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Don’t SELL Tourism: MARKET it!

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By HUGH & COLLEEN GANTZER

The Garhwal Post’s editorial ‘Packaging Doon’ (28-2-20) was timely. It’s about time we thought about the world’s leading industry in a 21st century way. Sadly, many of our tourism administrators live in a time warp. They still think of ‘Selling’ tourism. That is the roadside vendors’ approach. Their attitude is “Here’s what we have. Take it or leave it!” Marketing, in contrast, finds out what its potential customers need and then tailors its product suitably. Back in 1943, psychologist Abraham Maslow compiled a Hierarchy of Human Needs. According to him, human actions are driven by an ascending order of needs. Most essentially, we need food and water, then shelter, after which we look for clothing followed by the companionship of other humans and so on. Finally, every individual wants to achieve self actualisation: to do what he or she can do best. In trying to achieve this last goal, humans are prepared to give up all else in quest of nirvana as the superb monolith of Bahubali, atop Karnataka’s Shravanbelagola Hill, depicts so powerfully. Let’s return from those spiritual heights, to the verdant valley of the Doon. What does our green foothills’ capital have that can be marketed to the 21st century Indian? It has Knowledge, and Knowledge is the commodity which is in the greatest demand among all aspirational Indians. Families are prepared to cut down on food to give their children a good education which, in effect, is good access to knowledge. The greater their knowledge the more are their opportunities for advancement in life. Dehradun has the greatest concentration of specialist knowledge held anywhere in India. Think of it. Dehra has the Survey of India, the ONGC, the FRI, the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology. It also has The Wildlife Institute of India, the Plant Science Division of the Indian Institute of Soil and Water Conservation and a whole gamut of branches of such national level organisations as the Archaeological Survey of India, the Anthropological Survey of India etc., etc. and etc. All it requires is for an enterprising travel agent or tour organiser to contact these institutions. They should all be interested in outreach programmes with industry in the lab-to-land process which has made China such a major industrial power, so rapidly. We need to provide our industrialists and entrepreneurs with a renewable data-bank of the specialist research and advisory skills that are available in Dehra. Such information can give surprising results. A case in point is when the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee (SCMC) suddenly realised, some years ago, that the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration in Mussoorie can do more than create India’s resilient Bamboo Frame of Administrators. It also has the National Society for Promotion of Development Administration, Research and Training. The NSDART was commissioned by the SCMC and carried out a well-researched Carrying Capacity Study of Mussoorie: the very first of its kind in India. The fact that its recommendations have been honoured more in the breach than in the observance can be attributed to the over-flexibility of the administrators and whimsically shifting political winds! The point is that the amount of scientific knowledge available in Dehra’s publicly-funded research institutions is incredible. That cornucopia of knowledge, and those tax-supported research facilities, need to be freed from their ivory towers and should empower Indian industries. In fact, the future public funding of such organisations should be dependent on their Institution- to-Industry linkages. To encourage these bonds, Executive Tours of these organisations should be conducted on a strictly commercial basis. Regular batches of middle-level decision makers should be taken around the facilities available in these research bodies, made aware of their work and achievements, given informative brochures about the institutions and details of the officials with whom they should interact if they wished to commission a research project in future. We should not take a blinkered bureaucratic approach to this outreach initiative. An Executive from an urban sanitation industry might be very interested in contacting specialists in the FRI. Treated urban sewage could well be utilised to enrich soil nutrients in city forests and thus mitigate the effects of Climate Change! We will tackle Mussoorie’s Tourism outreach in a future We, the Government column.