Why J&K Tourism lags far behind Kerala and Gujarat?

In 2017, a record 10 million foreign tourists visited India. As many as 103 million domestic tourists visited the picnic spots and health resorts within India, the same year. The hospitality sector contributes 6.88 percent to India’s GDP and is estimated to earn 27 billion dollars, the next year.

It was the Incredible India campaign launched by Government of India in 2002 that helped India pitch itself as a high-end destination. In fiscal 2017-198, Ministry of Tourism spent Rs 300 crore to promote the campaign on various media.

Central Tourism ministry apart, states like Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala and even smaller states and Union Territories like Daman Diu have been at the forefront of driving tourism to the respective states. From earmarking significant media budgets to hiring top-notch advertising agencies, these states rope in celebrities and are continuously increasing their social media presence, almost on daily basis. What is interesting is how these states have adopted a fully integrated marketing approach to build these brands.

= Take the case of Rajasthan. In 2016, the state hired Ogilvy & Mather as their creative agency and launched a new campaign Jaane Kya DikhJaaye. Top ad filmmaker Prakash Verma of Nirvana Films created six ad spots at an estimated cost of Rs 7.5 crore. The state went on to spend a whopping Rs 100 crore to promote the campaign. The results: the state received 43 million tourists in the year 2016.

Gujarat Tourism ministry roped in Amitabh Bachaan for their campaign Khusboo Gujarat Ki. They produced 22 films at a cost of Rs 15 crore which were directed by known filmmaker Sujit Sarkar. They spent an additional Rs 40 crore to promote the films. Though Bachaan did not charge a professional fee for the campaign, the state spent Rs 97 lakh on his travel and lodging alone.

Even Assam launched a 360 campaign in 2017 spending Rs 15 crore to promote the state’s various destinations. They roped in Priyanka Chopra who was reportedly paid Rs 2.37 crores for the same.

= Jammu and Kashmir has been a tourist destination for centuries. As the tools of promotion have changed with the onset of the Information Technology, the state has lagged behind in promoting the destination professionally. Despite being one of the top tourist destinations the state hasn’t attracted the tourists that it could potentially have through a sustained marketing plan.

Ministry of Tourism was the first that created a campaign in 2014 to promote the destination through its Incredible India platform. The ad film conceptualized by Ogilvy & Mather cost the ministry an estimated Rs 1.25 crore. The film which was shot and directed by Tassaduq Hussain, who later become state’s tourism minister for some time, garnered a good viewership on social media. Professionals take this film as one of the most aesthetically shot tourism films.

Ogilvy & Mather is one of the top advertising agency in India. It has created a number of campaigns for many states like Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, in addition to its engagement for Incredible India.

Interestingly, Jammu and Kashmir Tourism department had also impaneled various agencies for a period of around three years from 2011-2014. But no major campaigns came out during this period.

In 2016, when the Tourism department issued a tender for the empanelment of the agencies Ogilvy & Mather did not participate. Through the tendering process J Walter Thompson, considered to be the largest agency in India, was appointed. The agency had earlier handled state Tourism account during early 2000’s

The Warmest Place on Earth campaign was created by JWT and launched on September 2017. The campaign which went viral garnered 25 million views for the campaign. It was one of the most talked about campaigns in the year 2017. Not only did it get appreciation from the common man, it also received impressive media coverage also from national as well as international press.

The campaign was endorsed by celebrities like Amitabh Bachan, Karan Johar, Ranbir Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Imtiaz Ali, Raveena Tandon, Sridevi, Chef Vikas Khanna, politicians across the spectrum from Rajnath Singh to Omar Abdullah and journalists like Barkha Dutt, Nidhi Razdan, Neelesh Misra among a host of others. The department spent Rs 1.7 crore to produce the Warmest Place and another TVC Autumn. However, no money was spent on the promotion of these films.

The Department also harnessed the local talent by producing short drone films at a cost of approximately Rs 35,000 each. This combination of High TVCs and drone visuals received an overwhelming response on the social media. Primarily it was because of this campaign that the Tourism department’s facebook was awarded the 2nd best tourism handle of the county after Kerala. In the first year itself, Jammu and Kashmir pushed Gujarat to the third position on social media despite both Kerala and Gujarat have millions of followers.

= The movement needs to be taken to the next level. The department must go for tendering again, get the best talent to produce the best stuff and improve the footfalls in Kashmir, Ladakh, and Jammu.

The planners in the state government must understand that while street shows and participation in bigger fairs has remained the traditional costly way-out, the easiest is the get the best stuff and put it on the internet. It spreads faster than the wildfire. There are more TVCs being shot in Kashmir – mostly in Ladakh – about the promotion of the hospitality sector of other state’s as Jammu and Kashmir is not doing much for itself.

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