“Atithi Devo Bhavah”: The Incredible India Initiative

Taittiriya Upanishad is a part of the Yajur Veda. A verse says “Matru devo bhava, Pitru devo bhava, Acharya devo bhava, Atithi devo bhava”. Means – Be one to whom your mother is a god; be one to whom your father is a god; be one to whom your teacher is a god; be one to whom your guest is a god – this Upanisad teaches the importance of following the path of charity, duty and dharma.

‘Tithi’ in Sanskrit means date ‘Atithi’ is one who arrives at your doorstep – unannounced. Emphasis in the Upanishad was on the good treatment of even the unexpected guest – who knows it well may have been god – testing the munificence of the host :). This is the tagline of the initiative of Ministry of Tourism, Government Of India to tap the full potential of tourism in India.

The campaign aims to sensitising key stakeholders towards tourists, through training. Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia and China far outstrip us in foreign tourist arrivals. There is no reason why India cannot compete. However we need to change our attitude towards those who visit us. Often tourists are mistreated, cheated and rudely dealt with. It’s simple, if someone in a house is rude to you, you don’t refer it to friends and relations. This is why in spite of an incredible wealth of tourist spots, cultural diversity and destinations for the soul, India still not amongst the top 20 tourist destinations Of the world. We hover around the 40s.

The Charter of “Atithi Devo Bhavah” Program includes Hygiene & Cleanliness issues for transportation, hotel rooms, restaurants, shops, etc., personal hygiene & cleanliness of the service provider and cleanliness of the places of tourist interest.

  • Conduct and Behavior: The service provider shall be courteous and polite.
  • Integrity and Honesty: The service provider should display honesty and integrity.

  • Safety and Security: safety and security of the tourists shall be ensured.

Training of key stakeholders in terms of changing their attitude and behaviour towards foreign tourists. The key stakeholders listed were taxi drivers, tourist guides, operators, immigration officers, tourist police and others who have direct interaction with inbound tourists. Any initiative aimed at changing attitudes and perceptions poses challenges, and designing a training program for the often Semi-literate tourist sector workers and convincing them was tough.

FTAs had increased by 45 percent during 2005-06 and 2006-07. In 2005 and 2006, tourist arrivals in India grew annually at a steady 13 percent. The global economic crisis saw a drop in FTA arrivals in 2008 and 2009 but in the opening months of 2010 India has seen a jump of 17 per cent in FTAs. Government has roped in Aamir Khan as the brand ambassador for Atithi Devo Bhavah. The commercials as well as the print advertisements and posters have gone live from January 21, 2009.

Attitudes need to change drastically. Since time immemorial guests has been well treated in India. Legend and history said that even if a sworn enemy came to a Rajput household as a guest – he need not have feared for his life – such was the standard of hospitality. Terminology reflects social mores – in Germany expat labours are called guest workers. Just last week, I read the news of molestation of 2 tourists – its utterly shocking. Crime against foreign tourists at major tourist destinations will remain – the state is expected to act swiftly to ensure punishment for perpetrators and allay fears about India being an unsafe destination. It has done so in a few cases – it must continue to follow up other cases similarly. Fleecing remains another area of concern – how many times have you seen foreigners being ripped off in flea markets, by auto, taxi and rickshaw drivers. This doesnot happens in popular tourist destinations.

You cannot think about such things in say China or Japan, even Malaysia, Singapore etc. States like Goa and Kerala have succeeded because they have sensitised the local population. Things are good in Uttarakhand, Punjab, Himachal, Orissa and most areas of the North Eastern states. But to make India a most favored destination this change must be all pervasive.

Actually I have seen that tourists going for alternative packages – like say tour of tribal villages etc go back content – because in all their primitive simplicity they have demonstrated values that we have forgotten.

Toshali Resorts, welcomes you to discover Incredible India…..  “Atithi Devo Bhavah” – “Guest Is God”

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