A shop window outside the Hugo Boss showroom inside a shopping mall in Mumbai

The new Director of the Government of India Tourism Office in Johannesburg, Manas Patnaik, believes there is still a lot of growth potential in getting South Africans to visit India for a diverse range of tourist activities.

As a first step, orientation tours for travel agent staff and media will be undertaken to show the wide range of tourist activities that are available in India.

Besides sightseeing there are a growing number of tourists who take advantage of our high quality and low cost medical treatment.

Indian South Africans have traditionally seen Mumbai as a shopping haven, linking it either to visits to the golden triangle which includes the Taj Mahal in Agra, or to temple visits to the south of India, but there is much more to the country than that, according to Patnaik.

“India is not restricted to Jaipur, Agra or Goa for tourism, and we need to make sales staff aware of this,” Patnaik said.

“Unless they are aware of this, they cannot promote all this as a destination in India. We are looking forward to long-term relationships with tour operators in South Africa, airlines and other partners in the region.”

Patnaik highlighted the fact that India offered unspoilt beaches where one could swim with an elephant, which was not possible anywhere else in the world. “Africa is famous for its lions and India for its tigers. We can match African countries in terms of variety of flora and fauna with 102 national parks, 482 wildlife sanctuaries, and more than 30 tiger reserves.”

Patnaik said India Tourism was trying to develop the arts and cultural heritage of rural areas, some of which are more than 5 000 years old, in conjunction with Unesco to avoid them dying out.

“In India, there are so many arts and crafts that are dying because of a lack of patronage. We have identified 32 villages to plough funds to help sustain arts and crafts. These sites are close to popular tourist attractions, so we find that they are receiving attention from tourists.” - The Post