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Heard of poll tourism? Find out what it is all about

March 17, 2014 10:36 IST

Heard of poll tourism? Find out what it is all about

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Sohini Das

Tour operators  have introduced a novel concept to pep up sales. This time they are offering special ‘poll tourism’ packages to cash in on election fever. 

Being the largest democracy in the world has its own benefits.

To make the most of the coming Lok Sabha elections, city-based Akshar Travels has come up with special packages for foreign tourists to help them experience the poll fervour.

Manish Sharma, owner of Akshar Travels and chairman of the Gujarat Tourism Development Society, has signed an agreement with about 60 tour operators across the country, as well as some in Paris, Amsterdam, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, London, Beijing, Tokyo, etc, to promote the cause of what he calls “poll tourism”.

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Image: Local tour operators have designed attractive 'poll tourism' packages to attract foreign tourists
Photographs: Reuters

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Sharma said, “We first spoke about our poll tourism packages at ITB Berlin (Internationale Tourismus-Börse Berlin), a leading travel and tourism conference attended by tour operators, hoteliers and people from the hospitality sector from about 100 countries. We have already received about 800 enquiries for the election tourism package. London, Ukraine, Beijing, Singapore and parts of France accounted for most of these enquiries.” 

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Image: Udaipur, Rajasthan
Photographs: Courtesy: Taj hotels resorts and palaces

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A typical poll tourism package, priced between $1,200 and $1,800 a person for a six-night-seven-day trip (including food, stay, transportation and a few activities) combines visits to major tourist attractions in India with attending political rallies, interacting with political leaders and soaking in the election fever.  

For instance, under a Delhi-Agra-Jaipur package, a tourist could visit various sites in the capital, attend political rallies and spend evenings interacting with representatives of political parties.  

“We have spoken to all major political parties in the country and they are very supportive of the initiative. While major political leaders will be busy preparing for the elections, the tourists will interact with the second-rung leadership in these parties,” Sharma said.  

The tour operators’ team has also approached the Election Commission of India to seek approval for foreign tourists to visit poll booths. However, it hasn’t secured an approval so far.

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Image: Interestingly, Indian tour operators are wooing foreign tourists by giving them an opportunity to participate in political rallies
Photographs: Pawan Kumar/Reuters

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Sharma’s team had tried something similar during the 2012 state Assembly elections, too.

“Though we organised election tourism packages in a very short time, we managed to attend to about 90 foreign tourists. This time, with a pan-Indian scope, we hope to see about 2,000 visitors opting for our packages, especially from regions like Egypt and the Gulf, where many are not familiar with a democratic process of electing leaders,” Sharma says.

“Witnessing huge turnouts at political rallies, banners, hoardings and huge cut-outs of political leaders in the South; the entire experience of an Indian election is a once-in-a-lifetime one for many foreigners," he says.

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Image: Election tourism packages to attract tourists.
Photographs: Amit Dave/Reuters

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Lav Sharma, project head for the election tourism package, remembers how a member of the state legislative Assembly had hosted a dinner for tourists from Ukraine at his village. He had also taken the tourists on a tour of the village and its surroundings. 

Akshar Travels’ partners in other cities also seem upbeat about the concept. “We have not done anything like this before. This will indeed be an interesting offering for foreign tourists visiting India at this time,” says P K Mondal of Ideal Leisure Holiday, which conducts trips to the eastern and northeastern parts of India.

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Image: Travel agents are pitching 'election time' as best season fto tourists visiting India
Photographs: Reuters

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Subhash Goyal, president, Indian Association of Tour Operators, says: “This is an interesting concept. India is the largest democracy in the world and there will be a lot of interest in seeing the election campaign process here. It could also boost foreign tourist arrivals, to an extent, during the season.” He adds such packages are designed by tour operators at an individual level, not with the help of any ministry.  

So far, most enquiries relate to the Delhi-Agra-Jaipur circuit.

The circuits decided upon include popular tourist ones like Delhi-Agra-Jaipur, Delhi-Bikaner-Jaisalmer-Jodhpur, Ahmedabad-Rajkot-Gondal, Dwarka-Porbandar-Sasan-Gir, Lucknow-Ayodhya-Varanasi, Delhi-Shimla-Manali-Chandigarh, Mathura-Agra-Haridwar-Rishikesh-Delhi, Cochin-Munnar-Thekkady, Guwahati-Kaziranga-Shillong and Gangtok-Lachen-Peling.


Image: Travel industry is counting big on upcoming elections
Photographs: Reuters

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