Saturday, August 15, 2009

Wah Chandigarh

The "Wah Chandigarh" conference has been a good start on 13th August, but a lot has to be done to go beyond mere discourses eloquently expressed from the pulpit, or verbal dissection of the state-of-affairs, and even verbose critical analysis of things-not-done, or things-should-have-been-done. The road map was missing. There had been brilliant sparks here and there, yet what kind of Chandigarh we are looking for 10, 15 or 20 years from now. The youngsters present at the meeting were at a loss to understand the proceedings wondering 'what's happening', as one could make out from their bored expressions.
"Tourism" is perhaps the only profession or an activity - the positive one - which carries the suffix "ism".
This suffix defines a distinctive system of beliefs, myth, doctrine or theory that guides a social movement, institution, class or group. But why tourism?
Tourism is not a mere business activity to attract people from one place to another part of the geographical area that could mean business for the cab owners, hotel and restaurant industry, and host of other shopping outlets.
Tourism has to be treated like a religion. A set of belief that encompasses the entire group of people who reside in that particular locality, town or city or country, where each one shares the same ethos and values that can distinctly add positivity to the place.
Tourism is a whole gamut of experience which a visitor experiences while reaching a destination, and even the experience of travelling to that destination.
Tourism is a commitment of all those people who are a part of the tourism eco-system of the country in particular, and the residents in general, who must portray and communicate the distinct ethos and value system of that area.
And if the government and all those stakeholders who look for attracting visitors from outside Chandigarh, must first define their mission, and a clear road map to make the visit of every single tourist into the city, memorable.
How does one go about it?
People engaged in tourism must first define what kind of Chandigarh they want to portray to the visitors and what positioning we need to put forth, so that people truly say "Wah", "what a city".
In building Chandigarh as a "wah" brand, the need is to look into all the touch points that a tourist experiences during the course of his/her visit to the city. Right from the air, road or train journey, to the time he hails a cab or a rickshaw, to the time he checks in, visits various tourist points, and returns home. If the sum total of all these experience gets him ten out of ten, we can be happy to pat ourselves. But can we truly say that we have reached that level?
We shall not reach any level till we benchmark ourselves to the best practices in each every department of tourism activity, with all the stakeholders equally accepting the norms of good behaviour.
Do we have a standards of excellence and code of conduct for the waiters who serve us in Shatabadi, or the porter at the Chandigarh airport, or the cab drivers, the cop in the street, the bell boy in the hotel, or more simply, the man on the street?
Do we have the information counters and enough literature available at various touch point for a tourist to find his way around and appreciate the significance of various tourist destinations?
Are we truthful, honest and fair in dealing with a tourist at our business establishments?
There are definitely pockets of excellence yet the need is to orchestrate the entire tourism structure into a cohesive whole which should project and portray positivity, joy, helpfulness, everywhere.
As you travel on the roads, the beauty is getting marred by wild shrubs and congress grass, heaps of garbage and building material, shabby exteriors of buildings. The city requires a little more color which can be discreetly applied whether on poles or roundabouts...murals on some of the big bricklined walls, graceful lighting of buildings, etc.
CII can take the lead to put together a think tank of architects, designers, opinion makers who can add aesthetics and make city surroundings aesthetics, engage stakeholders in adopting certain minimum code of conduct, and where every one celebrates the joy of 'the city beautiful'.

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