`Poll Tourism` set to make entry in Gujarat

International tourists visiting poll-bound Gujarat this December can now get a peep into the conduct of Assembly polls.

Ahmedabad: International tourists visiting poll-bound Gujarat this December can now get a peep into the conduct of Assembly polls with tourism specialists mooting the concept of `election tourism`.

"The concept of `election tourism` was introduced at World Tourism Mart held in London earlier this month, and it has clicked," said Manish Sharma, the chairman of Gujarat Tourism Development Society (GTDS), which represents 10 private tour operators in the state.

Elections will be held in Gujarat in two phases on December 13 and 17.

As part of `poll tourism`, foreign tourists who will visit Gujarat at the time of elections, are scheduled to meet prominent BJP and opposition Congress leaders here, interact with them and develop better understanding of how public representatives get elected in India.

According to GTDS, the heritage, religious and adventure tourist circuits in the state have been clubbed with Assembly constituencies to cater to tourists.

If marketing elections, often termed as the biggest festival of democracy, is a niche concept, the thrill of having a closer glimpse into the conduct of Assembly polls in the world`s biggest democracy seems to have arrested the attention of globe-trotters.

"We have received over 150 confirmations from countries like Egypt, Turkey, Sri Lanka, Germany, Ukraine who had participated in WTM," Sharma claimed.

Tour operators and tourism boards from across the world had participated in the WTM event.

"A lot of international travellers visit Gujarat in December for Rann Mahotsav in Kutch. We just convinced them to prepone their visit by a week so that they could get a fair idea of this biggest festival of democracy: the election," he said. Thrilled by the response, GTDS feels the concept could be replicated in the 2014 General Elections as well.

"This new concept, which has made our tourism packages more power-packed and knowledge-based, could be replicated for 2014 Lok Sabha elections," Sharma said.

"Election tourism has evoked response from youngsters who are interested in research on democracy,” Sharma said, adding this would help us promote inter-state tourism too.

GTDS has also sought permission from the Election Commission of India (ECI) to take these international travellers to polling stations and show them how people in India exercise their franchise.

"We have written to ECI seeking permission to take these international travellers to polling stations, but so far there has been no response," Sharma said.

Tourism Corporation Gujarat Limited (TCGL), an arm of Gujarat government, has disassociated itself from the tourism promotion exercise being taken up by local tour and travel operators.


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