14 Apr, 2012 Jaipur: It is about 05 years back that I had attended the GITB (Great Indian Travel Bazaar) at Jaipur. It was then a small show which the then FICCI chief, Amit Mitra was proud about. Today, when I saw the preparations, I was amazed with the participation and the investment for the 02 day event. This certainly shows quality boom in the travel industry in the Indian mainland (West, North and South India). The flags of the several countries, representing the buyers, certainly leave an impression on the hospitality industry of India still governed by the age old tradition of ‘Atithi Devo Bhavo’. The strength of this growth lies in the increasing quality services, enhanced by the warm hospitality attitude of the common Indian on road who goes out of the way to be friendly.
Where is the East then, the part of the subcontinent that is the gateway to South and Southeast Asia. We have either failed to gauze the potential or we have avoided because of the ‘China Mania’. It has hardly been 100 years that the country capital shifted from the East, the reason was that the people here initiated the struggle for Freedom. The region, which had relieved the world during human crisis from time to time through the great religious reforms, today fails to make a noticeable presence at this GITB. Is it the lack of political will locally and nationally. On the 6th and 7th of this month, when the Sikkim North Bengal saw its first snow, instead of inviting visitors, a group of politicians decided to call a ‘Bandh’. They would not understand that the visitor has nothing to do with the local issues and that the bookings were made quite in advance. Even in an organized fashion of tourism development, the said region supports 70% of the youths’ meaningful engagement directly or indirectly in tourism. Disturbing a visitor would mean, losing an opportunity to gain global sympathy for the issue for which the Bandh has been called, disturbing the opportunity for growth of the biggest global industry (tourism is the only industry where the buyer comes to the product) and neglecting our tradition of ‘Atithi Devo Bhavo’.
Orissa or Odisha, whatever we call, has been the seat of hospitality. When there was no concept of tourism for the world, pilgrims spent a few days in the hospitality of the Pandas. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu achieved Nirvana there in Puri, and through ages several people from across the world followed the path. Paolo Bosusco was no exception, he had made Puri his home. Sabyasachi Panda and his group, who probably had several silent supporters for his cause completely lost ground for keeping the Italian in captivity. Back home, as an Indian I can guarantee that even his mother or wife would not support this act. Is this our tradition of ‘Atithi Devo Bhavo’.
The time has come when the Indian and Global travel industry has to harness this new ground for tourism, East and Northeast India. Another India that is beyond the Palaces and snake charmers, an India which is the mirror of South and Southeast Asia put together, an India where hospitality is still in the houses and hearts of people as ‘Atithi Devo Bhavo’.