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Editor's Desk: Kumbh 2019: A missed opportunity!

Any mega festival taking place in any part of the world emerges as a major tourist draw if marketed well. Organisers of the global festivals like Germany’s Beer Festival and Tomatina of Spain and others that draws millions of tourists from domestic, neighbouring and international markets start promotion a year and two in advance. The reason being the travel market in US, Europe and other developed countries are organized and finalize their itinerary much before the travel.

For ongoing Kumbh 2019, experts of the industry are of the view that Indian inbound and domestic tour operators have missed the bus. Kumbh, the largest congregation of people in the world could have well been developed as one of the best tourism products of India. There are foreigners and domestic tourists’ visiting Kumbh in good numbers, but this number could have been gone up steep northward. The concern here is that majority of the tour operators did not even come out tour packages related to Kumbh. Report suggests that the ongoing Kumbh did not draw numbers from Nepal or Bangladesh even. This is despite the fact the Uttar Pradesh Government has created a better infrastructural facility to offer a good experience to visitors.

For Kumbh Mela which has previously been comprised by UNESCO in the list of 'Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, a new provisional city has been built along Prayagraj, which has 250-km long thoroughfares and 22 platform bridges. For the first time, an Integrated Control Command and Centre has been set-up in the Kumbh area. The Mela also witness the use of artificial intelligence for dealing with superior crowd supervision for the first time this year. More than 1,000 CCTV cameras were equipped to track several movements all over the Mela. UP Government has put up more than 4,000 tents at the site.

But, still the travel trade could not benefit out of this? Why so? One of the foremost reasons is the lack of marketing and promotion. No doubt, the Centre and the UP Government started the promotion in overseas and India market, but the effort was not cohesive. It was a half heartedly promotional efforts. The UP Tourism organized roadshows in Indian cities with travel tourism associations just few weeks prior to the Kumbh. There was a need to target Indian Diaspora in US, Canada, UK and other countries in an effective manner.

Now, this Kumbh is the missed opportunity but we have good learning from here. We have enough time to work towards the next Kumbh. What is needed here is a strong collaboration between the host states and stakeholders like industry association, India Tourism Offices Abroad and Indian embassies and High commissions to work on the next Kumbh and develop this ‘biggest carnival of humanity’ as a major tourist draw. Around 120 million people is expected to visit the ongoing Kumbh.

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