By Utpal Borpujari
The blast in Pune last Saturday targeting a location frequented by foreigners has made the government scramble to set up a crack National Task Group (NTG) to address concerns of tourist during such crises.
The idea for such a NTG had been formulated post-26/11 but things had been moving slow on this front till the Pune blast, the first major terror attack since the Mumbai attacks in 2008, happened.
Now, the NTG, which will formulate the strategy to communicate with the media and foreign tourists during and post any such crisis, will take shape under an initiative by the Union Tourism Ministry.
However, highly-placed sources in the ministry say that ideally it should be the Home Ministry that should pilot such a group and plan, with the Tourism Ministry playing its role in it to boost tourist morale.
The move comes even as the government’s much-touted nodal mechanism for information dissemination to the media, announced following the Mumbai attacks when media management of the government faced a lot of flak as the electronic media’s non-stop live coverage reportedly ended up helping the terrorists in their moves to some extent.
The NTG, which will comprise both government and private tourism sector representatives, is part of a “Crisis Communication Plan” that the Tourism Ministry has formulated along with Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA).
The NTG as well as the Plan are part of the government’s strategy to instill confidence in tourists and tell them that India is as safe a place to be in as any other part of the world in present times, said Tourism Secretary Sujit Banerjee confirming the initiative.
“Representatives of airlines, travel companies, hotels, etc., will be part of the NTG, which will be headed by the Tourism Secretary,” he said. There will also be regional-level task groups to handle any situation at local levels.
The NTG will also analyse travel advisories issued by other countries consequent to any incident and decide on a strategy to handle them. “It will review and monitor prompt and unambiguous response to queries raised by affected persons or families of both foreign and domestic tourists in such situations,” the sources said.
The Crisis Communication Plan envisages development of a strategy to address marketing and communication issues proactively during any untoward incident. As a long-term strategy, it includes the idea of a “neutral media platform” to keep the media well informed.
The plan also suggests utilising the strengths of print, electronic and online media as well as social media such as blogs and micro-blogs to reach out to various segments of tourists.