With India in the throes of a general election, and the world watching with interest, the country’s tourism industry has spotted an opportunity to draw the maximum benefit. Backpackers are being lured by electiontourismindia.com not to see slums but to witness the world’s biggest democratic exercise. After all, few spectacles beat the experience of watching a politician gear up for the big contest or make that charged speech at a huge rally.
The website, brainchild of India Tourism Development Corporation chairman Manish Sharma, has been developed in collaboration with travel agents worldwide and offers packages that include interaction with political parties and attendance at propaganda events. Sharma believes these ‘poll tourism’ packages give foreigners the opportunity to explore India’s vibrant democracy which accommodates different cultures.
Some of the website’s interesting offers are the Democratic Triangle Package, which is a six-day visit to Jaipur, Delhi and Agra, and Political Rajasthan Royals, which begins from Delhi and takes tourists through Pushkar, Jaipur, Jodhpur, and Mount Abu before ending at Udaipur. This package is an eight-day tour.
Other packages are Heritage Hub and Golden Triangle which take tourists through other fascinating destinations of Rajasthan and Delhi for eight days. A spokesperson for the website said many foreigners have registered for about $1200 for these packages. The spokesperson said at least 800 tourists had signed up to watch the election process and ITDC is expecting more as the elections enter the last leg.
These packages are being promoted in the US, UK, France, Germany, China, UAE, Singapore and many other countries.
On the flip side, the elections have brought down the number of Indians who are traveling abroad. However, the outlook for this year as a whole remains bright, according to Sunila Patil, founder and co-owner of Veena World, an upcoming travel company.
“There is a mild drop in [foreign travel] as people are choosing to vote before going off on a holiday,” she said. “[But] May is a promising month. Summer vacations of children start in mid-April, so outbound tourism rises after that. So the dip in April will be made up next month.”
Patil added that in the last few months there has been a rise in domestic travel in the northern states of India, though not for political reasons.