Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Incredible Tamil Nadu

 India's Tourism is the third largest foreign exchange earner
Arundhati Konar , YourMoneySite. This year, September 27, which is popularly known for World Tourism Day, is being celebrated under the theme "Tourism - Linking Cultures." It was the same day in the year 1980, when the United Nations World Tourism Organisation celebrated World Tourism Day for the first time.

September 27 was chosen as the date for World Tourism Day because that date coincided with an important milestone in world tourism: the anniversary of the adoption of the UNWTO Statutes on September 27, 1970.

Over the last 20 years, tourism has matured into one of the world largest industries with a growth rate in excess of 5% per annum. According to World Tourism Organisations (WTO) estimates, the global domestic tourism flows are approximately 10 times greater than international tourism flows and globally, tourism covers 11% of the global GDP and 8% of the world trade employment.

Speaking of India, the countrys tourism is the third largest foreign exchange earner, accounting for almost 2.5% of the GDP. However, where does it stand among the other tourist attracting countries? The blatant question here is, "what do global statistics on Indian tourism really say?"

Listed below are some eye openers. As per the data complied by the United Nations World Tourism organisation (UNWTO), out of a global total of 940 million tourists, the top ten international tourism destinations in 2010 were as below:

Rank Country International tourist arrivals (mn) 1 France 76.80 2 United States 59.75 3 China 55.67 4 Spain 52.68 5 Italy 43.63 6 United Kingdom 28.13 7 Turkey 27.00 8 Germany 26.88 9 Malaysia 24.58 10 Mexico 22.40

Out of the total of almost 204 million tourists to Asia and the Pacific in 2010, the top ten destinations were:

Rank Country International tourist arrivals (mn) 1 China 55.67 2 Malaysia 24.58 3 Hong Kong, China 20.09 4 Thailand 15.84 5 Macau, China 11.93 6 Singapore 9.16 7 South Korea 8.80 8 Japan 8.61 9 Indonesia 5.91 10 Australia 5.89

Yes, India does not feature in the top 10 popular destinations in the world or even Asia Pacific!

Despite the abundant natural beauty and vast history, what stops the country to make it among the top tourist destinations? Lets do a SWOT analysis here.Strengths & Opportunities:

All-in-one: Apart from the much talked about rich culture and arts of the country, India stands strong and probably surpasses many countries in terms of locales within its territory. It is probably among the few nations which experiences all seasons around a year. India evidently offers multiple choices when it comes to destinations - be it mountains, valleys, beaches, forests, rivers or deserts - name it and you will find it right here! India also provides with one of the greatest adventure tourism assets in the world, in form of Himalayas and its mighty rivers.

Preference services : In order to encourage international tourism, the government has rationalised tax rates in the hospitality sector ( as per foreign trade policy announced in 2006). A similar measure has been taken in the aviation sector as well. India now has low cost airlines, like Jet Airways and Air Sahara flying overseas. The government of India has also taken care of hassle-free immigration services for the tourists and has passed tourist friendly visa regime. The government has considered strategies for the fast issuance of visas and permits, including electronic visa approaches, and improved processing of arrivals by customs and immigration officials.

Medical Tourism : India, known as the fastest growing economy, stands at par with the developed economies when it comes to medical technology. But when it comes to the fees charged for the same facilities, India surpasses the first world countries on back of affordability. For example, heart surgery in India will cost around $6,000, whereas the same in US will be around $ 30,000. Similarly, the expense for bone marrow transplant in India stands around $26,000 which in US is for $250,000.

Apart from the technologically advanced science and machineries, India is also known for alternative options of medicines. From core of its age old scripts, India has uplifted ayurveda and yoga to an international level. Over the years, the ayurvedic therapies and the magic of yogasana has been one of the main attractions for tourists in India.

Weaknesses & Threats: Lack of marketing: Though the government of India has taken initiatives to incorporate campaigns like Incredible India and Athiti Devo Bhav, the presentation of both lacks the welcoming aspect for tourists. Incredible India as a campaign vey well portrays the art, culture and historic values of the country, but at the same time, it fails to talk about the present India. Tourism is not always about exploring the arts and culture of a country, but also about relaxation, adventure, fun, which sadly the campaign fails to portray.

Lack of genuine information on tourist destinations: Also more access to authentic information on tourist destinations, monuments, directions, etc may make a tourists visit to the country a more pleasant experience.

Hygiene: On visiting countries like US, United Kingdom, the first thing that an Indian will take notice of is perfect cleanliness. This is because India lacks the hygiene aspect on many accounts. Unlike other measures, cleanliness is one facet that depends more on the civilians than the government of the country.

Security: Amid the rising concerns on terrorism across the globe, India is perhaps one of the most threatened. Bomb blasts, terror attacks on prime cities of the country raise questions on the security of tourists. To add to this, thefts, rapes, cheaters also act as setbacks for the international tourists in the country.

Population: India ranks second in worlds population chart. And with higher population India keeps adding to poverty, pollution, frauds, crime rates, etc. On an obvious note, such factors are not welcoming for an outsider, thus hurting the percentage of international tourists visiting the country.

Conclusion: Indian governments tourism policy attempts to position tourism as a major engine of economic growth. The policy paper takes into consideration seven key areas that will drive the country to tourism development. These are: Swagat (welcome), Soochana (information), Suvidha (facilitation), Suraksha (safety), Sahyog (cooperation), Samrachana (infrastructure development) and Safai (cleanliness). While we have seen the central government making procedural changes to make land available for construction of hotels, on some aspects more homework is still required.

Max Muller, a German philologist and orientalist once said, "If we were to look over the whole world to find out the country most richly endowed with all the wealth, power and beauty which nature can bestow- in some parts a veritable paradise on Earth- I should point to India. If I were asked under what sky the human mind has most fully developed some of its choices gifts- I should point to India." Today, September 27, is World Tourism Day.

Goa Temples for ban on improperly dressed visitors

After two temples in Goa restricted the entry of scantily dressed tourists into their premises, a rightwing organisation here Tuesday demanded that the ban be extended to all temples in the state.

The action taken to maintain the holiness of the temple is ideal for all temples, said Jayesh Thali, convenor of the Gomantak Mandir and Dharmik Sanstha Mahasangh (GMDSM).

All other temples in Goa should necessarily act in the same way taking this as an ideal, said Thali, whose GMDSM was formed a couple of years back as a manpower oriented force to curb the rising number of thefts in temples and other religious structures in Goa.

Last month, the 450-year-old Mahalsa Narayani temple in Ponda, 30 km from here, had banned the entry of foreigners, when they were found entering the temple 'inappropriately dressed' or were found kissing within its sanctum.

Another popular temple at Mangueshi, near Ponda, had also imposed dress restrictions on its visitors.

According to Thali, foreign tourists very often display scant respect to local customs and deities and are not a good influence on other devotees.

Tourists enter the temple in very short dresses and their behaviour too is objectionable. They enter the temple wearing garland around their neck and then the same garland is offered to the deity," Thali told IANS.

"They put the holy water (teerth) given by the priest again in the pot containing the teerth. Local devotees often express their displeasure over such acts, he said.

This amounts to dishonour of dharma Temples are not meant for tourists, they are meant for devotees of the deity. It is ideal to have some restrictions on the tourists to maintain the sanctity of the temple, he said.  

Padmanabhaswamy temple abounds in history, legends and treasures

The idol of Lord Vishnu, presiding deity at Kerala's Padmanabhaswami temple, where treasures have been unearthed, is itself made of 12,000 'salagramams' or sacred stones.

The stones, brought from Gandaki river in Nepal, are bound together by a mixture of herbs and resins, a sticking subtance, reveals a book on the Travancore royal family which maintains the temple. The 18-foot Vishnu idol bears the images of a whopping 33 crore celestials in conceptualised form, besides those of goddess Lakshmi and Bhoomi Devi as well as sages.

These details form part of a book on the Travancore royal family. The book, "Travancore: The Footprints of Destiny" has been published by Konark. The temple hit the headlines after a Supreme Court ordered scrutiny of five of its six chambers uncovered a rich treasure trove including ancient gold coins, gems, antiques and cash.

The temple has in its archives the largest collection of cadjan records. It figures in four Puranas.Thiruvananthapuram derives its name from Tiru Anantha Puram- meaning the city of Anantha, the serpant god on whom Lord Vishnu reclines.

With a history dating back to the 8th century, the temple was destroyed by fire in 1686. It was rebuilt in 1729. Legend has it that god Balarama visited the temple and bathed in the holy pond and donated 10,000 cows with horns adorned in gold to the Brahmins.

The Krishna shrine in the seven-acre temple complex is older than the main shrine. Subsidiary shrines are devoted to Ganapathy, Ram, Narasimha, Ayyappa, Vedavyasa, Garuda and Hanuman. The seven-storied tower, or Gopuram, pieces the skyline, looking like a boat.

The "Kulasekhara Mandapam" in the complex carries a wealth of intricate granite sculptures, says the book. The "Ottakkal Mandapam", facing the main idol, is a single slab of granite, which is 2.5 feet thick and 20 feet square in area.

For the temple festival, the cord for hoisting the two flags is still made by the inmates of the Central Jail in Poojapura. Unique to the temple is an elaborate bi-annual ritual of sanctity called "Bhadra deepam", literally the worship of the lamps. It is the only temple in India to observe "Bhadra deepam".

The 12th Bhadra deepam is celebrated as Laksha deepam, when the Travancore Maharajah offers gold, cash and a length of silk, a tradition that continues even today. On the wide avenue leading to the eastern entrance of the temple, giant figures of the Pandavas are installed. The images, carved in wood, are more than 25 feet in height and are elaborately painted and decorated, the book says.

Besides priests and their assistants, the temple has other employees such as light carriers, guards, musicians, cooks and vessel cleaners. 

TTDC Serves rotis, dalsabji to pilgrims

The temple administration of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) on Thursday commenced serving rotis along with dal-sabji at Annadanam Complex here.

TTD Executive Officer IYR Krishna Rao, who also tasted the new menu along with pilgrims on the first day, talking to news persons, said "The TTD has started the trial run of roti machine yesterday and served nearly 1000 rotis at Employees Canteen and SP guest House in Tirumala." "Henceforth, 5000 rotis every day will be served to pilgrims at the existing Annadanam Complex on an experimental basis till the new building was inaugurated by President of India Pratibha Devi Singh Patel next month," TTD said in a relase here.

In the new Annadanam Complex, over 24,000 rotis will be served every day, he maintained and expressed satisfaction at the taste of the new dishes. The pilgrims who tasted the new dish also expressed their immense satisfaction. 

New botanical garden for chennai

Chennai, November 25: Tamil Nadu's capital has got a new attraction. The city's 'Semmozhi Poonga' - Classical Language park - a botanical garden was dedicated to the public on November 24 evening.

Established on a sprawling 20-acre area on the busy Cathedral road near the Gemini Flyover, the park boasts of a vertical garden with 35 species of plants and houses a herbal garden, water lilies from Thailand and several other rare plants from across the world.

The venue was once a preferred destination for people cutting across age barriers for making business and meeting friends as it housed the "Woodlands Drive-in restaurant," a famous landmark in the city then.

After the lease expired, the state Horticultural department got back the land, and developed a botanical garden. Set up at a cost of Rs.8 core, the garden features eight sub-gardens displaying different varieties of flora. It has a tree court, mural walk and bonsai, herbal, exotic gardens and a duck pond.

The unique feature of the garden is the golden garden having plants that flower in different shades of gold. Over 500 species of plants have been grown and in addition to plants, 80 trees which were already in existence during the development of the park, some of them being more than 100 years old, were retained.

The garden houses some of the popular exotic flora and rare plant species, medicinal and aromatic herbs. Many exotic plants were imported from China and Thailand including many bonsai varieties of ficus, microcarpa and ficus ginseng. It also boasts several exotic herbal species and 90-odd spiral shaped and multi-branched miniature trees grown in containers. The Bonsai garden is dotted with trees whose height ranges from one feet to 4 feet.

The arch near the entrance is a vertical garden which is a unique feature of this aesthetic garden. The vertical garden, with an inbuilt irrigation and drainage system for easy maintenance, was 22 feet long and 14 feet high, intended to improve the scenic beauty of the park at the entrance.

The arch was covered by 7,000 plants from 35 different species including dracena, lilies, ophiopogon, schefflera, phyllodendron and other flowering plants like krishnagantha. The 10-feet-high green wall has plants raised in a poly trace imported from Canada. Micro-tube irrigation has been arranged for watering the plants.

The plants cling to the 700-sq ft wall, which serve as the entry point. The aroma garden acts as a welcoming greenhouse for winged visitors with species like parijatham and pavalamalli found to flock the place in bulk. An amphitheatre with concrete benches and covered by ferns has been built on the rear side of garden to host social and cultural functions.

Other features included disabled-friendly ramps, a mural walk-through and areas dotted with fountains, vertical gardens, ponds and cascades.