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Roots and Shoots

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We, the Government

By Hugh and Colleen Gantzer

Everyone interested in tourism in Garhwal should copy the
Garhwal Post’s editorial of 27 June 2019 (Rediscovering Roots); read it every morning; and repeat the last sentence like a mantra:
“The government should be an enabler without interfering too much in the growth of this movement otherwise it would become less personal and lose the spontaneity that is making it possible.”
Questing for one’s roots is a growing driver of international tourism: a fact not realised by our tourism babus. Here are some other suggestions based on our long study of the continued success of Switzerland’s Vaud – Lake Geneva region.
1. Tourism as a highly specialised industry can no longer be handled by generalists. It requires permanence, dedication, and a single-minded drive to find out what our generating markets want, followed by a fine-tuning of our product to meet their needs. That is marketing. Creating new destinations to suit a politician’s or a bureaucrat’s idea of what is necessary is not marketing, it’s selling. It is what the pavement vendor does: “Here’s what I’ve got: take it or leave it!” If we still try to sell our tourism then we will lose out. Create a Garhwal Tourist Office, manned by lateral entry professionals, not by lethargic babus and the chamchas of netas; pay them well; peg their tenure to their performance. Give them extensions if they deliver the goods, sack them if they don’t. That is how all successful tourism offices work world-wide without feather-bedding or the enforced job security of babudom. This may not have been possible in the past when offices were filled with their human Non-performing Assets. We, the Government believe that it is possible now.
2. Publicise the locations where movies have been shot. Increasingly, Uttarakhand is becoming popular with film makers. Create Location Tourism. Replicate familiar shots of stars in such locations with visitors made up as the stars in those films. This is an extension of our roadside photographers offering to take souvenir pics of tourists in “Hilly Costumes”.
3. Market village fairs and festivals. GP of 29th June carried a report of the Maund Fishing Festival held in the Aglar Valley. Are we publicising this? If this is a folk festival then it needs official protection as the Tamils had got for their Jallikettu. The GP report of 1st July says that Maund has been studied by experts for 20 years. If it is allowed to continue then use this opportunity to bring development to our hills. Build tourist facilities for visitors. Publicise it. Encourage local development around the festival: handicrafts, food, farm tours, hikes, all supported by basic pamphlets and trained local guides.
4. We return to our old hobby-horse: Garhwali cuisine. Our publicity promotes Garhwal as Dev Bhoomi under the trite slogan “Simply Heaven”. But if this is the home of our deities then they must have sustained themselves and their great powers on the food of this soaring land. Why are we not promoting the food of our mountains as the original, authentic, Dev Bhojan? Our government, aided by its catering experts, should then get a provenance certificate for our unique cuisine made from the very special ingredients grown in our worshipped Himalayas. If the fields of our high villages get revitalised, because the demands for their unique crops find new markets, then the sadly abandoned villages will live again.
So we ask Minister Satpal Maharaj to have professional teams research Garhwal’s village customs, traditions, handicrafts, dress, jewellery, food and festivals. They should then produce readable, single-fold pamphlets as cheaply as possible, and as soon as possible, so that they can be distributed as widely as possible. Our Himalayas are a source of religious awe. All we have to do is to project our Garhwali people as the unique caretakers of this Divine Heritage, and say that they can be coaxed to share this ancient knowledge with the rest of India, and the world.
For too long has tourism been viewed as a junketing opportunity for some members of the Indian Amateur Service. It’s time we respected it as the extremely sophisticated, swiftly evolving, high yielding profession that sustains Switzerland. It should also become Uttarakhand’s golden road to prosperity.