V K Duggal, Former Governor, Manipur took a walk down the memory lane to share his insights on his engagements with the tourism industry, reflecting that several successful initiatives were outcomes of concerted efforts and innovative, ‘out of the box’ thinking. Excerpts from his keynote address at BITB India Travel Congress:
V K Duggal, at the onset, stated that his was only sharing “facts” based on his experience and explained that innovation in marketing and outreach in the Indian milieu came primarily from the “fund crunch” officials were often faced with. He suggested that once there was an understanding that the competition was fierce, and funds were limited, innovative and ‘out of box ideas’ were natural outcomes. He also called himself “lucky” in having received the support of “very able colleagues” both senior and junior, besides receiving support from the industry.
He shared the experience of his days in Sydney, Australia as the Director of the tea board where he worked with the India Tourism Office and Air India. He revealed that all of them were working in “silos” and eyeing a change in the scenario, he requested the then Indian Ambassador to Australia for a more “concerted effort where each one could piggyback” to promote India. He added that fund crunch was a primary reason for such a suggestion. He shared that the reception to the attempt was “so good” that Air India approached him to collectively promote Indian cuisines. “We opened the first five-star restaurant, anywhere, in Sydney,” he detailed and shared that numerous Indian delicacies and beverages such as beer and ethnic drinks were flown in from India to be served to local populace. He further noted that India was promoted in Australia through such joint collaborative efforts.
Speaking on his association with Goa and role therein, he shared that it was decided after a meeting with senior industry stakeholders to market Goa’s monsoon with a fifty-fifty contribution from government and industry. He candidly admitted that industry then did not see much potential in marketing monsoon tourism. He detailed that a team was put together under his supervision in 1986. “It was one of the first PPP initiatives of its time,” he added. Art illustrations by Mario Miranda, a renowned illustrator, were splashed across newspaper generating significant queries from individuals, he shared. V K Duggal noted that the effort had paid off and hotels in Goa recorded as high as 60 percent occupancies, compared to previous years when hotels offered free stays and discounted food to keep their assets operational. He also noted that buoyed by these developments, the first charter plane had landed in Goa. Goa has since emerged a busy monsoon tourism destination, V K Duggal reflected, adding that it was evident with “flights going chockablock.”
Having served as the DG of Tourism, GOI, he quipped that he had some “anecdotes” to share. He noted that the idea to hold a tourism minister’s conference in India was mooted and then PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee was “very keen on it”. Unfortunately, the idea never materialised as 9/11 terror attacks took place in the USA only a day prior to the event, he revealed.
He asserted that the ‘Incredible India’ was a huge success story and credited the initiatives taken during that time. He also reminisced the successful hosting of PATA conference. V K Duggal noted that he had re-started the e-visa initiative once he assumed the position of Home Secretary – a project which had incidentally faced resistance from the home ministry – and added that the electronic visa initiative had moved several steps from there on.