The idea is to increase increase tourism dollars by catering to the upper class. But how will this affect the culture of India?

Photo: wili_hybrid

Marketing. These days, everyone is finding their niche, their place in the big-bad capitalist market, their branding, if you will.

And apparently, this includes a new and improved “upscale” India.

Amitabh Kant, former joint secretary in the ministry of tourism, just released a new book called, Branding India — An Incredible Story.

In it, he details how the “Incredible India” campaign, created in 2002, has approached increasing tourism.

Check out the campaign video:

More importantly (to some people), is that since the campaign began, tourism has increased more in value than in volume – leaping from $2.8 billion to $11.5 billion spent, while the number of visitors only grew from about 2.3 million to about 5.6 million.

In the Business Standard article, Position India as an upmarket destination, Kant says:

Based on a well-researched strategy, we worked out a marketing plan…we were clear about the positioning of the destination, in that we were not looking at a mass destination — we were looking at India which was going to appeal to the upper end of the market.

Ah yes, the all important “upper end of the market.”

The Positives And Negatives Of Increased Tourism

It’s a given that more tourists means more employment, as Kant notes in the article. Tourism floods money into a country, often helps with improving health conditions and infrastructure, and makes technology more accessible.

At the same time, increased tourism, especially of the upscale variety, means the development of a consumerist monoculture (snow globes of the Taj Mahal, anyone?), environmental degradation and upheaval, and makes technology more accessible (yes, this can be a bad thing).

Don’t get me wrong. I think all the people of India deserve good clean, running water and basic needs taken care of, and maybe this type of branding will help with that.

But to me, India is about the sacred and divine, over-crowded streets, and dysentery. It’s not always pretty or comfortable, but isn’t that part of the point?

Buddhism At Its Finest

Religion is also being used to stimulate this influx in tourism. As India Reports notes, a spotlight has been turned on Buddhism and it’s power to bring tourists to the country.

Photo: wili_hybrid

Pilgrimages to the Bodhi tree “might provide [India] with more tourist revenue (estimated at one billion dollars) than the Taj Mahal” if their plans for constructing hotels of “international standard” and more direct international flights from places like Japan and China (note the US is not mentioned) goes through.

Alright, so then we could be just as comfortable as if we were visiting the Taj Mahal in Vegas. Fantastic.

But I’m still not convinced that catering to upscale clientele (tourists), who often fall on the high end of resource consumption, is going to be the best thing for the people, or land, of India.

What do you think of the “branding” of India as an upscale destination? Share your thoughts below.