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HomeNewsIndia TourismNTB, Representation, Missions, New Cogs Of India’s Overseas Promotion

NTB, Representation, Missions, New Cogs Of India’s Overseas Promotion

The government is set to form National Tourism Board for marketing and promotion

With the vast tourism potential of the country remaining largely untapped from the overseas markets, India is looking at developing a structure that is nimble and effective. Closing the overseas tourism offices and setting up a National Tourism Boards, appointing Marketing Representation and engaging Indian missions abroad are part of the plan that seeks to reinvigorate India’s overseas destination marketing.

India tourism had 14 Overseas tourism offices, most of them set up in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. By March 31, 2023, it will have none. Six of the 14 overseas tourism offices were closed a few years ago and the remaining eight offices have been ordered shut by the end of this fiscal. These offices, set up in the pre-internet era, are no more viewed as a necessity for destination promotion and marketing with the advent of new technology, digital media platforms and changed global landscape. And the fact also remains that the vast tourism potential of India has remained largely untapped from the overseas markets, potentially viewed as the failure overseas tourism offices. A comparison of India’s inbound growth in the last two-three decades vis-à-vis countries like Thailand, Turkey, Malaysia, leaves much to be desired.

The Government is now looking at different structures, of that of creating a National Tourism Board (NTB), appointing Destination Market Representatives and PR companies, among others, in key and potential source markets, that it says would be more efficient and nimble in carrying out country’s destination promotion initiatives far more effectively.

Arvind Singh, Secretary, Tourism, Government of India, delved deep explaining why the tourism offices are being closed and what the new structure of India’s international tourism marketing and promotion be, at a recent PATA India Chapter organised meeting in the national capital. The interactive event was attended by key industry stakeholders, member of the press, overseas missions, among others.

“We have virtually not done any international marketing in the last two years, because of Covid. The Covid period gave us time to rethink our strategy and do this in a new way. That is why this new idea has come and it has found acceptance within the Government that we go ahead with National Tourism Board which will do the promotion work,” he said in one of his key remarks.

Changing Landscape

The tourism landscape today is different from what it was 50 years ago. Industry’s recognition as a catalyst and an engine of socio-economic growth has made the international inbound market far more competitive. Source markets are rife with aggressive and innovative campaigns and promotional schemes not seen before and technology and digital media platforms have only aided and abetted new innovations. India’s overseas tourism promotion structure that was largely established over 50 years ago was seen as a passé.   

According to Singh, “You needed to be physically present to establish your (tourism) presence in the markets abroad. That was something that was true till the 90s that you have to be physically present in many of the places, take offices on hire, put people there, spend a lot of money on rent and recruitment, put people there, spend money doing physical events, distribution of materials and literature, conduct road shows and other such branding events.” 

But not anymore. Singh informed that a reassessment was done a few years ago and the 14 overseas tourism offices were consolidated into eight offices, located in Beijing, Dubai, Frankfurt, London, New York, Paris (That was to shift to Moscow), Singapore and Tokyo. However, a further and more recent reassessment by the Government has convinced it that the remaining eight overseas tourism offices can also be done away with.

“Unfortunately, the process of promotion or manning these offices with very senior personnel took a lot of time because there were reservations within the Government of the efficacy and utility of these offices. Finally this was assessed at a very high level, Committee of Secretaries of the level of Cabinet Secretary and it was decided that we do away with all these offices because given the changed circumstances, the growth of internet, an era where people can work from anywhere, there was hardly any necessity to maintain such physical offices and it would be better to look or try a different models that many countries have adopted, both advanced countries as well as newly emerging countries,” the Secretary added.

NTB, Representatives & Missions

Moving ahead, the role of the offices abroad would be replaced by the National Tourim Board. Headquartered in Delhi, the board will oversee all the campaigns and promotions in the different regions. They will study the trends, campaigns, trends in inbound, trends in digital media promotion, work through the Indian missions abroad in crucial markets, and also in key markets work through the private agencies like destination marketing companies, who will be placed, selected through an open bidding process.

The NTB will oversee all the overseas as well as domestic promotion activities. That will be their primary mandate. It will be staffed with officials coming from overseas tourism offices and who will then be managing those regions. They will be physically present in Delhi where the tourism board will be. “If needed, and that’s the mandate from Committee of Secretaries, then we could hire talent from outside to run these boards, get representatives from the industry. The budget for promotion would be placed with this board which would then manage the overseas and domestic promotion work which is currently being done by the Ministry.

Secondly, Government will also look at appointing Market Representatives in some source markets which would be private agencies to carry out destination promotion work in specific source markets as is common with various NTO’s Marketing Representation companies in India. “The selection of that (Representatives) would be definitely through a very transparent bidding process and we have already identified the markets where we would be placing these Market Representative agencies.”

Singh says, “We did a study with the help of Invest India and our consultants where we studied the National Tourism Boards and the promotion strategies. And besides the efficacy of these offices (Overseas Tourism Offices), what was also felt that the Ministry itself was not equipped to do the promotion work. For the Minister or the Secretary or the Ministry officials to find time and devise strategy and to work in a very nimble fashion was something beyond the capacity of Ministry.”

And that’s how, said the Secretary, “The need was felt of an external agency which would be nimble, which would be housed with experts and people from the industry, there would be lateral entry of experts, who could do this type of executive roles which we see in terms of tourism promotion boards. If we see the examples of Japan, Singapore, the US, Australia, many countries have that model. This model was benchmarked.”

Going forward, India’s overseas mission will also have a significant role to play in overseas tourism promotion. Some 20 odd missions are already on the job. “Wherever physical work is required, the officers designated at the 20 Indian missions overseas are there. The 20 missions are the top 10 markets and 10 emerging markets. More officers could also be designated because the Prime Minister has now put all the missions on task and they will be monitored by MEA on the promotion of trade, technology and tourism, the 3Ts as they are popularly called. So the physical work in the overseas market would be done by the missions,” Singh informed.

What Next?

According to Singh, Ministry of Tourism had presented the new plan to the Prime Minister in the month of May 2022 and the Prime Minister had asked the Cabinet Secretary to go through it. “It was further presented to the Cabinet Secretary August 2022 and he has already given nod to set up the National Tourism Board and to restructure our media strategy. Now, further processes like the paperwork in terms of getting the Finance Ministry’s approval, the Cabinet’s approval, is underway.”

He also informed that the notes to the Finance Ministry and the Cabinet are virtually ready and MoT is awaiting dates for the meeting when the next steps can then be taken to takes the process forward. Furthermore, he said that once the EFC (Expenditure Finance Committee) meetings are held to approve the proposed expenditure then the cabinet note will go to the cabinet for approval.

“Given the nature of the game and given that in the future we expect our inbound to grow, I think we needed to reboot our strategies. Covid gave us time to think on all these lines. We have done all the thinking, the paperwork, the groundwork,” said Singh while concluding.






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