I arrived at Taipei’s Taoyuan International Airport (www.taoyuanairport.gov.tw/english/index.jsp) and easily met my driver, who was holding a sign with my name. It was a surprisingly balmy day, not at all what I expected given the fact that I had just barely managed to escape another “storm of the century” in New York. The black, leather-seated sedan spun out onto the highway, and we cruised south for about three hours past cities, farmland and Taoist and Buddhist temples to Chiayi, a city of 270,000 people in the Southwestern plains of the 14,400 square mile island. It was here that I had come for the annual Taiwan Lantern Festival, the county’s largest and most spectacular festival that changes locations around the country annually. It opens 15 days after Chinese New Year, and this was the opening day. According to Mayor Huang Min-hui, the 8 day event would be the biggest thing to come to Chiayi City in 300 years!
Recently Nareendra Kothiyal, Information Officer for the India Government Tourist Office (IGTO) in New York, spoke about India’s marketing activities. The New York office is IGTO’s regional office for the Americas, overseeing offices in Los Angeles, Canada, and South America. Their goal is to position India as a “global brand.”
Unlike tour operators, which tend to be interested in promoting popular sites in well- known and well-developed regions of India (i.e. places with good infrastructure and accommodations suitable for their clients), the tourist office’s mission is to promote all of India—especially emerging destinations that are lesser known, less developed and off the beaten path. For that reason, IGTO is particularly interested in expanding rural tourism and in promoting their newly formed (about 2 ½ years ago) states.
The trio of “New States” includes a destination in Northern India, one in Eastern and one in the Central part of the country. Uttarakhand, set in Northern India, is also known as the “Gateway to the Valley of the Gods,” and includes Haridwar, the area from which the Ganges River reaches the plains from the Himalayas. It is popular spot for spirituality, health and wellness. Jharkhand in Eastern India is rich in greenery, attractive waterfalls, and desirable minerals; and popular for its health and wellness retreats. Chhattisgarh, located in the heart of India, is renowned for its rich tribal populations and bio-diversity.
Explains Kothiyal, “The idea of rural tourism is for travelers to really get out into the villages, mingle with the local people, and really feel the village life.”