REALITY CHECK: In tourism the perception is the reality”. It is the image is what is perceived by those who use or are likely to use your brand and services. It can make you standout from others who are doing or saying similar things in a crowded market place. Branding is thus a process that puts together and sustains complex mixtures of attributes and values, many of which are intangible. The objective of branding India was to produce unique and attractive offerings that cover both national and emotional need of the tourists.
In tourism factors such as cost of travel, convenience and quality of facilities are important; however, the strongest motivation is provided by the image. It is “image” which places a destination on the consumers “Shopping lists” and creates an emotional appeal which inturn enhances the destinations chances of being chosen over others. How a destinations or commercial tourism organization promote its products or services is a key factor in the realization of its objectives. In an activity like tourism where the customers is located remote from the place he/she is intending to visit or from the tourism products and services he/she is thinking to buy, tourism marketing thus becomes the central component of tourism. Creating the proper image becomes an integral part of marketing. Strong branding represents one of the best defence against adverse economic & market conditions. (Source Ministry of Tourism Report). The divergence between consumer’s perception of brands and these experience matters much in the success of a brand.
INDIA TOURISM EFFORTS: In 2002 when India thought of creating a brand equity which would increase its brand recognition and brand power, it found it was not a easy job as competitors like Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore had established strong brand identity. These had proved very stimulating and economically beneficial. All the more they already included some of unique experience and thus forced India to lookout for something totally innovative and really challenging. Amazing Thailand :attracted 10 million tourists, Malaysia truly Asia attracted over 8.5 million tourists in 2002 and Live it up Singapore almost 7 million tourists whereas only India ’s tourist arrivals remained to 2.5 million. Closer home God’s own country! Kerala emerged as one of the fastest destinations in Asia . Indian Tourism image remained unfocussed & unclear. As a destination India had difficulties in competing with images from competing countries and its advertising, promotion & PR had failed to correct the negative perception as a tourist destination. Its was just generic and not campaign very effective because visibility was very limited.
THE EMERGENT ISSUES : The problem was genuine. To workout a strong branding needed lot of inputs which to cover well defined and unique brand personality country as whole, selection of the correct positioning strategies, themed product development, consistent and appropriate advertising & promotion careful brand guardianship and look into destinations different characteristics like it is multifaceted product, involves many stake holders with differing objectives & requirements is a mental concept for potential tourist, is subject the influence of current events, natural calamities, terrorism, health scenes and is evaluated subjectively in respect of its value for money (based on reality compared with expectations and differs in size, physical attractions, infrastructure, benefits offered to visitors and degree of dependence on tourism – infact no tourism destination can be treated the same and India in this respect holds unique position due to its multiplicity of destination products.
CONSUMER EXPERIENCE : The brand equity needed to be built on a thorough understanding of consumer needs. A survey commissioned by the Malaysian Tourism Promotion Broad revealed that tourist viewed Singapore as clean, modern & safe, China’s dominant image and attraction was “culture” Malaysia was seen as multi cultural and Thailand had a brand image of exotic, fun & friendly people, while others could claim breath taking locals, the mysticism of the east the draw of the civilization, the call of the wild, India is all that & much more. The more part include
It is a journey of mind & soul
It is a journey of five senses
It is a journey of self discovery
It is a journey of self fulfillment
What is so unique about India? That fact it offered a myriad of experiences – on enlightened holiday that enabled the tourist to go back as a better human being. One comes back richer – with knowledge experience and enlightened mind as greater human being i.e. Self fulfillment.
The facts that in its sheer size, diversity and experience it was larger than 21 country of western?. Europe put together with 25874 Km to spare. Govt. was putting all its thinking to develop India into a global brand with world wide brand recognition and strong brand equity. With lot of thinking and deliberation came the “Incredible India” branding process which focused to create a unique identity for India as a tourism destination & differentiate it from competitors.
METHODOLOGY : The strategy was to reposition India as a premium destination for upmarket tourists with all communications sharply focused to attract niche segments.
Thus with great thought Incredible India Campaign was launched (2001) as brand identity (though timings did not help with negative events that followed globally with September 11 in New York, Indo Pak border crises, Afghan war and economic recession that followed) However, Government was not disheartened and took the time for consolidation by forming public-private partnerships in a fruitful manner. (Joint Secretary –( Tourism) Report 2003)
BRAND EQUITY “INCREDIBLE INDIA” CAMPAIGN LAUNCHED: The campaign was launched with a well synchronized integrated communications strategy in the prime traffic generating markets. In partnership with the experience India Society. India tourism released a powerful television commercial on prestigious world wide channels including CNN, BBC, Discovery & TV Channels. In synergizing with this TV Campaign, print media campaign released in leading publications like CondeNast Traveller, Vogue, Geo, Financial Express & leading In-flight magazines. The entire print & electronic media plan was detailed & monitored by India’s leading advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather. Integrating with the electronic & print media was the online marketing campaign through same of the visually most powerful banner advertisements. The aggressive on line campaign provided a complete digital experience to meet the requirements of travelers. The campaign linked with a series of contests was featured on all leading portals like yahoo, MSN and Google.
The electronic print & net campaign was vigorously pursued with a fortnightly on line newsletter to almost 25,000 tour operators and travel agents world wide.
FOLLOWUP ACTION : A global media meet comprising some of the finest travel writer’s world wide was also organized. Travel writers were exposed to the new initiatives in Indian Tourism which converged elements of culture, civic governance, new development strategies that have been initiated by the Govt. sector like Buddhist circuits (Ajanta- Ellora, Gaya- Bodhgaya etc.) Pilgrimage, circuits, rural tourism & other new linkages preservation of heritage monuments like Red fort, Fort Cochin, Koachin, Chattisgarh etc. and they were taken for familiarization tours to sample the developmental activities so that on return they can write their experience back home. The PR exercise also enhanced unprecedented coverage of India as a holiday destination. India was on special issue of National Geographic, Travel & Leisure to CondeNast, New York Times, Vogue, Cosmopolitan and several in-flight magazines placed India as cover story.
COORDINATED EFFORTS: -Building a brand can not be in isolation from the reality on ground. The emphasis was on balanced development of all related areas through proper coordination. Indian planners looked into the interdependence part and complementarity of tourist services. It followed from the fact that tourism demand is for a composite product, that the various tourist’s products and services are interdependent and complimentary. The supply of one (for example international air transport to/from a destination depend on the supply of another (such as hotel accommodation) and they complement each other. A destinations reputation can have set back by the weakest link in the tourist product chain. Thus a coordination policy was launched by the Government to improve, air connectivity and various tourism suppliers. The focuses was improving infrastructure and providing clean hygienic surroundings at heritage sites and monuments. In the 10th Five Year Plan and even in the 11th Five Year Plan tourism has moved away from assisting small isolated projects to integrated circuits and developing one tourism & cultural hub in each state of India.
coordination. Indian planners looked into the interdependence part and complementarity of tourist services. It followed from the fact that tourism demand is for a composite product, that the various tourist’s products and services are interdependent and complimentary. The supply of one (for example international air transport to/from a destination depend on the supply of another (such as hotel accommodation) and they complement each other. A destinations reputation can have set back by the weakest link in the tourist product chain. Thus a coordination policy was launched by the Government to improve, air connectivity and various tourism suppliers. The focuses was improving infrastructure and providing clean hygienic surroundings at heritage sites and monuments. In the 10th Five Year Plan and even in the 11th Five Year Plan tourism has moved away from assisting small isolated projects to integrated circuits and developing one tourism & cultural hub in each state of India.
MEASURING SUCCESS: What has brand campaign achieved must be hovering in your mind? It has enabled India to encourage as a destination of choice to regain market share. As a consequence of this brand building exercise tourist arrivals run dramatically from 2002 onward and figure jumped from 2.4 million in 2002 to 4.4 m in 2006. (85.8% increase). India received over Rs. 29,600 Crores in 2006 as foreign exchange registering a growth of 17.6 over 2005.
The Media campaigns over the years have also increased the level of interest in India and changed mindset of foreign tourists. It has now established India’s position as the most preferred destination in the world. The success of the campaigns can be gauged from following international recognitions received.
Conde Nast Traveller, the world’s leading travel and tourism journal, has ranked India amongst the top most preferred holiday destinations of the world.
Lonely Planet has selected India amongst the top 5 destinations, in a survey of 167 countries.
ABTA (Association of British Travel Agents) has ranked India as No. 1 amongst top 50 places for 2006.
The Incredible India Campaign has been the winner of PATA Gold Award for Best Print Ad Campaign and PATA Award for Best Destination marketing campaign.
The Incredible India Campaign has been ranked as highest Recall Advertisement worldwide by travel and leisure.
World Travel Awards received for (A) Asia’s Leading Destination (b) World’s leading Travel Destination Television Commercial (C) World’s leading Responsible Tourism Project for Endogenous Tourism Project and (D) Asia’s leading Tourism & Convention Bureau.
CONSUMERS SATISFACTION : -The campaign enabled India to focuss on its authentic India experience & differentiates itself as a spiritually elevating, culturally “enriching” and physically invigorating & mentally rejuvenating destination.
It positioned India in the tourism generating markets as desirable tourism destination and increase India’s share of the global tourism market. Now key overseas tour operators in the core markets feature India in their tour packages and promote India in their advertisements holiday brochures, outlets and give extensive publicity in the media.
What is so different about India – Max Muller tellsIf we were to look over the world to find out the country most richly endorsed with all the wealth, power & beauty which nature can bestwo in some parts a veritable paradise in earth. I should point to India. .....Max Mullar.