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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Communication strategies for travel and tourism

'Information’ is the function of ‘Communication’ and ‘motivation’ is the job of ‘Public Relations’

-          Y. Babji,
National Vice President (South),
Public Relations Society of India


People of all civilizations have traveled. Food, water, safety, acquisitions of resources and trade were the early travel motivations. But the idea of travel for pleasure or exploration soon emerged. Travel has always depended upon technology to provide the means or mode of travel. The earliest travelers walked or rode domesticated animals. The invention of the wheel and the sail provided new modes of transportation. Each improvement in technology increased individuals' opportunities to travel. As roads were improved and Governments stabilized, interest in travel increased for education, sight-seeing, treatment and religious purposes.

All tourism activities are related to one or more of the following dimensions of tourism.
1.      Attractions
a.      Natural resources
b.      Culture
c.       Ethnicity
d.      Entertainment
2.      Facilities
a.      Stay
b.      Food
c.       Support services
d.      Infrastructure
3.      Transportation
4.      Hospitality
5.      Time
6.      Money
7.      Mobility
8.      Motivation
9.      Information

While ‘information’ is the function of ‘communication’, ‘motivation’ is the job of ‘Public Relations’. Therefore, there is every need to evolve communication strategies for travel and tourism.

The following is the gist of proceedings of the 34th All India Public Relations Conference on a theme, “Communication strategies for Travel & Tourism” organized by Public Relations Society of India on 29th Sept to 1st Oct 2012 at Hotel Peterhof, Shimla, imachal Pradesh

29th September 2012
Inaugural Session
11.30 am to 1.15 pm

Dr. Ajit Pathak, National President, PRSI in his welcome address said that the job of PR is building images and the PR professionals involved especially in Service Sectors like Tourism should abstain from indulging in unethical practices which may harm the destination as well as organization.

Shri V.P. Sharma, National Vice President [North], PRSI said that PR profession is better amongst all other professions in the world which gives instant results. He said that as of today 11 percent of total population of the world is working in tourism sector and the percentage being 6.5 in Indian context.



Guest of Honor:

Mr Ajay Mittal, IAS, Addl Chief Secretary to Govt., Himachal Pradesh


For tourism to thrive, (1) Conducive Nature (2) Law & Order under control (3) Historical importance of the place (4) Transport & easy connectivity and (5) Engaging every household in the service are some of the pre-requisites.  Shimla, as a destination of tourism, has all of these pre-requisites. 

Employment in service sector is a major contribution to the country’s economy. Tourism is the main industry in Himachal. It has become a house-hold industry too. For tourism to survive nature should be kind enough. Tourism is like selling dreams. One will travel to see the unseen and to know the unknown.

People in Himachal are simple and known for their warm hospitality as a result of which Himachal Pradesh today stands high above, being the best tourist destination from rest of the country which was evident from the fact that it had received over a dozen awards from well recognized International and National agencies in the field of tourism promotion.

He said that lots of efforts and initiatives had been taken in Himachal Pradesh for promoting tourism and many innovative schemes have been launched which gives a peep into the culture and traditions of the State.

Publicity is One-way Street whereas PR is a Two-way street and a tourist destination needs not just publicity but well planned Public Relations campaigns.


Chief Guest:

High Commissioner of Mauritius in India, His Excellency,  Dr. Arye Kumar Jagessur



Tourism had vital impact on local and national economy and now, various organizations were taking services of Travel and Tourism Agencies for branding their image.

The fast growing information, communication and entertainment technologies have brought about an upsurge of information intensive services which had radically changed the world. Even the Media is taking the tourism industry seriously recognizing the fact that travel and Tourism had a powerful impact on local and National economies.

Organizations and companies worldwide were dwelling upon travel and tourism for image building purpose. Travel and tourism is one of the world’s largest economic sectors. Mauritius survived 2008 economic turmoil only because of tourism.

The political stability, sustainable environment effective policy had resulted in boosting tourism in Mauritius. India and Mauritius shared cultural and historic relations and tourism contributes major chunk of share in the economy of Mauritius. Tourism is one of the largest economy sectors in Mauritius.

Mauritius is an internationally recognized tourism destination and a glaring example of high quality tourism attracting high end tourists and at present accounts for 8.4 percent of the Gross Domestic Product

Technical Session - I
2.00 pm to 3.30 pm

Session Chairman:
Dr CV Narasimha Reddi, Ex Director, I&PR, Govt of AP/Editor, Public Relations Voice

Tourism in India has a lot of scope to cherish, because Indian culture is inbuilt with the courtesies of treating a Guest equal to that of God (Athithi Devo Bhava).

Tourism is also needed for India for the reasons that it (1) provides employment (2) contributes to the economy (3) helps in cultural promotion and (4) brings in National integration.

Any communication strategy that is taken up as part of PR exercise shall strive to bridge the gap between the tourist expectations and the promises made by the organizations that manage tourist destinations.

65 lakh foreign tourists visit India every year. Similarly, about 65 Crore people travel within India on the motives of tourism.

Topic - 1: “Communication strategies for Tour & Travel”

Speaker: Dr Arun Kumar Sharma, IAS, Director, Dept of Tourism, Govt of Himachal Pradesh & Collector, Shimla District

Himachal remains unforgettable if visited once. Therefore, the tag “Unforgettable Himachal”

People of Himachal believe in “Atithi Devo Bhava”. Himachal is full of ‘home-stay units’ and dotted by destination stories like ‘har gaon ki kahani’ and ‘har ghar kuch kehta hai’

Every home serves as a retreat and every village has a legend. Himachal is a crime-free State.

Tourism without communication is void. Therefore, the Govt in Tourism Department always stay connected with the country and the rest of the world through constant tourist information.

Topic - 2: “The language of tourism: Perfecting soft skills in a flat world”

Speaker: MJA Sheehan, Fellow Public Relations Institute of Australia, Deakin University, Australia


What Australia offer to India are Tourist destinations suitable for Bollywood and Cricket. Australia also takes care of its flora and fauna while promoting tourism, thus national interests are safeguarded.

The unique Australian wildlife is also another significant point of interest in the country's tourism.

Perhaps no other country organize so many tourism campaigns as Australia does for tourism.

Topic - 3: “Fashion Tourism”

Speaker: Prof. Vibhavari Kumar, Chairperson, Fashion Communication Dept., NIFT, New Delhi

Fashion and Tourism adopt each other on many counts. Fashion is a reflection of socio-economic & cultural lifestyle of the people in a given time. Every tourist destination reflects a fashion and that it pulls a visitor towards it. 

There is link between fashion and tourism. Labels & Brands put clothing items into a notional context of quality, sophistication and aspiration. They act as identifiers and indicators of a specific link between clothing and place.

Like 'consumers of goods' there are 'consumers of places and cultures' identified with fashion.

Technical Session - II
4.00 pm to 5.30 pm

Session Chairman:
Mr R P Singh, Chairman & Managing Director, Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam, Shimla

The SJVN Ltd has provided gainful employment to a large number of skilled and unskilled workers and has also opened the landlocked hinterland by providing essential facilities such as schools, hospitals etc. for the people of the area.

Thus, 1500 MW Nathpa Jhakri Hydroelectric Power Station has ushered in the social and economic upliftment of the persons living in the vicinity of the Project i.e. of society at large.

Well designed PR exercises and the measures of CSR taken up by the Nigam are the key issues behind the success in managing the Projects

Topic - 1: “Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam : An Overview”

Speaker: Mr HB Sahay, Director (PR), SJVN, Shimla

Think of nature. Think of Ecological balance.
Organizations will have to communicate with the visitors.
Deriving pleasure from a place shall lie when a visitor gets the feeling of being a part of it. 

Topic-2: “Corporate Social Responsibility: Launching Pad for repositioning Corporate Image”

Speaker: Mr NL Sharma, Director (Personnel) SJVN, Shimla

Resettlement & Rehabilitation is an important act of CSR while constructing major projects that displace locals.

40% of labor engaged in construction and maintenance of the Sutlaj Hydel Project is from Himachal. All were given the skill development training. Organizations in the country have started redefining CSR. CSR is needed during normalcy, during crises, during disasters and always

Topic - 3: “Employees as Ambassadors of Corporate Organizations”

Speaker: Mr Tej Bahadur Mathur, Head, Corporate Communications & CSR, Hindalco,


For a good corporate, the greatest asset is not in its inventory or sales or products, but the people connected with it, internally and externally.

Brand is not just about a new logo or a new tag. Employee as an ambassador can promote the brand in a better way.

If employees feel owned, their roles are recognized, rewarded and given the status of Ambassadors, they do not talk ill but talk in favor of the Organization.

Corporate culture is to be inculcated in the employees. Every employee shall be trained in such a way that they play the role of Ramdhoot.

Technical Session - III
5.30 pm to 7.00 pm

Session Chairman:
Mr Unmesh Dikshit, National Vice President (West), PRSI

Retention of a tourist is by destination value and not merely publicity. No amount of propaganda will add value to a place which does not have any importance.

Topic - 1: “Communication that can hold your tourists back with you”

Speaker:Ms Monisha Mitra, MD, White Paper Consulting, New Delhi

Business will live or die, not by the attributes of the market, but for the inability to retain the customer.

For a positive name of your Organization, “words of mouth” shall be in favor. Tourism shall promote a destination for its scenic beauty, healthy weather and the like. PR exercise shall aim at creating mutual respect between the tourist and the people of the destination.

The product tourism shall be kept fresh and unique. Need to promote specific tourism that the destination can support. What tourists want to do in Goa may not like to do in Delhi or Hyderabad. So tourist activities are destination specific.

Tour must be memorable one and give an authentic experience. A ‘destination’ cannot be sold, hence try to sell the ‘experience’ to the visitor

Topic - 2: “International tourism potential of Metro Trains”

Speaker: Mr Anuj Dayal, Head (Corpcom), Delhi Metro, New Delhi

The first metro train was introduced in London in 1863

Delhi Metro was conceived in 1984 and operations began in 2002.  The 190 Kms long track with 142 stations including 35 underground is an engineering excellence. Delhi Metro is considered as the life line of Delhi city.

It has won awards for environmentally friendly practices from organizations including the United Nations, RINA and the International Organization for Standardization. It is the second metro in the world, after the  New York City Subway, to be ISO 14001 certified for environmentally friendly construction.

Metro rails depict violence abroad. But in India they are people friendly. Transportation – Modern or traditional will attract tourists. Delhi metro rail is attracting both Indian and foreign travelers to Delhi.

Topic - 3: “IPO Communication”

Speaker: Mr Madan Bahal, MD, Adfactors PR Pvt Ltd., Mumbai


IPO is Initial Public Offering, the first sale of stock by a company to the public. IPOs are often risky investments, but often have the potential for significant gains. IPOs are often used as a way for a young company to gain necessary market capital.

Objectives of an IPO campaign are to position the company and position the promoter and management. Risk pre-emption and risk mitigation is quite common in IPO. Crises has become an integral to IPOs

Trust is deficient in the Society after the World economic down turn. Public became skeptical and there is shift in determinants of corporate reputation.

The determinants like Transparency, Trust, Communication frequency, Financial performance etc have changed their places in their order of precedence. Transparency has come to the forefront. Communication frequency followed it while financial performance has gone to the 10th place.

A Corporate cannot behave like Ostrich with its head buried, because everybody is watching. Major challenge in IPO is communication.

30th Sept 2012
Technical Session - IV
1.30 pm to 2.30 pm

Communication Quiz

Session Chairperson: Ms Anu Mazumdar, National Vice President (East), PRSI

Quiz Master: Mr KM Prashanth, Addl GM (Corpcom), NTPC, New Delhi

Delegates were tested on the Public Relations and its allied subjects through questions.

1st October 2012
Technical Session – V
10.00 am to 11.30 am

Session Chairman: Prof. ADN Bajpai, Vice Chancellor, Himachal Pradesh University, Shimla

As the Chinese adage goes “One need to know one’s own self and one’s own enemy", the Organization and its functionaries need to know who the targets are and what are their likes and dislikes.

Basics of any profession haven’t changed, only peripherals improved. Therefore, observing the trends in the profession and acting accordingly is the skill required for the people in communication business.

Topic – 1: Making Corporate communications more saleable to Media ?

Speaker: Mr Himangshu Vatts, Senior Editor, The Economic Times, New Delhi

Media & PR often have a love-hate relationship. Media is in transition. Mediamen generally migrate to Corpcom business. Newpapers around the world are thinning in news but swelling in ads. They are cutting the costs as well as employees. Every NP has a website and the internet news is free.

News reports seek trends and context. Reports face intense scrutiny. Reporters need quick and non-bureaucratic response. They access to info especially at odd time. They expect tip-offs about the industry from time to time. Priorities of NP are changing.

Today’s edition of NP is forgotten tomorrow, but internet report remains intact. Reporters are multi-tasking, over-worked and naturally seem arrogant and inaccessible.

PR should be a help to the Media and not a hurdle. Relation with one reporter is not enough. Social media is a challenge for Media & Corpcom.

Topic – 2: Social Media as a PR tool in travel and tourism sector

Speaker: Mr Philip Abraham, Head (Corporate Strategy & Marketing), REI Six Ten Retail Ltd & Mygrahak shopping Online Ltd., New Delhi

Social media is social interaction. Word of mouth goes virtual in social media. The big 5 social media tools are Blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter & YouTube.

Normative and informative influence drive social media. People tend to use social media for ‘expression’, ‘discovery’ & ‘connection’. Social media is shifting from PC to mobile.

Asians trust social media more than the traditional media because they trust friends and relatives.  Social media make or break things.

It is important that PROs shall be trained to be online for their online presence and be visibile.

Topic – 3: Sustainability and Branding

Speaker: Mr Manjul Tiwari, DGM (Corpcom), NTPC, New Delhi

Sustainability is the long-term maintenance of responsibility which has environmental, economic and social dimensions and encompasses everything. Brand is a name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of other sellers.

Brand resides within the hearts and minds of customers, clients, and prospects. It is the sum total of their experiences and perceptions, some of which you can influence, and some that you cannot. A strong brand is inevitable as the battle for gaining customers intensify day by day. It is important to spend time investing in researching, defining, and building your brand.

After all, entire brand is the source of a promise to the consumer. It's a foundational piece in marketing communication and the one you do not want to be without.

Technical Session – VI
12.00 pm to 1.30 pm

Session Chairman: Mr Y Babji, National Vice President [South], PRSI

Medical Tourism or medical travel or health tourism is movement of patients from one place to the other. Traditionally, this movement is from less developed to highly advanced countries in the past. Now the scene is reverse. The reason is high cost on health care. The cost of surgery in India, Thailand or South Africa is 1/10th to that of US or Western Europe.

Religious Tourism needs a different set of communication strategies. No communication strategies needed to attract tourists to the destinations like Varanasi. People visit this place again and again in spite of its dirty Ghats, looting locals, deceptive brokers of all services and against all odds. The reason is that it is strongly believed as a 'Thirth', a crossing place between the Earth and the Heaven. It is only this 'sentiment' that attracts tourists. Therefore, every tourist destination shall have a 'USP'.

Emerging destinations can boost the local economies, if promoted. Media plays a vital role because the relationship between tourism and media is vital and complex. Tourism is highly dependent on media reporting, because travel decisions are generally made by the people based on reading news or watching TVs or the words of mouth generated by media.

Topic – 1 : Medical Tourism – Strengthening international bonds

Speaker: Mrs Manju Wadhwalkar, Head, Corporate Communications, Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education, Chandigarh

India is one of the favorite destinations of health tourism. The reason is, worldwide, India is known as the cradle of courtesies and hospitality. In the recent past 20 Iraqi students and 1 Pakistani girl were treated in India. Thus medical tourism improves international bonds.

In developed countries, apart from the cost of treatment being high, the appointment for surgeries is not at the wish of the patients. Many travel from UK, USA and Canada to India for treatments like in-vitro fertilization, surrogate pregnancy, freezing embryos and retro production

There are risks like TB, HIV, Bird flu, Typhoid etc being carried by medical tourists from their countries to the destinations and vice versa. There are also legal issues involved on account of certain ethical issues and unproven native therapies.

To take care of risks and legal issues, there emerged a system of accrediting the destination hospitals. There are about half a dozen International Accreditation Agencies now

Topic – 2: Religious Tourism in Varanasi

Speaker: Mr Rajesh Singh, PRO, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi

The City Banaras or Varanasi is described as a city of Light, Delight, Plight, Might, Sight and Right.  It is Kashi because it is a luminous one. The city lies between the two tributaries namely Varuna & Assi of River Ganga. Varuna + Assi = Varanasi.

With 3000 Hindu temples, 1400 Muslim shrines, several Buddhist centers, Jain temples and 400 Ghats, it is believed to be the destiny of humanity rather than a destination of tourism. 

Hindus believe that bathing in the Ganga remit sins and that dying in Kashi ensures release of soul from the cycle of its transmigrations.

Tourism in religious places needs no publicity, but facilities shall be such that they shall be remembered by a visitor forever.

Topic – 3: Catalyst role of Media in Tourism promotion

Speaker: Prof. Ram ji Tripathi, Head, Communication Dept., Makhanlal Chaturvedi University, Bhopal

Tourism is basically a peacetime activity.
Bad news about a destination or a report on a crisis at the destination can affect tourism. Media makes the unknown destinations known to the tourists and known destinations are made popular. Media can project or destroy a destination.

Sage Narada was the first Tourist Information Officer, a Communicator and the fore-father in PR dynasty. Thus PR is a pious profession because Narada’s mission was to ensure the ‘welfare and happiness of the universe at large’ (Lok kalyan) 

Knowledge is in books and social media is superficial. Both are indispensable. PR as a change agent need not isolate any one medium. Integrating them is a wise option.

Valedictory Session
3.00 pm to 4.00 pm

Chief Guest:
Sri Bhim Sen, IAS (Retd), Chief Information Commissioner, Himachal Pradesh

Tourism can make the ideal ‘Vasudaiva kutumbakam’ a reality. Tourism helps exchanging the values of cultures that are carried by a traveler from his place to a destination.

Together with recreation, tourism provides a platform for National and International integration. The people who are frequent travelers are socially more integrated.

In the present scenario of globalization and liberalization the role of Public Relations has become more important and has become an integral and inseparable part of every organization.

PRSI aims at promoting professional excellence in every field, however, in the present circumstances there is a need for the PR professionals to update themselves with the latest trends and technologies to deliver goods in a befitting manner.

Today, various organizations are engaged in image building and the communicators associated with the tourism industry are making all out efforts to tap media.

Travel and tourism had powerful impact on shaping the local communities and strengthening national economies which calls for proactive role of PR strategies.

Guest of Honor:

High Commissioner of Mauritius, His Excellency Dr. Arye Kumar Jagessur

Continuous innovation is required in tourism communication.

It is quite possible with Public Relations professionals at the helm of affairs to plan and execute communication strategies for the development of travel and tourism destinations of any country.


Sri Brahma Dev Sharma, Chairman, Shimla Chapter of PRSI / Director, Information & Public Relations, Govt of Himachal

Tourism is a collection of activities, services and industries that delivers a travel experience. It includes transportation, accommodations, eating and drinking establishments, retail shops, and entertainment businesses.

It also includes activity facilities and other hospitality services provided for individuals or groups traveling away from home. Thus tourism is an Industry by itself. Strategic communication is the backbone for this industry.