Sunday, May 23, 2010

Seoul has lessons for India on Games

With Commonwealth Games (CWG) tickets going on sale from June 1, it may be worth assessing how the host country benefits from holding events such as the World Cup, Olympics or Asian Games. They attract millions. There are spectators and thousands of players, officials and journalists. The visitors contribute to the local economy every time they pay for accommodation, travel and shopping. Some visitors may also see business opportunities and end up engaging in trade and commerce with the host country.
Equally crucial is the image the visitors take back of the host country. They virtually become brand ambassadors for the country they have visited. If a wider positive impression is created by word of mouth, it could mean the influx of millions of tourists from different parts of the globe. All of this builds a global brand image of the host country.
So immense is the scope for infrastructure creation, revenue-generation and image-building in the short and long term that countries do not want to miss out the opportunity to play host. The South Koreans developed many parts of their country in a planned and strategic manner by hosting the 1988 Olympic Games in different places. The initial events were in Seoul, then in Busan. The 2014 Asian Games will be in Incheon. Such an approach helps develop the whole country using the funds given to sporting events. It creates infrastructure, helps employment and can enhance the agenda for inclusive growth.
But for India, it has been a case of missed opportunities. New Delhi has not been able to use these Games – and others – strategically to develop different parts of the country. From the first Asian Games in 1951 to their 1982 edition, from the 2010 hockey World Cup to the CWG, the venue has always been Delhi.
Even so, India could still derive significant benefits from the CWG. It could capitalize on the global attention its economy is getting. It could showcase itself by attempting to achieve the following: One, create proper infrastructure. Two, ensure the Games are incident-free by putting in place an effective security and disaster management plan. Three, plan cultural events in select destinations. Four, create special-focus tourism zones, which could include Agra, Jaipur, Varanasi and Kulu Manali.
Each objective requires a task force that integrates seamlessly with others. National prestige is involved so India’s political leadership should put aside its differences and work jointly to ensure the Games are a resounding success.
Security threats are the main concern in this part of the world, so it is high time everyone – from the home ministry to state governments to the ordinary citizen – gears up to face the challenge.
Creating special focus tourism zones would require a multipronged approach. It would include the facelift/maintenance of monuments, proper infrastructure development and a foolproof security structure. Planned cultural and culinary events and handicraft expos would go a long way towards attracting tourists. In addition, the National Cadet Corps and college students could be trained to create tourist awareness among the public. Special drives to encourage artisans and fine arts institutions could help produce handicrafts and innovative souvenirs to be sold exclusively during the CWG.
Handling tourists in large numbers involves planning. For the ‘pretrip’ phase, communication campaigns should be backed up with easy-to-use tourist websites. Payment gateways should be created to enable secure online payments. The ‘frequently asked questions’ section of tourism websites must be revamped. During the ‘trip’ phase, the role of designing mini-visits within the overall itinerary will be of immense importance. In the ‘posttrip’ phase, feedback and planning for future trips is required.
It would also be essential to maintain high standards of airport and flight management and a comprehensive anti-terror blueprint including coordination with international intelligence agencies. This would need multi-tier agency coordination. It is important there is no electricity grid failure. Disaster plans need to be chalked out. Media and PR management will be critical. So will be controlling pollution (air, water and noise) in line with international standards.
Tourist experiences linger on as memories, which can be built by events. They can be of two types – those that are associated with the history of the destination city and the second with events characterizing the general region visited. For instance, a host of events can be organized at Agra, such as light and sound shows at the Agra Fort, concerts on the banks of the Yamuna, handicrafts fairs, Mughlai food festivals in major hotels, night markets selling souvenirs, replays of Barsana Holi in Mathura or musical soirees that offer glimpses of Indian culture. Dramatizing historical events at Fatehpur Sikri or a diving show at Buland Darwaza would fascinate tourists.It would make for a unique experience – for tourists and the host country alike.
Source: DEVASHISH DASGUPTA, associate professor of marketing, Indian Institute of Management, Lucknow

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