficacy of the campaign.

RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
Research Objectives

· To study and evaluate Gujarat as a tourist destination brand and benchmark it with other successful state tourism initiatives in India

· To understand the motivations and perceptions of the Indian and foreign tourist who have visited Gujarat

Rationale

The idea is to study Gujarat as a product, examine its tourist offerings and compare it with the offerings of other states. Destination branding as a sphere of study is evolving at a rapid pace and hence to study any destination brand in contemporary times a more holistic approach needs to be taken. So one has to study the various places, look at travelling habits, look at sources of information, check satisfaction levels, take note of tourist perceptions, etc. The research will also attempt to verify the importance of the tourism website

Also, since the information in this area of research is not much, the research needs to be exploratory in nature.

Expected Contribution

This research will help us decide how Destination Gujarat fares in comparison to other leading destinations. It will help identify the strengths and weakness of its current offerings and initiatives and possibly suggest a roadmap for the future. It will also indicate the travel behaviour of domestic as well as foreign tourists and their opinions and perceptions regarding Destination Gujarat.

The literature review also pointed out a dearth of information on Gujarat Tourism and so this study will add to the existing knowledge in the realm of destination branding in India.

Research Design

Post the literature review, initially secondary research was used to analyse the tourism data available on www.indiastat.com. Next was primary research.

For the purpose of this study, primary data was gathered in three phases. Of the three phases, phase1 and phase 2 were independent while phase 3 depended on the completion of phase 1:

Phase 1: Qualitative Research with Domestic Tourists

Phase 1 of the research involved conducting in-depth with domestic tourists who had visited Gujarat. The primary purpose of this research was to understand how they travel, plan their trips, get their impressions on Gujarat and its tourism, check their awareness levels of tourist places, their perceptions regarding them and finally look at some of the other tourist destinations they admire.

Universe: Any domestic tourist who has visited atleast one tourism destination in Gujarat

Sample: The indepth-interview was conducted with 4 domestic tourists. The number was arrived at keeping in mind the fact that a diverse range of opinions could be sought. Care was also taken to ensure that all the respondents came from diverse backgrounds though all of them belonged to the same age group of 20-25 years

Phase 2: Qualitative Research with Foreign Tourists

Phase 2 of the research involved conducting in-depth with foreign tourist who had visited Gujarat. The primary purpose of this phase of research was to look at the travel behaviour and also out the factors which decide their travel plans to and within India. Another important purpose was to understand the perceptions of foreign tourists regarding Destination Gujarat

Universe: Any foreign tourist who has visited atleast one tourism destination in Gujarat

Sample: The indepth-interview was conducted with 3 foreign tourists who were also foreign exchange students studying in India for a short period of time. All of them belonged to different countries though they belonged to the same age group of 20-25 years

Phase 3: Questionnaire with Domestic Tourists

The purpose of this research was to ascertain the travel behaviour, awareness levels and perceptions of domestic tourists regarding Destination Gujarat. It was also used to ascertain the usage pattern of the internet in their decision making process. A secondary purpose was to ascertain the top 3 tourist destination states in the opinion of the domestic tourists.

Universe:Anybody who has visited Gujarat and resides in India. Since the questionnaire was administered online, having online connectivity became an implicit criterion.

Sample:

The sample chosen for this purpose were students who had visited atleast one tourist destination in Gujarat. This was done on a basis of convenience and questionnaires were administered to them. The sample size chosen for this task was 53 as it provided sufficient evidence to further strengthen the findings of the qualitative research.

RESEARCH FINDINGS

[1]Analysis of Data on India Stat

Analysis of Domestic Tourists region wise

As per 2008 data, nearly 50% of the domestic tourists travelled to just two states, Andhra Pradesh (23.6%) and Uttar Pradesh (22.2%). Gujarat is the ninth most visited state in the country and has a 2.8% share of the total domestic tourists.

Interestingly, neighbouring states Rajasthan (5%), Madhya Pradesh (3.9%) and Maharashtra (3.7%) have a relatively higher share. Gujarat in this respect is located strategically and can capitalise on this pattern of tourist behaviour.

Analysis of Foreign Tourists region wise

As per 2007 data, Delhi (around 20.1 lakhs) and Maharashtra (around 19.2 lakhs) stood 1st and 2nd respectively in the total number of foreign tourists they received.

Gujarat stands 14 on the list of top states visited by foreign tourists with a total of only 1 lakh visitors. Its neighbouring state of Rajasthan received 14 lakh visitors, Madhya Pradesh 2.3 Lakh visitors, Goa 3.8 lakh visitors and Kerela 5.1 lakh visitors.

This may be due to the fact that Delhi is the national capital and hence receives a larger number of foreign tourists. Maharashtra too has Mumbai, which receives a huge chunk of foreign tourists being the commercial capital. Both these places enjoy strong air connectivity with most major cities of the world.

However, despite having destinations as beautiful and exciting as the ones in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh (its neighbours), Gujarat has failed to attract an equal number of foreign tourists.

Sources of information for Foreign Tourists

The largest number of foreign tourists seem to get influenced by the ‘third' party information sources like travel guides (12.3%) , general books (13.3%), friends and relatives (16.3%) and travel agents and operators (11.3%). These along with miscellaneous sources of information (20.2%) form the major sources of information.

Usage of mass media hasn't been quite successful for India. In totality only around 17.86 % of the tourists responded as advertising as the source of information (includes TV and print ).

Travel circuits

Out of the 21 travel circuits, which are the most frequently travelled, Gujarat has been able to manage only two. However, both of them were clearly for the domestic tourists. The state Governments of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Orissa and Maharashtra and Union Territory Administration of Daman and Diu declared Bekal Beach (Kerala), Puri-Konark Area (Orissa), Sindhudurg (Maharashtra), Muttakadu-Mamallapuram (Tamil Nadu) and Diu have been given status of special Tourism Area for integrated development.

* Ahmedabad-Modhera-Patan-Ambaji-Mt. Abu

* Ahmedabad-Rajkot-Dwarka-Porbandar-Somnath-Girnar-Palitana-Ahmedabad

Analysis of Number of Pilgrimage Centres

Of the total of 33 pilgrimage centres identified by Indian tourism, Gujarat has 3 of them i.e. Dwarka, Palitana and Odwada (near Vapi). It is the state with the second highest number of pilgrimage centres along with Maharashtra ( also 3 ). Uttar Pradesh is the leading state with a total of 8 pilgrimage centres which include Barsana-Gokul, Nandgaon, Mathura, Vrindavan and Gowardhan, Sarnath-Kushinagar. This data clearly proves that Gujarat has tremendous potential for promoting religious tourism.

World heritage sites

In the cultural category, of the listed sites (22 sites for India in total) only one is from Gujarat. The selected one is Champaner Pavagadh Archaeological Park. Inspite of this unique distinction its brand awareness or recall is extremely poor amongst the tourists. At the time, one observes that two of Gujarat's neighbouring states have more than 3 world heritage sites. Maharashtra has Ajanta and Ellora Caves, Elephanta Caves as well as Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) while Madhya Pradesh has the Buddhist Monuments atSanchi, Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka and the KhajurahoGroup of Monuments

Even more surprising is the fact that Gir sanctuary is not present in the list of five natural sites listed by UNESCO. This is inspite the fact that Gir National Park is the only park in Asia which is home to the lions.

Travel agencies and operators

One of the indicators of the overall state of tourism can be the number of recognized tour operators or travel agencies in the state. As of the data of 2007, of a total of 438 recognized tourist operators, Gujarat has only ‘5'. This though on par with states like Rajasthan and Orissa, is extremely low when compares to the numbers in Tamil Nadu (22) Maharashtra (40) and Delhi (285)

Of the existing foreign tourist arrivals in the country, UK and US are clearly the largest contributors. Almost 30.8 % of the foreign tourists arriving into the country, come from UK and USA. Probably, one of the important reasons for this trend is prevalence of English language in the country. Most of the European tourists travel India through organised tours primarily due to language problems.

State wise Geographical Distribution of approved hotels

As of December 2007, Gujarat had a total of 54 approved hotels. Contrasting to this low number Kerala had a total of 313 approved hotels, Rajasthan a total of 112 and even a small state like Goa a total of 47. The sheer gap shows that in terms of accommodation facilities Gujarat is far lagging quite a few other states. In order to attract foreign tourists as well as high ticket Indian tourists immense focus will need to be given to the development of hotels and other quality accommodation facilities.
Understanding Travel Behaviour and Opinions about Gujarat Tourism

Idea of a Trip

The Oxford dictionary defines the word trip as a ‘journey' or an ‘excursion'. It can also be defined as an extended period of recreation, especially away from home. Today, there is large number of people who go on a trip two or more times a year. This is due to the fact that lives especially in urban cities are getting extremely fast paced and chaotic. More often than not a person is leading a life full of work pressures, family responsibilities and the hustle and bustle of the city stresses a person after a point of time.

Often, it is this situation which encouraged people to go on a trip. The idea of a trip in India is extremely personal and differs from individual to individual. For some people, a trip meant visiting friends and family living far, for some it involved visiting religious places of worship, for some it meant going to the hills or the jungles in pursuit of adventure and thrill, for some it meant just seeing a new land and for a few it also meant going to a resort nearby and relaxing for a few days away in a comfortable slow paced environment away from the city.

From the perspective of a foreigner, a trip to a new land was all about exploring new places of interest, meeting people of a different culture and immersing themselves in a new setting. The idea of a trip to India was an opportunity to take a dip into the oriental culture and learn more about one of the most ancient civilizations and an upcoming superpower in the world.

Planning a Trip
Sources of Information

‘Planning a trip has never been more easier and at the same time more complicated'

Today as soon as an individual decides that he/she wants to go on a trip, there are a variety of decisions to be made and a number of factors come into play. To help make these choices, the individual turns to a variety of sources of information. Often the individual accesses more than one source of information before reaching a decision.

As per the research findings, one can infer that the internet has emerged as one of the most popular and trustworthy sources of information along with the always present and popular ‘word of mouth'. Most tourists referred to third party sources of information before they plan out their trip. Travel guide books such as ‘Lonely Planet' and City guide books are widely available and acted as a rich and reliable source of information. A small percentage still used the mass media as a source of information.

Another interesting trend is that the dependence on the travel agencies has fallen and people are more and more accessing blogs and online reviews of tourist places and facilities before taking their decision.

Important to note is the fact that though the variety of sources of information has increased, so has the confusion amongst the information seekers regarding reliability of the information. This is particularly evident when the tourists seeked the information required on the internet.

Influencers

Before an individual sets off on a trip, there were a variety of factors that influenced his/ her travel plans. Foremost amongst these were the time factor, the distance the individual was willing to travel and the amount required to make the trip.

Also important was the connectivity (air, railway and road) to the destination and the availability of accommodation and leisure facilities. The size of the group, the nature of the people you were travelling with (alone, friends or family) also played an important role in deciding a destination.

Ease of booking in advance the transportation as well as the accommodation is something which has become easier due to internet travel portals like makemytrip.com, yatra.com, etc. These reduced the uncertainty involved and encouraged more people to travel hassle free.

In addition to these factors, for the foreigners factors such as the weather, security, language of usage, etc. also became important for coming up with a destination.

Paolin Pascot, a 21 year old student from Paris said the following regarding how he planned his trips:

‘I access the information regarding any place I want to visit. Then, I check the price of the trip, the weather of the place I plan to visit. I enjoy visiting places which have a rich culture and so I check out the possible places I could see on the trip. I discuss this with my family and friends as well as on online forums. I prefer reading French over English and hence I prefer visiting websites and forums which are in French for information. I also read travel guides like ‘Routar' which give more detailed information regarding every country or place I want to visit.'

Gujarat as a Tourist Destination Hub

Awareness

On the whole, both primary and secondary research indicates that awareness is low when it comes to the tourist destinations of Gujarat.

Popular destinations such as the Gandhi Ashram and Gir National Park had comparatively high levels of awareness. A lot of Hindu and Jain tourists come to Gujarat on a religious tour and so not surprisingly places such as Ambaji, Dwarka and Modhera Sun Temple had reasonably high awareness levels.

Also, interestingly more tourists were aware of tourism places in and around Ahmedabad like Akshardham and Nal Sarovar Bird Sanctuary as compared to tourist destinations in isolated and remote parts of the state such as Dholavira. Also, the awareness for a number of museums such as Calico Textile Museum was low.

This is truer in the case of foreign tourists who often weren't aware regarding the existence of Gujarat when they are planning their trips in their native lands. For them, India either meant big cities such as Delhi- the national capital, Mumbai- the commercial capital and the home to Bollywood or Bangalore- the IT Hub or internationally popular Indian tourist destinations such as Kerala and Goa. Because of the Kashmir dispute becoming an international issue of debate, people were aware of Jammu and Kashmir too. Agra also made it to the list because of the Taj Mahal.

To an extent, some of the foreigners were aware about Ahmedabad as the birthplace of Gandhi while some were aware of Gir National Park as it is the habitat of the Asian lions.

However, after coming to Gujarat majority foreigners referred to their travel guide or the internet to see which other tourist places catch their interest. Travelling to Gujarat was more convenient for tourists visiting Rajasthan or the ones who spent a little time in Mumbai.

Perceptions

Amongst domestic tourists, Gujarat was best known for its heritage monuments, culture and the food. Equally popular were the archaeological sites, beaches and forest and nature reserves. In common perception, Diu was often considered a part of the Gujarat tour circuit. Also, Gujarat wasn't rated very highly for its gardens and lakes as well as its museums.

Yet, some felt that there was plenty to see for the avid traveler who sees an opportunity to have an exotic experience in the little desert of Kutch or the Gir National Park or the Sun Temple at Modhera.

Some of the domestic tourists felt that Gujarat had undergone a massive change in the last few years and the efforts of the now efficient administration meant that Gujarat Tourism was on the path of progress. Signing of Amitabh Bachhan as the brand ambassador of Gujarat tourism was also seen as a big boost to the tourism industry in Gujarat.

Foreign tourists perceived Gujarat as a very traditional and orthodox tourist destination. They found it tough that there was lack of quality of accommodation and transport facilities across all major tourist destinations. Another barrier for many young tourists was the fact that in Gujarat there is no alcohol, no clubs or meat.

Language was a major barrier; especially when a foreign tourist travels alone or travels to places away from Ahmedabad. Similar to a lot of tourist destinations in India, foreigners often felt cheated when they were on a trip. Lack of information in English at all the tourist points acted as another barrier to enriching their journey.

Inspite of this, the foreigners cherished the raw beauty of Gujarat. They were extremely attracted to the rich and colourful culture, the traditions and the rich architecture found at a number of tourist destinations. They also felt good about the fact that even the capital of Gujarat, Ahmedabad is not very crowded in comparison to Delhi, Mumbai and a few popular tourist spots in the North.
Personality

Gujarat was seen as a traditional, warm, hospitable and enterprising tourist destination by both domestic and foreign tourists. The current government administration was seen as being very honest by domestic tourists in comparison to other state governments and this aura spilt on to their perception on the destinations too.

Inspite of the vibrant Gujarat campaign, many tourists felt that tourism in Gujarat had still not been as proactive and bold as it could have been.

Efficiency of operations and clarity of thinking were two more qualities that most destinations in Gujarat lacked in the opinion of the tourists
Comparison of Gujarat tourism with other states

Inspite of all the marketing efforts of the Gujarat tourism, destination Gujarat did not reach anywhere near the popularity of successful tourist destinations such as Goa, Rajasthan and Kerela.

One of the reasons given for the popularity were the unique brand associations that these destinations enjoy. For example, Goa is associated with feni and beaches, Kerela with natural beauty in the form of backwaters and coffee estates as well as ayurvedic healing and Rajasthan with royalty and barren desert.

Tourists loved exotic locales like the ones in Sikkim and Himachal which were also very popular.

So, one observes that any state which struggles to have strong brand associations will not be a successful brand destination.

This is the case with Gujarat which does not enjoy any such associations. Tourists who have visited Gujarat rate their experience as average or above average. But, there were few who found Gujarat as an exceptional tourist destination, unique in its own way. Until there are a sizeable number of such fans of destination Gujarat, it will be tough to generate the word of mouth which is the key to success of any brand.

ANALYSIS

Gujrat Tourism Website: Analyzing Performance via Alexa.com

[2]Key Definitions

Traffic Rank

Alexa traffic rank for gujarattourism.com

Reach

Percent of global Internet users who visit gujarattourism.com

Page Views / User

Daily pageviews per user for gujarattourism.com

Bounce

The percentage of visits to gujarattourism.com that consist of a single page turn

Time on Site

Daily time on sitefor gujarattourism.com

Search

The percentage of visits to gujarattourism.com that came from a search engine

Average Load Time

The amount of time taken for a website to load

Audience Demographics

Relative tothe general internet populationhow popular is gujarattourism.com

Following were the findings when www.gujarattourism.com was analyzed

Alexa Traffic Rank: 248,849

Traffic Rank in India: 25,934

Online Since: 25 June 1997

Audience Demographics:

From the above statistics regarding audience demographics for Gujarat tourism website, the findings are as follows:

* Most of the people accessing the website are between the ages of 25-34. This is against the flow of traffic received from a host of other general interest or entertainment websites which attract a lot of people between the ages of 18-24 years. This points out to the fact that young working adults are the ones who use the website most frequently.

* Also interesting to note is that most of the people who visit the website have completed graduate school or received college education as compared to other websites

* A majority of the people also had kids and accessed the website from their workplace

Top Keywords from Search Traffic

Keyword

Percent of Search Traffic

gujarat tourism

18.55%

gujarat

9.62%

gujrat tourism

4.28 %

gujarat tourism development corporation

1.22%

saputara

1.08%

vibrant gujarat

0.95%

shamlaji udaipur distance

0.53%

vijaynagar polo circuit

0.53%

gujarat tourism board

0.53%

guide vijaynagar polo

0.53%

Around 33 % of the total search traffic contained the keyword ‘Gujarat' in it. Interesting to note is that searches for no major tourist place like ‘Champaner' or Gir National Park' draws traffic towards the Gujarat tourism website. Also, ideally keywords like ‘religious tourism' or ‘medical tourism' should direct some amount of traffic to the main tourism website.

Search Traffic

34.7 %

Average Load Time for Gujarat Tourism

Slow (4.136 Seconds), 79% of sites are faster

This is an indication of the fact that the current website is not that user friendly. It takes a longer time to load than more sites. In case of connections with slower internet speeds, this may prove to be a huge barrier.

Visitors by country for GujaratTourism.com

India

94.7%

United Kingdom (UK)

3.8%

Others

1.7%

The above table clearly indicates that 94.7% of the total visitors to the Gujarat tourism website are domestic tourists. Amongst visitors of the website from foreign countries, residents of UK form a substantially high percentage (3.4% of total visitors).

Comparison of Gujarat Tourism Websites with the websites of Kerela, Goa and Rajasthan (over 3 Months i.e December 2009 - February 2010)

As per the findings of the survey administered; Rajasthan, Kerela and Goa emerged as immensely popular tourist destinations. Hence, using Alexa a comparison was made of their websites.

Gujarat

Rajasthan

Kerela

Goa

Traffic Rank

248,849

153,525

42,220

247,706

Reach (%)

0.00059

0.0009

0.00322

0.00054

Page Views / User

3.2

4.8

6.4

4.6

Bounce %

47.7

33.2

41.3

29.4

Time on Site (in mins)

4.2

4.97

6.23

6.31

Search %

36.6

43.2

26.6

42

Average Load Time

4.136

1.516

2.664

4.106

Daily Traffic Rank Trend

The above chart is a clear indicator that for the past 3 months, the Gujarat tourism website has not featured in the top 1 lakh sites in terms of traffic attracted. Its rank of 2,48, 849 is the lowest amongst all the four websites reviewed. Goa tourism came close in terms of low rankings. One website which has done exceptionally well is the Kerela website which has consistently featured in the top 1 lakh. It has seen bursts of activity over the past three months with highs of nearly 25,000 in terms of ranking. The Rajasthan tourism website is also close to the 1 lakh rank mark and broke the barrier a couple of times over the past three months.

Daily Reach

The reach for Gujarat is just 0.00059% and is closely followed by Goa at 0.00054%. Again doing well in terms of reach is the Kerela tourism board which reached out to an averge of 0.00322 over the past three months. The Reach of Rajasthan tourism board at 0.009 is double the reach of Gujarat board. This clearly shows that more buzz needs to be created around Gujarat tourism so that the reach increases. Marketing efforts need to be stepped up in this direction.

Daily Page Views Per User

Here too the Kerela website tops with 6.4 page views per user. Rajasthan tourism website has 4.8 page views while Goa tourism website has a close 4.6 page views. Gujarat again comes the lowest with just 3.2 page views per user. Generally, it is the content rich and interactive websites which involve the online tourist to browse more in depth for information and draw him to clicking more pages in search of information. The site architecture also comes into the play in this case.

Bounce Rate

Gujarat tourism website has the highest bounce rate of all the four analyzed at 47.7%. This essentially means that nearly half the website visitors did not see more than one page. Surprisingly, the Kerela website also scores a high 41.3% in bounce rate, while the Goa tourism website is the one which convinces and involves the user the most to have a look at more than one page. It has a bounce rate of just 29.4%

Time on Site

Not surprisingly, a visitor to the Kerala and the Goa tourism website spends a longer time on the website at 6.23 minutes and 6.31 minutes respectively compared to visitor to the Gujarat website. On an average, a visitor to the Gujarat website just spends 4.2 minutes.

Search Visits

Rajashthan Tourism (43.2%) and Goa Tourism (42%) received a high proposition of their traffic via search visits. KerelaTourism interestingly received just 26.6% of their traffic via search engine. Gujarat Tourism has got a moderate 36.6% of their website visits via the search engine. The low percentage for Kerela tourism may be either low SEO (Search Engine Optimization) efforts as compared to the other three tourism websites. It may also be receiving a huge chunk of its traffic via affiliate sites and blogs.

Major Tourism Destinations of Gujarat v/s Rajasthan v/s Kerela v/s Goa

Gujarat

Rajasthan

Kerela

Goa

Forests & Natural Beauty

Gir National Park, Narayan Sarovar Bird Sanctuary, Marine National Park

Ranthambore National Park, Mount Abu, Sariska, Bharatpur

Eravikulam National Park, Silent Valley, Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary

Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary, Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary,Mollem Wildlife Sanctuary

Beaches

Mandvi, Chorwad, Beyt Dwarka

None

Kovalam, Payyambalam, Varkala

Sinquerim, Candolim, Calangute, Baga, Velsao

Heritage Monuments

Vijay Vilas Palace, Rani Ki Vav,Aina Mahal,

Umaid Bhawan, Kumbhalgarh, Amber Fort, Jodhpur Fort

Bekal, Mattancherry Palace, Padmanabhapuram Palace

Se Cathedralin Old Goa, Aguada Fort,Shri Mahalsa Templeat Mardol, Shantadurga Temple, The Viceroy Arc

Religious Sites

Somnath, Dwarka, Palitana, Girnar, Ambaji, Akshardham

Dargah Sharif, Srinathji, Nathdwara, Ranakpur, Brahma Temple

Guruvayoor, Sabarimalai, Holy Cross Shrine

Basilica ofBom Jesus, Church of St. Francis of Assisi, Brahma Temple, Bhagwati Temple

Museums

Gandhi Ashram, Auto Car, Calico Textile Museum

Mehrangarh Fort Museum, Hawa Mahal Museum, Amer Museum

Kuthiramalika Palace, Napier Museum and Art, Hill Museum Palace, Arakkal Kettu

Naval Aviation Museum, Big Foot Art Gallery, Archives Museum of Goa

Archaeological Sites

Champaner, Lothal, Dholavira

Jeora, Gilund

None

None

Fairs and Festivals

Kite Flying Festival, Modhera Dance Festival, Rann Utsav, Tarnetar Fair

Pushkar Camel Fair, Desert Festival, Elephant Festival, Urs

Vallamkali, Nedukundam Tourism Festival, Utsavam

Shigmo, Tripurari Poornima, Carnival, Feast of St. Francis

The above table is an indicator of the fact that on most terms (natural beauty, heritage sites and fairs and festivals, etc.) if not all Gujarat finds itself on par or better than the other three states. The sheer diversity of tourist destinations should be a major draw for most tourists.

RECOMMENDATIONS

* The tourism policy developed in 2003 is outdated and many of the objectives have still not been fulfilled. Attempts should be made to come up with a new tourism policy which is contemporary, relevant and contains targets which need to be attained within a certain time frame

* Awareness regarding any tourist destination besides a handful such as Gandhi Ashram, Ambaji, Somnath or Gir National Park is extremely low. Gujarat has some unique tourist destinations such as Dholavira, Champaner , Nal Sarovar Bird Sanctuary, Calico Museum, etc. which if promoted well can turn into successful tourist destinations

* Gujarat Tourism lacks a clear identity which stands out. It needs to build stronger associations and have a series of strategic marketing efforts to remain a contemporary and successful tourism destination

* Concentrated efforts need to be made to build and maintain strong partnerships with tour operators, travel agents and any other stakeholder who influences a tourist's decision

* It is also imperative that a larger number of tourist destinations of Gujarat become part of popular tourist circuits to increase the tourist arrivals

* Foreign tourists are highly influenced by third party sources of information and so concentrated efforts must be made to have tourist destinations of Gujarat featured extensively in travel guides, travel magazines, in-flight magazines, etc.

* Though Gujarat is perceived as a warm and hospitable tourist destination, its infrastructure facilities are still not ready to cater to a large number of foreign tourists and high value domestic tourists. This needs to be improved

* It has been noted that across numerous tourist destinations in Gujarat, the information provided regarding the place, its history, its uniqueness, etc. is missing. This leads to a poorer experience for the tourist and needs to be rectified. Basic reading material should be made available and information signposts in atleast Gujarati, Hindi and English should be installed at all tourist places

* The research clearly suggests that Gujarat enjoys a high appeal amongst religious tourists. Efforts should be made to establish special packages and marketing communication for these tourists which leads them to exploring other tourism destinations as well

* The research has also clearly highlighted the growing power of the internet in a tourist's decision making process and Gujarat tourism needs to stand up to this challenge. It's website needs to be faster, more interactive and web 2.0 supported

* The Gujarat tourism website needs to have facilities to book for packages and accommodation online. Security will be a major barrier in this case and so care must be taken to ensure that all necessary steps are taken to build a feeling of mutual trust with the online tourist

* A stronger presence on various social media properties such as Youtube, Facebook , Flickr as well as tourism blogs could fortify its web presence and could resonate with the foreign tourist too

CONCLUSION

In conclusion of this study of ‘Understanding and Evaluating Gujarat tourism' one sees that even though Gujarat has a rich blend of exotic locales, historical sites, religious places, wildlife and diverse culture, it has still not attained its potential to be a top tourist destination in India.

Currently, it is facing stiff competition from established tourist destinations such as Goa, Kerala and Rajasthan as well as from the neighbouring states of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh who have upped their marketing efforts in a move to develop a strong destination brand.

Hence, in this scenario of stiff competition from rival tourism boards and a rapidly changing external environment it needs to establish a clear distinct identity, upgrade its tourism facilities, have a strong online presence, build long lasting partnerships with various stakeholders and invest in effective marketing activities to increase awareness and attract more tourists to Gujarat.

Limitations of the study:

* A lot of the statistics used in the research are more than 3 years old. Much has changed in Gujarat Tourism's marketing activities and tourist behavior since then

* The views are mainly of young tourists between the ages of 20 - 25 years who have visited atleast one tourism destination in Gujarat in their lifetime. The study could not be conducted across various age groups due to time constraint

* The entire study is mostly dependent on the views and opinions of the tourists. The views of other stakeholders such as tourism officials, travel agents, tour operators, etc. have not been taken into consideration

* Researcher's bias has been avoided to a great extent, yet there could be some unintended and unconscious slips
Future Scope of Study:

* It would be interesting to study just the impact of the communication material developed by Gujarat tourism and its impact on tourists

* It will be interesting to study indepth how the foreign tourist coming to India uses the Internet as a tool for information and decision making

* The study could be extended to understanding in detail the tourism in other states too and make a more extensive comparative analysis

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APPENDIX

Appendix 1 : Responses to the questionnaire administered to domestic tourists

Appendix 2: Discussion Guidelines for indepth interviews of tourists

Idea of a trip

· What does the word ‘trip' mean to you?

· How often do you go on a trip every year?

· Why do you go on a trip?

· On what occasions do you go on a trip?

· What is your ideal trip like?

Planning for a trip

· Who plans the trip?

· How does he/she plan it?

· What are the various sources of information gathering?

· Which sources of information do you normally trust?

· What role does the internet play in planning a trip?

· What are the major factors that influence your decisions when you are planning a trip?

Gujarat as a tourist destination hub

· What are you first thoughts when you think of India? (only for foreign tourists)

· Which are the tourist places in India that you are aware of? (only for foreign tourists)

· How did you choose India as a travel destination? (only for foreign tourists)

· What is the first thought that comes to your mind when you think of Gujarat?

· Which tourists places in Gujarat are you aware of?

· Which are the tourist places in Gujarat that you have visited?

· What are the good things about travelling in Gujarat?

· What are the bad things about travelling in Gujarat?

· If you could change some things about your trip to Gujarat what will it be?

· Which are the tourists destinations that you feel are the best in Gujarat?

· Which are the tourist destinations which are unique to Gujarat?

· If destination Gujarat were a person what would gender will it be?

· If destination Gujarat were a person what personality traits would it have?

· If destination Gujarat were a person what would be its strengths and weaknesses?

Comparing Gujarat Tourism with other states

· Name top three tourism states in the country as per your liking?

· Why do you like these tourist destinations?

· Can you compare some of these tourist destinations to Gujarat?

[1] All the stats that have been analysed have been taken from www.indiastats.com

[2] All the definitions have been taken from Alexa.com. Alexa is a useful resource for people to discover more about their websites. It provides a whole range of analytics.