Election Tourism: A new niche for the industry to cash on in an off-business season
Specially designed poll tour packages involve visiting popular tourist destinations, attending political rallies, one-to-one interactions with election candidates and other local politicians.
In a bid to expand the market, travel companies and hotels create new experiences and innovate concepts to draw in people, especially international travellers. From experientials revolving around food to art, almost everything else has been tried. But one of the most innovative concepts we have come across is the idea of ‘Election Tourism’, an initiative actually launched in Gujarat’s two-key elections, including 2012 Assembly Poll and 2014 Lok Sabha election. Introduced by Manish Sharma, Chairman of Tourism Corporation Society and Founder & CMD of Akshar Travels Pvt. Ltd. , this unique initiative is inspired by the Poll Tourism concept prevalent in Mexico during 2005.
Taking into account the amount of interest generated by the forthcoming elections, not only nationally but also globally, Manish Sharma along with several travel companies and tour operators, have decided to roll out this initiative for the upcoming general elections, but this time on a nationwide scale.
When asked what encouraged him to start this initiative, Sharma said, “Our industry has various niches like pilgrim tours, sports tours, honeymoons. Why can’t election tourism also be a niche? People always want new experiences. Moreover, India wears the crown in being the largest democracy in the world. Elections in India are unique from the world. Here is the thrill, energy and enthusiasm amongst the political parties and the masses. Even, our PM Shri Narendra Modi has spoken about the same and has asked the election commission of India to invite people from all across the world to showcase our democracy.”
As a part of the initiative, the tour operators and online travel agents have designed special poll packages for the foreign tourists, which, in a way, will not only promote India’s democratic process and its culture; but will also help the travel and hospitality industry to leverage on profits during the off-business season (April & May). “We received very good response in 2012 which inspired us to continue this initiative in 2014 and now in 2019. This concept had/is contributing in tourism of India, globally. The tourists now have one more reason to visit India,” states Sharma.
The concept has already started making waves with foreign tourist who are keen on experiencing the world’s largest festival of democracy unfolding in fascinating detail. “From our past experience, we have observed that the tourists get amused in knowing that how well the rural and urban India contribute in electing their future leader and how the electoral system of India makes each Indian vote count. Even Indian journalists and students are showing equal interest in this initiative. Being an Indian, they are cherishing this unique pride of India of being the world largest democracy,” added Sharma.
In the year 2014, around 5200 tourists had participated in Indian election tourism from countries like China, Nepal, US, UAE (Dubai & Abu Dhabi), Australia, Ukraine, Japan, Germany, France, and many others from across the globe. Most of them were students, journalists, researchers, Women’s wings, heritage and history lovers, and India lovers. Throwing light on the footfall expected this year, Sharma said, “We are working with around 35 tours operators from across the country. This year, we have already got 1,600 confirmed bookings and are working on 3,500 inquiries. Our target is to reach 10,000 people from across the globe.”
The attractive trip packages range from 4 nights – 5 days to 6 nights & 7 days and their cost varies accordingly between $500- $300. Besides, there are tailor-made packages designed based on tourist’s convenience and preference.
When asked about most popular destinations amongst tourists, to which Sharma said, “This year tourists are showing more interest in visiting places like Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh (from where PM will be electing), Amethi, Lucknow (from where Congress President, Rahul Gandhi will be contesting), Gandhinagar, Gujarat (from where BJP President, Amit Shah would be electing) and other destinations including Mumbai, Goa, Bhopal etc.”