TORONTO — Imagine buying a single banana at a roadside stall in rural India and paying for it with an app on your phone.
This is the new digitized experience that travellers can expect in a destination that has long been regarded as off the beaten path. Though boasting one of the world’s biggest IT industries, India has only recently begun to market itself as a high-tech destination, launching a ‘Digital India’ marketing campaign in 2015. Today, it boasts more than 80,000 registered startups, 800 million Internet connections, 1.2 billion unique digital identities, 1.2 billion telephone connections and 1.2 billion bank accounts, and last year it accumulated an incredible $82 billion in digital payments.
In short, if you’re travelling in India, there’s very little need to carry cash and very little risk of ever being disconnected.
But digitization is just one of many surprising facets of India that many travellers don’t know about. To most, the country – now the world’s most populous with 1.4 billion people – has been synonymous with spiritual and wellness tourism, home to countless yoga and Ayurveda retreats and ashrams. But few also know that it also offers world-class skiing in Shimla and Kashmir, scenic river cruising on the Ganges, a wide array of eco-tourism experiences and incredible wildlife safaris throughout the country.
So this was the question posed by the Consulate General of India at a media lunch in Toronto last week: how can they highlight India’s incredible diversity and spread the word among Canadians that it’s about much more than just yoga?
Having a milestone anniversary certainly helps, says Apoorva Srivastava, Consul General of India in Toronto. This year marks 75 years of independence for India (though the country’s history dates back some 5,000 years), and major celebrations will take place up until Aug. 17, 2023. And because of the strong ties between India and Canada (Canada is home to 1.9 million Indian-Canadians, 700,000 Indian expats and 240,000 international students from India), several events are also being planned in various Canadian cities, including a yoga demonstration on June 21, the International Day of Yoga, at Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square.
“We are natural partners with Canada in terms of democracy and diversity, so it’s very natural that India and Canada have great political connections,” Srivastava tells Travelweek. “And with our expanded air agreement, which was announced in November 2022, there’s now no limit on flights between the two countries. So Canada is an extremely important market for us and we’re hoping to create greater awareness of our tourism products to a wider Canadian population.”
To do this, the Consulate plans to engage with the travel agent community, which Srivastava says is “very important” to India’s promotional efforts.
“They are the people who will eventually convince customers to visit India – we can’t reach every customer so it’s best we go through travel agents who can give customers guidance,” she says. “It’s extremely important we engage with agents so that they’re aware of everything that we have to offer, from royal and steam trains to river cruises and everything in between.”
Air Canada offers year-round, daily direct service to Delhi from Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. For more information go to https://www.cgitoronto.gov.in/.
Pictured in top photo, from the Consulate General of India (l-r): Shuban Krishen; Apoorva Srivastava; Giselle D’Silva; Ratna Mehta; and Hitesh Singh Mehra