India’s Chhattisgarh builds a reputation in tourism

Santosh Misra, the managing director of Chhattisgarh’s tourism board, talks about the Indian state’s efforts to grow its tourism economy.

Are you finding it a challenge to promote Chhattisgarh as a tourism destination because many other places in India are better known?

That’s absolutely right. Especially for foreign tourists and even for domestic tourists, the brand-building is taking time. To make sure that the brand is known outside is what we are working on. We have commissioned an agency to bring out a television commercial, which will start appearing later in the year. It’s a challenge, but we are being known more and more. International tourists visiting India for the first time want to cover the Golden Triangle (Delhi, Agra and Jaipur). But the next time they come, they might want to go into the interiors for authentic experiential tourism, then Chhattisgarh will pop up in the mind, so that’s what we’re really working on.

Are you receiving many international tourists?

We are fledgling. Right now my primary source of contribution to the tourism economy is domestic tourists. But we have started receiving a fair number of foreign tourists over the last couple of years, especially for ethnic tourism and tribal areas. It appeals to those who are not looking for shopping or a luxurious stay but they want to experience something and understand the tribals. About 44 per cent of the area is covered with forest, so [it suits] people who are looking for nature – for rivers, waterfalls and a bit of wildlife. For now about 99 per cent of our tourists are domestic, so our foreign component is very small, and this is what we are working on. We have specifically targeted South East Asia.

When did Chhattisgarh start focusing on tourism as an important part of the state’s economy?

One of the calls by the prime minister is tourism. I think in the last five years it has come into sharper focus and the government has also recognised the value and the potential it brings to the local economy.

Is there a lot of tourism development and investment in the state?

Tourism survives on a lot of supporting infrastructure, so you need investment in transport, hotels, roads, other entertainment activities. For example, the airport in Raipur, which is the capital of Chhattisgarh, has been upgraded and they have brought in modern amenities. In the last two years there has been good investment in the hotel industry as well. Taj has opened a property in Raipur. Hyatt is coming. Some of the really well-known brands have come in already and there are a few more in the pipeline I’m told.

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