Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Beyond the gloss

Two ad campaigns have been running for a while. The first one is, Andamans with the catchline- Emerald. Blue. And you.

The second is for Maharashtra - Leave the week behind.

Both the campaigns are good, indeed the Maharashtra one is really good. Close on the heels of !ncredible India, these are high class campaigns.

But between the high class and reality is a wide wide gap. The gap that makes tourism in India miserable. Athithi Devo Bhava (The guest is god) campaigns notwithstanding the tourism industry in India outside expensive charters is all about touts, harassment, cheating and downright robbery. Touts harrass tourists at every stage starting from a taxi service to a hotel room to tourist guides. Harassment by beggars and hawkers who want to sell trinket after trinket is another thing. Cheating - need I say more. Kerala is probably an exception, but then again as I said, outside expensive places and charters, not very.

Unless these user experiences improve, those glossy ad campaigns wont matter. And at that point, these campaigns wont matter since user experiences will drive India tourism. We need to get our basics right in tourism, otherwise, it is honestly a pain touring in India.


Markus said...

I spent almost one year in India and traveled a lot in this time. Most of the tourists comming to India are not looking for the standardized hotel, beach experience you can have anywhere else. They are looking, for the unique experience India is offering and the harassment and cheating is a part of it. You can hear a lot of tourists talking proudly on how they where cheated and even more proudly when the were able to discover the cheating in advance.

In my opinion its not the fault of the taxi drivers, hotel owners or beaggars who just want to make some extra bucks, its the fault of us, the dump tourist, which arent smart enough or harsh enough to cope with this.

I'm pretty sure, that there is much more money in the standardized, clean, but kind of boring tourist business, but for me India would loose a lot of his charm. And I really would miss to get cheated. ;-)


Neelakantan said...

Thats one interesting comment! I did not look at it that way :))

Steve Portigal said...

Having just spent a week in India, I can't possibly agree with Markus (either my own experience or what I observed). I have a long piece about the trip (which was preceded by a week in Hong Kong and Bangkok) on my blog. Also a more obervational/less experiential article on Core77.

Neelakantan said...

I can imagine how you feel, as a foreigner.
As Indians, we too pretty much go through the same in many parts of India (especially if you dont know the local language). Yes, it does appear as if everybody exists only to rip you off, which is sad because it ruins user experiences and then everybody rushes into charters or other tours where you can isolate/insulate yourself from all thats there outside.

Markus said...

I also understand Steves experience. By the way the post on your blog is wonderful. Of couse if also been ripped of and was sometimes totally pissed off, but this was just sometimes.

But I experinced also some really wonderful stuff. For example al Palika Bazar in Delhi, I was looking for some faked Ray Ban's for me and my girlfriend and the guy from the shop told me he would charge 1000 Rs. I managed to get him down to 400 Rs, that was still too much, but it was acceptable for me. We paid 400Rs and left the shop. After 200m in the narrow lanes of this underground market a guy from the shop approached us. "You pay 400 Rs more!" and an argument started, his english wasn't very good.I told him that I'm not going to pay additional 400 Rs and that we agreed on 400Rs. I was a bit angry and got quite loud at him. After 2 min we fetched another guy to translate. It turned out that I gave him a 800Rs instead of the 400Rs I had to pay. I didn't expected that would happen in India, it would hardly happen in Germany.

A lot of other similar things happend to me and I felt often welcomed. It might be, that I went to this adjustment process Steve discribes in his blog.

I can only tell you that I'm already looking forward to my next trip in April.


Steve Portigal said...

Great story, Markus!

I had a smaller moment, I think, on our last day, walking back from the Prince of Wales Museum and crossing a street with a lot of people on scooters. We were waiting at the light, and I had my camera; which of course made me feel more self-conscious. Anyway, I'm sort of looking through it at the intersection, and someone comes up - two guys on a bike. One of them made a noise or waved his hand and I kind of recoiled, but then as they moved along, I realized he was probably reacting in a fun way to me taking a picture "hey take my picture" but I was not sure how to deal with it; I hadn't seen much friendly acknowledgement so I wasn't sure what it would be like!

And so I defaulted to assuming it was critical or negative. I really don't know what it was meant to convey but I did have the chance to reflect immediatley that maybe it was NOT negative at all!

I'm glad that Markus had the chance to adapt and therefore find more of the good stuff.

For me, the good stuff came when someone showed us around - interesting neighborhoods, restaurants, sights, and so on.

And yes, everyone I met in India was very clear that the things that bothered me were also the things that bothered them. They just had much better coping strategies than I did!