How will the magic of Dharam–Hema work for Haryana Tourism?

The Haryana government announced appointing the charismatic celluloid pair of yesteryears, ​Dharmendra and Hema Malini (couple in real life), as ambassadors to promote tourism to the state. After their glorious silver-screen careers, both of them have aligned with politics though Dharmendra, nearing 80, is now out of the political ring even as the eternal dream girl represents Mathura Lok Sabha constituency and is quite an active BJP leader. Needless to say, both of them still command considerable respect from their innumerable fans both within the country and outside.

Dharmendra HemaHaryana’s move marks another addition to the growing list of celebrities’ association with state tourism departments over the country. This initiative had clearly begun around the later part of the previous decade when Amitabh Bachchan was roped in by Gujarat as the face of its tourism promotional campaigns, a move believed to have done wonders in creating unprecedented buzz for the state. Another successful example has been that of Aamir Khan spearheading union tourism ministry’s “Athithi Devo Bhava” campaign.

​The market has also been abuzz with speculation that Mamta Banerjee was keen to have Shahrukh Khan carrying brand West Bengal tourism on his shoulders and another state pitching in to have Hrithik Roshan as the flagbearer. None of these moves though have materialised so far.

​It is generally accepted that having a noted celebrity to promote tourism does help if the exercise is pursued diligently. That is,​you do not just rope in a celebrity for the sake of showing a popular face but also build consistent buzz around his persona with unique promotional activities. And herein potentially lies the rub for Haryana Tourism. Within the national tourism circles, Haryana is believed to have been in a state of comatose for quite sometime on several fronts. At a time, when a definitive sense of competition is quite visible among a select group of states to milch their tourism products as a mainline economic activity, Haryana has certainly not sent any message of this kind. The annual Surajkund Cultural Fest continues to remain its biggest tourism signpost but nothing much more has been done by the state in recent years. The new state government which took over the reins last year had promised to develop some religious circuits (e.g., Krishna Circuit) but there isn’t much information available in the public domain if these projects have got off the block.

Historically, the state had realised that it did not have adequate products to boast, and had diversified into highway tourism and became a pioneer. But this was over 30 years ago. This too has, of late, been in hibernation without any policy and direction visible on the ground.

It is in this context that the appointment of Dharmendra- Hema Malini duo as brand ambassadors and the resulting possible benefits need to be scrutinized. Despite their star-power and appeal, the state tourism is unlikely to hit the bull’s eye if the exercise does not have an intrinsic consistent character. Merely showcasing them as the flag bearers of Haryana Tourism at the next Surajkund Fair will be not enough to convince the world that Haryana Tourism has begun pulsating again. The entire exercise has to be more comprehensive: not only on the promotional front but also in terms of bringing into play an unflinching commitment to fine tune the existing assets as well as develop new products which should be attuned to the taste of new age tourists.

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