This is the third article in a series of articles about City Priorities. If you haven’t read, please go through City Priority 1: Affordable Housing and City Priority 2: Waste Management.
The main question that we are exploring is
“What does the BJP government need to prioritize in Ahmedabad for this term?”
We are going to focus on one priority at a time. The sequence of the priorities is chosen at random and does not indicate a preference within the priorities.
[Image taken from the Gujarat Tourism Website]
City Priority 3: Heritage and Tourism
Last year, UNESCO declared Ahmedabad as India’s first World Heritage city. No, this is not from a whatsapp forward. You can check this link from the official UNESCO website. It is now one of the 1000+ sites in the world which has this recognition. It is not a small honour by any means.
The State government has responded to this recognition and created a website which collates all the information about the city and its heritage. It has some basic information about places to visit, historical significance of some monuments, the heritage walk, and a little bit more. Most of it is something that you would get even earlier with a simple google search.
There is a huge opportunity for the city to leverage on this recognition to boost its tourism. Imagine the selling point. First city in the country to be a Heritage city in a country which usually uses heritage as a USP. In terms of tourism, Ahmedabad is sitting on a jackpot!
What are the things that work for the city?
A huge number of NRIs are from the state and have some or the other connection to the city. The city has three pretty big railway stations already, superb road connectivity from nearby big cities, the airport has not reached its saturation point yet and can definitely be expanded, residents are known for their entrepreneurial spirit which is a big plus if tourism has to thrive, and the state already has a popular tourist campaign which will allow them to market the city as an important part of a tour package.
Before we start to day dream a little too much, the city is not a bed of roses either. There are challenges which need to be addressed before anything can be kicked off. Some of the challenges are structural and some are mindset related.
Government interventions are important and necessary to ensure that these challenges are addressed. Some of these will be about drafting a new and effective policy for heritage development and some of it will be to create opportunities for citizens to leverage towards the objective of promoting tourism.
Here are some of the things that the government can do:
Government can create a ‘Heritage Guide’ position. It will employ around a hundred people directly. These people need to either know everything about one heritage site and be posted there or should be able to lead a tour of visitors across various sites. There should be city tours which cover all these sites.
Government can encourage colleges in the city to start heritage conservation courses. These courses will only become popular if there are jobs in the field after people finish these courses. Government can hire these people for heritage conservation of the sites in the city and also ensure that they are well equipped to do that role in different states and countries. It can also encourage companies to adopt certain sites as a part of their CSR activity.
Government can encourage schools and colleges to bring their students to these sites. This can promote understanding of our cultural history from an early age and in turn ensure that they grow up to be citizens of the city who respect these cultural treasures.
One big thing that the government would need to focus on is to get the buy in from the citizens towards this push. Citizens of Ahmedabad need to be perfect hosts. Tourists cannot be made to feel uncomfortable in the city because of any reason. Safety and happiness of tourists should become a priority for each and every citizen. You can see this happen really well in places which have tourism as their main revenue source for eg. Thailand or Bali.
Citizens can be encouraged to start businesses which compliment this push for tourism. Home stays, hotels, authentic restaurants, handicrafts, local experiences, and city merchandise are just some things that comes to mind. Government needs to expect and plan for a lot more load on our essential services like transport, food, water, housing, sanitation etc. It would be a foolish to ignore these things before a genuine push is made for tourism.
There are numerous more ways in which Ahmedabad can be marketed as the perfect heritage travel destination. We have the goods, are we prepared to market them effectively?
Currently it feels like Ahmedabad has won the golden ticket in the lottery but we haven’t en-cashed it. Ahmedabad needs to do that soon because these strategic advantages might not last for long.