How a country is perceived, both domestically and from abroad, from the quality of its goods and services, to the attractiveness of its culture and its tourism and investment opportunities, to its politics, economic policies and foreign policy, can be shaped under a brand.
In this section, we will focus on tourism, its impact on nation branding, its effect on GDP and the benefits of tourism branding. In the latter part of this section, we are going to analyse the tourism industries of India and Malaysia, their successful tourism campaigns, and further scope of improvement in the respective areas. We will also try to enumerate what are the major constituents of a tourism industry in any country – and their relative importance, in the two countries taken as our focus areas.
The early history of tourism tells us that people travelled from one place to another mainly because of food or shelter. But in due course of time, large scale mobility of people was caused by the natural elements of human pressure, livelihood or a better standard of living.
In the words of UNESCO, “tourism is a traditional instrument, which enables culture to be rehabilitated and made known to the rest of the world”. Tourism has become a popular leisure activity. International tourism activities have grown by leaps and bounds in the past years. With the dismantling of national boundaries, the tourism scenario is changing. There is a steady growth in the number of tourist arrivals and more satisfactorily the average spending of foreign tourist has gone up.
Tourism is vital for many countries – such as Egypt, Thailand, Malaysia and Maldives and last but not the least, India. The associated goods and service industries in these countries have sprouted to aid the tourism industry. These include transportation services, hospitality services such as accommodations including hotels and resorts, and entertainment venues like amusement parks, shopping malls and casinos etc.
It is universally accepted that government promotion of tourism is a good idea that brings excellent return on investments. It generates jobs like no other, and its development also leads to development of infrastructure, education and related industries.
However, promoting tourism successfully requires setting a context that will allow the tourists to appreciate what is on offer. THAT context is the brand or the overall image of a country.
If a country is widely viewed as secure, modern, clean and efficient, chances of getting tourists to frequent attractive destinations are good. If a nation is known for its unique features whether they be cultural, manmade or natural, there will a positive curiosity towards them encouraging tourists to discover first hand something new.
On the other hand, if a country is known for civil war, crime and corruption, inadequate infrastructure or unfriendly population, inviting tourists to your country is a mammoth task. They either require pretence of not existing, or there will be a lot of convincing to be done that it doesn’t impact the travel experience in any adverse manner.
Tourist choice behaviour is one of the most needed studies by today. Tourists take into account the various factors in terms of facilities, local attractions etc, before choosing their destination. Local attractions, accessibility, facilities are some of the factors that generate tourist flow to a particular location. Absence of any of these facilities may deter the tourists from travelling.
Hence, tourism has to be seen in totality and as comprising of its constituents – mainly attraction, hospitality and the transport facilities in the country. We are going to look at each of them in the following pages. The model that this section follows is as under:
A tourist attraction is a place of interest where tourists visit, typically for its inherent or exhibited cultural value, historical significance, natural or built beauty, or amusement opportunities.
Attractions are the major factors, which ensure the flow of domestic or international tourists to a specific place. Some examples include historical places, monuments, zoos, aquaria, museums and art galleries, botanical gardens, buildings and structures (e.g., castles, libraries, former prisons, skyscrapers, bridges), national parks and forests, theme parks and carnivals, living history museums, ethnic enclave communities, historic trains and cultural events.
The history of attractions has often been inextricably linked with the development of travel industry in any country. It can be assumed generally that older attractions (either manmade or natural) were not designed to appeal to travellers. Some of the best examples include the Tajmahal, Niagara Falls and the Pyramids.
Most modern tourist attractions on the other hand, have been purpose-built for visitors, like theme parks or casinos. However, in the Asian context, this may differ as the attractions are generally perceived as more elaborate culture and history. The definition of attractions has been changing over time; and a few broad classifications of tourist attractions can be as follows:
Purpose Built for tourism
Special Global Events
Drawing Power (high)
Drawing power (low)
The growth of small local attractions has also been manifold due to an increase in the number of independent off-beat travellers. Interest in exotic destinations and wildlife has led to the development and upkeep of modern zoo’s and safari parks.
The continuing trend of increased leisure time, greater mobility and more disposable income has led to a boom in the attractions sector. Parallel attractions like theme parks have also emerged, and a number of shopping centres and waterfronts have become tourist attractions in their own right.
Culture and Tourism
Culture is a human construct, existing in representations and understanding by the people. Culture defines a society in a way which makes it different from the next.
Contemporary societies are not isolated, insular entities. There is a constant exchange of ideas, beliefs and faiths; travel and tourism undoubtedly play a significant role in this.
Culture and creative industries are being increasingly used to promote destinations and enhance their competitiveness and attractiveness. Many locations are now developing their tangible and intangible cultural assets as a means of developing comparative advantages in an increasingly competitive tourism marketplace.
People, when they visit a country or a destination or a city, are always keen to visit the sites that are important, the places of distinction, the question is always what is there to see, what is there to experience and the destinations provide further encouragement through the printed material, the information, the brochures that they provide to visitors. There are also wider benefits of developing relationship between culture and tourism – such as enhanced image and support for the cultural sector. Culture creates distinctiveness in a crowded global market.
Local communities are beginning to come together to develop cultural products for tourism rather than competing directly with one another. New policies are likely to feature new structures and projects involving public-private partnership and bringing together a wider range of stakeholders to use culture not only to make destinations attractive for visitors, but also to promote regions as destinations to live, work and invest in. Local communities are not only hosts; they define the sense of the place, providing cultural experience for tourists.
Culture in all its forms is likely to figure strongly in the tourism product and promotion of most regions, even those which have traditionally relied on their natural assets, such as sun and beach or mountains, for their attractiveness. Destinations are also trying to increase their comparative advantage by adding to their stock of cultural attractions. They are also trying to develop their intangible culture and creativity.
Culture creates authenticity and distinctiveness in the global tourism market. In this regard, “tourism experiences” that can connect people and visitors to local cultures are very important. In many cases, destinations are also linked to specific cultural events (e.g. connected to famous places, people or historical events) which can also play a catalyst role in this development.
The Cultural Heritage of India is a vibrant mosaic of lively and magnificent colours. Indian Culture encompasses a unique blend of food, fashion, festivals, dance and music that spellbound the four corners of the world in its euphoric nature. India is a popular destination and boasts a cultural heritage that is worth exploring. As a tourist one has many choices to explore – from cuisine to dances to music. All diverse in nature encompass to form the culture of India. Very few countries in the world have such an ancient and diverse culture as India’s. Dating back to over 5000 years old civilization, India’s culture has been enriched by successive waves of migration which were absorbed into the Indian way of life. The Indian culture comprises of Indian music, Indian Dance, Indian cuisines, costumes and Indian Festivals.
Internet has also become a universal tool which offers the possibility to tourists to package destinations and events with accommodation and travel.
Architecture and Tourism
Because tourism is such an enormous industry, which involves monuments, museums, and other special purpose buildings, it is not a phenomenon that can be controlled. It always stands within the cultural and political conditions of the environment, and the tastes and habits of tourists thronging a place.
Everything from historical monuments to exotic holiday destinations has been redesigned and packaged for mass consumption. As a result, the histories of specific sites have been re-conceptualized. Some have been preserved and celebrated, while others have been left to decay. Monuments like the Tajmahal or the Cellular Jail were not built for tourist purposes; however they have been converted into one now.
A more contemporary example of construction for attraction, and certainly one that is totally synonymous with its location is the Eiffel Tower in Paris. The association is incredibly strong and more amazing given the fact that Eiffel’s structure to celebrate the World’s Expo was designed for disassembly and should have come down in 1909 after just 20 years.
Possibly the biggest construction sites of all are to be found today in the Middle East – which has made huge strides to develop other sources of wealth including tourism, by constructing hotels and islands. Dubai has made the biggest splash, with the Burj Al Arab embedding deep in everybody’s psyche.
One of the best architectural tourism spots in the world is China. Chinese architecture ranging from the various dynasties that ruled it has undergone a great evolution. People recognize Chinese architecture from The Great Wall of China and the beautiful pagodas. But there is more to Chinese architecture than that. People who are interested in architecture will find China to be a virtual unexplored region which has some of the best monuments and buildings. China is a country of architectural marvels both ancient and modern and it is one of the best tourist destinations for people who love architecture. Some notable Chinese architecture that are a must see are Terra Cotta Warriors in the Mausoleum of Qin Shi Huang in Xi’an, the Hanging Temple, Forbidden City etc.
In Budapest, an eastern European country, architectural tourism has been promoted very well. Monasteries, churches, caves, Basilica etc are some well known attractions which pulls throngs of tourists here annually.
History and Tourism
Tourism is a powerful economic development tool. Tourism creates jobs, provides new business opportunities and strengthens local economies. When heritage and history is paid attention to and used to our advantage, it also helps to protect a nation’s natural and cultural treasures and improve the quality of life for residents and visitors alike.
In the past, the tourism industry saw its primary role as marketing ready products to travellers, such as package tours to Mumbai. But countries are now looking for new ways to attract travellers, and today culture and history are more likely to overlap than any other domains.
A concrete example is India, which with its potpourri of different religions and faiths, is a centre for people from countries following similar faith. Tourists from countries like Thailand, Indonesia or Burma (which follow Buddhism as well) desirous of visiting Bodhgaya are attracted to the history and heritage of the country. This can be exploited to promote history and heritage tourism – making India a lucrative destination for people sharing the same faith. Also an example is the International Kite Festival held in Gujarat every year, which is slowly turning into a big crowd puller year after year.
Cashing in on the history of a place and promoting heritage tourism refers to travelling to experience the places and activities that authentically represent the stories and people of the past and the present.
Food and Tourism
Food is something an increasing number of us remember from our travels. Like never before, holiday makers are choosing where they go by what they can put in their stomachs.
Food is a manifestation of a destination’s culture – which can be invaluable for giving travellers a hands-on experience. You can open a different door with every meal. The last few years has seen an incredible shift in the way holidays are created and marketed, and that is because people demand authentic experiences. Eating traditional dishes is considered “very important” on a holiday. People also willingly miss meals in their hotel or resort to try out local restaurants. Tourists are becoming more experimental as well as sophisticated in what they eat during a vacation.
Supermarkets have also played a major role in making foreign foods more available. Food festivals are another crowd puller. Singapore hosts an annual food festival each July celebrating a different aspect of its culture. The colourful opening of the West Bengal Tourism and Food Festival is a reflection of the state’s positive efforts to boost the tourism sector.
Indian cuisine ranges from the simple and bland to the lavish and complexly pungent. Each region has its specialty cuisine, though some dishes are available throughout the country. All the states have their own signature dishes which are world famous and tempt the tourists to visit those states, for having an authentic experience. Indian sweets and various varieties of tea, especially Assam Tea, boost tourism in India. The cooking styles and flavours of every region of India is unique and differs from each other. While Kashmir is famous for its 24-course banquet- the Wazwan; coastal Goa, Kerala and Bengal specialize in fish, seafood and coconut-based dishes. Gujarat and Tamil Nadu are the best states to taste vegetarian specialties. Bengal, Bikaner and Delhi are particularly famous for sweets.
Food tourism includes all unique and memorable food experiences, not just four star or critically acclaimed restaurants. Price is not necessarily indicative of quality. According to industry research, true food tourists are perfectly happy at a roadside café in the middle of nowhere, as long as there is something memorable about their visit.
Though transportation as a topic can be discussed independently, tourism cannot thrive without travel. Transportation is an integral part of the tourism industry. It has been largely due to the improvements in mobility that tourism has expanded to such a stage.
Transportation links various cities and countries in some cases. Tourism is all about travel, and the role of transportation in its operation cannot be overemphasized. Accessibility and tourism activities have broken barriers and opened formerly off-the-beaten-track areas to visitors through aggressive marketing of some far-off paradise with the availability of transport.
It is, more often than not, seen as only that part of tourism which is in charge of bringing the tourists to their destinations; provide a means of getting around the place and leaving it once the stipulated duration is over. In fact, the transportation system of a tourist destination has a huge impact on the tourism experience which explains how people travel and why they choose different forms of holidays and destinations. Access to tourism sites relies heavily upon the state of infrastructure, and the efficiency of the public transport system.
Tourists arriving at international cities need mobility and few decide (or can afford) to hire private transport. Because of this, the public transport system is an essential service for this population, especially in cities large enough to need bus, metro and train systems. However, in congested cities with weak public transport networks, the influx of tourists exerts additional demand pressure on the transport system.
There are five modes of transportation, based on the physical characteristics of the service offered and the right of way over which a transportation carrier operates. These are air, highway, rail and water, arranged in decreasing order of speed. All modes of transportation are regulated in some manner, be it economic or non-economic.
Economic regulation has been reduced in a number of transportation markets in recent years, beginning with domestic airline deregulation in the United States in the late 1970s. Since then, many other countries have deregulated their national transportation systems to some degree, including air, highway and rail. Internationally, economic regulation has been reduced in some markets, with the European Union being a prime example of including not only air but other modes as well.
Passenger transportation plays a critical role in determining the success or failure of nearly every segment of tourism. Without a reliable and economic form of passenger transportation to, from and within a destination, enticing tourists to visit that destination may be very difficult. Island economies like Hawaii, Andaman Islands or Malaysia are almost fully dependent on air transport access.
The transportation carrier may also become a “destination” in its own right, such as a few cruise liners in areas like Singapore, Malaysia, Caribbean and the Mexican Riviera. Other forms of transportation serving as “destinations” include “Palace on Wheels”, “The Orient Express” etc.
For about the past four years, the travel industry in Asia and the Pacific has been undergoing a dynamic change, and the growth of low cost carriers has been cited as the single most important factor currently shaping the region’s airline industry. Thus at the same time, tourism has also had a major impact on transport modes and networks through its ability to supply additional motivations for leisure and business travel.
Due to the intensity of worldwide competition and product parity, positioning strategies will become a strategic weapon for tourism destinations. Tourist destinations, for example resorts – which can be fairly similar, can succeed in developing strong and differentiated brands through excellent access to transportation facilities.
Transport policies and decisions of governments can play a big role in the destinations available to tourists. If the public sector does not cope with the demand in terms of transport infrastructures, tourism industry might not develop in those regions.
Hospitality is the relationship between guest and host, or the act or practice of being hospitable. Specifically, this includes the reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers, resorts, membership clubs, conventions, attractions, special events, and other services for travellers and tourists.
Hospitality is about compensating/equalizing a stranger to the host, making him feel protected and taken care of, and at the end of his hosting, guiding him to his next destination. Cultures and subcultures vary in the extent to which one is expected to show hospitality to strangers, as opposed to personal friends or members of one’s in-group.
The tourism industry has several components – food, accommodation, place of attractions, transportation etc. All these components are related to hospitality. Hospitality and tourism experiences have important emotional dimensions that traditional marketing tend to underplay. By understanding the hospitality-based transaction between guests and hosts, marketers and commercial operators can deliver customers experiences through which to build customer loyalty and a robust business better able to withstand. The guest and host relationship has a long tradition, pre-dating modern hospitality and tourism businesses by thousands of years and universally evident across all societies.
Hospitality creates an impression of hosting and hospitableness, which prioritizes guest experiences.
The Indian civilization is one of the oldest on earth, and like every culture has its own favourite stories including some on hospitality. That of a simpleton readily sharing his meagre morsels with an uninvited guest, only to discover that the guest is a God in disguise, who rewards his generosity with abundance. That of a woman who lovingly cooks up all the Khichdi she can afford, for everyone who is hungry… till one day when she runs out of food for the last hungry person to whom she offers her own share, and is rewarded by the god in disguise with a never ending pot of Khichdi. Most Indian adults having grown up listening to these stories as children believe in the philosophy of “Atithi Devo Bhava”, meaning the guest is God. From this stems the Indian approach of graciousness towards guests at home, and in all social situations.
Benefits of Tourism Branding
While many regard branding as simply creating a new look and tagline, if done correctly, a genuine brand management strategy should positively influence all aspects of a nation.
The reputation of the country we live in, work and study matters. An attractive and distinctive identity makes it easier for a city (and its citizens) to be preferred in any competitive setting because the place is seen to have qualities that resonate positively with key audiences and can enhance the well-being of its citizens.
We can retain different campaigns for a country. They can include exports, education, foreign trade etc. All these should contribute to a clear identity of a nation.
It is the tourism promotion – in whatever form (advertising, PR, websites etc) – that will have the biggest impact on the attitudes to a nation. Tourism is the acceptable public face of a national brand.
Clarke (2000) has identified six benefits of branding related to tourism destination products (TDPs):
As tourism is typically high involvement, branding helps to reduce the choice;
Branding helps in reducing the impact of intangibility;
Branding conveys consistency across multiple outlets and through time;
Branding can reduce the risk factor attached to decision making about holidays;
Branding facilitates precise segmentation;
Branding helps to provide a focus for the integration of producer effort, helping people to work towards the same outcome.
Impact on GDP
Focussing exclusively on India in this section – the tourism industry has contributed enormously in the flourishing graph of India’s economy by attracting a huge number of both foreign and domestic tourists travelling for both leisure and business purposes.
As per the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2009 by the World Economic Forum, India is ranked 11th in the Asia Pacific region and 62nd overall, moving up three places on the list of the world’s attractive destinations. It is ranked the 14th best tourist destination for its natural resources and 24th for its cultural resources, with many World Heritage sites, both natural and cultural, rich fauna, and strong creative industries in the country. India also bagged 37th rank for its air transport network. The India travel and tourism industry ranked 5th in the long-term (10-year) growth and is expected to be the second largest employer in the world by 2019.
The hotel and tourism industry’s contribution to the Indian economy by way of foreign direct investments (FDI) inflows were pegged at US$ 2.1 billion from April 2000 to March 2010, according to the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP).
According to the Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2009 brought out by the World Economic Forum, the contribution of travel and tourism to gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to be at US$ 187.3 billion by 2019. The report also states that real GDP growth for travel and tourism economy is expected to achieve an average of 7.7 per cent per annum over the next 10 years. Export earnings from international visitors and tourism goods are expected to generate US$ 51.4 billion (nominal terms) by 2019. Furthermore, the sector which accounted for 6.4 per cent of total employment in 2009 is estimated to rise to 7.2 per cent of total employment by 2019.
Deeming the growing rate of the tourist’s arrival in the country, the Indian tourism industry designed a wide spectrum of holiday packages and cheaper airfares to attract more tourists. The booming success of Indian tourism industry has led to a drastic change in the hospitality department as well. The increase in the ratio of tourists resulted in the increase of room rates and also setting up of a wide range of hotels and other residing areas. The Indian tourism industry offers online booking system, one of the basic proofs of technological advancement in this sector. These online bookings are applicable for booking the air tickets via Internet by logging on to the website and also booking the hotel room of the place to be visited. The Role of Tourism Industry in India GDP also features medical tourism that includes traditional therapies like yoga, meditation, ayurveda, allopathy and other conventional systems of medicines is currently estimated at USD 333 million and is most likely to reach USD 2.2 billion by the year 2012.
Analysis of India as a preferred tourist destination
Tourism is the largest service industry in India. As we have seen in the previous section, it plays an extremely important role in the Indian economy by direct as well as indirect impact.
Countries such as USA, UK, Singapore, Thailand and Australia feature high on the list of favourite tourist destinations. Which leads us to the million dollar question – Where does India stand among other Preferred Holiday Destinations?
India is a Land of all seasons, where beauty beckons, culture echoes, diversity delights and tradition talks. Those who reach India are greeted with a gracious Namaste, Namaskaaram, Vanakkam or Sat Sri Akal denoting warmth, hospitality and respect – a tradition in tune with the country’s age-old motto “Atithi Devo Bhava” where the guest is treated as God. The Incredible India campaign focuses on the hospitality of our country, and the pristine and undiscovered lands it offers. The campaign has been running successfully for some time now, and has succeeded in pulling both domestic and international travellers to Indian destinations.
Graciously endowed with mist clad mountain ranges, deep blue seas, enigmatic deserts, golden beaches, emerald green valleys, palm fringed backwaters on the one hand and unique art forms, exciting fairs and festivals, interesting pilgrim centres, exclusive heritage sites, royal forts, majestic monuments, architectural marvels and exotic flora and fauna on the other, this legendary land is unique in all aspects – it is no wonder that India has emerged as one among the Top Five Tourist Hotspots of the world, with a tremendous increase in tourist traffic all through the year.
Many factors have been collectively responsible for boosting our country’s economic reserves and the impact of India’s economic growth on tourism is increasingly being felt in niche sectors.
India abounds in attractive and well-preserved historical sites, ancient monuments of architectural grandeur and not-so-ancient mosques/durgahs, churches and places of worship of other diverse faiths.
India is also known for some of its fine beaches like Goa, Mamallapuram, Kovalam, Pondicherry, Puri-Konark etc. In addition island tourism has been developed at Andaman/Nicobar and Lakshadweep Islands.
All across the country are wildlife sanctuaries whose areas extend over several thousands of square kilometres, where wildlife can be observed in their natural surroundings. Each sanctuary supports several species of wildlife, being well known for one particular species. In some cases, there are rare or even endangered species.
India is a land of fairs and festivals with atleast one fair in each day of the year. These fairs and festivals add colour to the social life of Indian people. Some of the important fairs and festivals are Pushkar fair in Rajasthan, Crafts Mela at Surajkund, Holi in North India, Pongal in Tamilnadu, Onam in Kerela, Baisaki in Punjab, Bihu in Assam, Dance festivals at Khajuraho and Mamallapuram etc. India has a treasure trove of handicrafts for any discerning shopper, in truly remarkable variety of styles and prices.
Over the years, India has developed world standard accommodation infrastructure for entertaining the visitors. There are about 60,000 classified hotel rooms in India and about 35,000 rooms are under construction. These hotel rooms scattered in various cities are of varying price range. Some of the major hotel chains in India are the Oberois, Taj Group of Hotels, Welcome Group of Hotels and India Tourism Development Corporation Hotels.
Despite the fact that India has a wealth of amazing places waiting to be seen and appreciated and an unbeatable tourism potential, India receives far lesser tourists compared to other relatively smaller countries.
Most foreigners who visit India for the first time are heard complaining about
Over priced Hotel rooms
Corrupt autos and taxi drivers waiting to take them for a ride, literally!
Lack of proper infrastructure
Confusion and chaos at the airport
Unhygienic conditions etc
Probable Areas of Improvement
India is well known for personal bonding and relations with their tourist customers. What will be promising for India is the effectiveness of proactive relationship building strategies undertaken by India.
India should focus on building and maintaining strong tourist relationships. It should also note that the selection and training of tour guides who are directly dealing with the tourists is undertaken properly. Accordingly, the holiday destination managers may undertake certain measures to improve the status of the dominant factors, which will ultimately lead to the improvement in visitors’ perception towards India as a tourist destination. Hence expertise and communication, and familiarity with tourists are the most effective relationship-building strategies.
The next effective strategy could be investing in
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