Kavita Bajeli Datt
New Delhi, Oct 25 Catch them young - that's seems to be the motto of Tourism Minister Kumari Selja and actor-producer Aamir Khan as they are all set to jointly launch a campaign with school children on imbibing best tourism practices to attract more visitors to India in the coming years.
Both Selja and Aamir, the brand ambassador of the tourism ministry for its campaign 'Incredible India' to showcase the country's rich heritage and culture and the message, 'Athithi Devo Bhava' (guest is god) since 2008, are keen that children should learn how to make tourists feel welcome in India, sources told IANS.
According to sources in the ministry's internal publicity unit, the campaign will be launched in Delhi in November, although the dates are yet to be confirmed.
Like the 'Athithi Devo Bhava' advertisements, Aamir will tell children how to imbibe the best tourism practices and also encourage them to spread the welcome message. "The main aim is to attract tourists to India," the official added.
"Hundreds of children will be part of this campaign. After the launch ceremony, the campaign will be taken to various schools in the country. The emphasis is to teach them when they are young so that when they grow up they will be responsible citizens," said the official.
Also, CDs of the eight advertisements of Aamir, who was roped in by former tourism minister Ambika Soni, will also be distributed to schools to popularise the concept. Aamir is not charging anything for the campaign.
In the advertisements, Aamir is shown telling cab drivers and shopkeepers not to misbehave, harass or fleece tourists.
The ministry also plans to bring out advertisements in newspapers. "The advertisements will be jointly signed by the minister and Aamir and they will exhort the people on making India the most sought after destination," the official told IANS.
The aim is also to create a conducive environment for tourists so that they feel safe and secure in India, the official added.
Around 3.8 million tourists have visited India till September this year, a rise of 10 percent as compared to the corresponding month last year. In 2008, 5.28 million tourists came to India as compared to 5.11 million in 2009.
But India wants to improve its tourism figures and hopes to catch up fast with its Asian neighbours like Singapore where 9.7 million visitors came in 2009, a dip of 4.3 percent from 2008. However, reaching China's figure - 55 million in 2007 - is a distant hope.
"Foreigners are attracted by India's exotic destinations as we offer a wide variety of tourism products. We have everything from culture, tradition, exotic locales to food. We just need to make them (tourists) feel comfortable and one sure way is when people make them feel at home. The first step in this direction is teaching the children, who in turn would tell others how to behave with guests," the official added.