Monday, October 15, 2007

All that hype over Mysore Dasara

People don’t talk of Dasara without a mention of Mysore. But how many make it their destination when they plan their Dasara holidays? How much of people’s thoughts on Mysore Dasara translates into tourist revenue for the city? Newspapers here are full of statements by otherwise sensible officials, that would have us believe that Dasara is indeed the time when all roads lead to Mysore.

We have it from the Karnataka Tourism Department Secretary that the Mysore Dasara this year (October12-21) would attract over 12 lakh tourists from across the world. Which is, presumably, why they have made the official website - - multilingual. Those hosting the site claim you can get information pertaining to the ten-day festival in ten foreign languages, not counting English.

I tried Korean the other day, and nothing showed up on my laptop. Moved to Chinese, Japanese and Russian, with equally disappointing results. And then, to French, followed by German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish, before I gave up. The site did not offer any more language options. Anyway, with the festival organisers setting their eyes and hype on global tourism, I would not be surprised if the Dasara website takes in a bunch of other languages next year, including Swahili, or whatever they speak in Timbuktoo.

A call to the Dasara site software person explaining my experience with their Korean edition evoked swift reaction: “Is that so? But it appeared fine when I checked last.” Anyway, the bloke was polite enough to thank me for the call, and offered to look into my complaint. I was hoping he would call back, with the latest status report on the much-hyped multilingual Dasara website. No call; no turn in my luck with the Korean site. So much for the tourist-friendly touch of our festival organisers. When I blogged about this, an observant reader wrote back saying he got the Korean site fine, and other language editions as well. What’s more the site even has a window showing “automated robot-type woman saying stuff” on Dasara.

Maybe my laptop isn’t Dasara-friendly. I tried one last time before sending this article for Zine5. And there is improvement. I now get the audio-video window, but no text still. And here is a question for the site managers: Couldn’t they find a desi robot that can pronounce the word ‘Dasara’ unfractured and doesn’t speak in a heavily affected accent?

The authorities have hired admen and event managers to strategise Dasara for tourism. They speak the language of the marketing people – product promotion, image-building, a publicity blitz and Brand Mysore. Hype is the name of the game. A newspaper report, in a curtain-raiser story, said: For a city that is emerging as a national brand vying with the best among tier II cities as a popular investment destination, the Dasara celebrations have emerged as the fulcrum to promote tourism and highlight Mysore as a perennial destination.

Reading this, I couldn’t help wonder, as a resident of Mysore, if the newspaper and I have in mind the same city. As for Dasara celebrations “emerging as the fulcrum”, the reality, gleaned from recent media reports, doesn’t warrant such optimism. Bookings in many city hotels were far less than anticipated; not many of the 22 house-owners registered last year for the much-publicised home-stay programme for tourists are said to be in business this year. And the Rs. 6,000 gold card that provides VIP access to three persons to all Dasara events are not such a sought-after item among foreign tourists, judging by the online sales. To start with, they printed fewer cards this year (750) and a majority of them still remain unsold.

Cross-posted in Praja-Mysore, Desicritic and Zine5

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