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May 30, 2011

Marketing a hill station - the case of Kodaikanal

Recently I had visited Kodaikanal the queen of the hill resorts in Southern India. Kodai as it is popularly called is really a queen of the hills. It has very cool climate, great connectivity with major metros and boasts of wonderful tourist attractions. Best of all it is inhabited by very friendly people.

But like many things n India there is lot to be desired in the marketing of the hill station. There is no consortium of hotel owners and resultantly the hotels jack up their prices in the tourist or the peak season. This leads to the fleecing of the tourists in the peak season.

Kodai does not have good sign boards displaying the major tourist attractions and the distance one has to cover to reach them. Suitable signboards and directions are very much needed for trekkers and tourist who want to reach the  tourist spots on their own.

For a hill station with international repute the facilities are abysmally dismal. The author and his family wanted to trek to Fairy falls. We went to the Tamil Nadu tourism department’s office. We were given a map which said that the fairy fall was only 2 kilometers away. The officer said that tourists should not trek by themselves and that a guide is needed as we would be passing through FOREST Area. 

Suitably impressed we asked for the guide fee. WE were told that the guide would charge us 600 rupees (12 Dollars). A jaw dropping price as the distance was hardly 4 kilometers. Finally we did the trek by ourselves. Yes it was easily done and the locals helped us find the directions. Fairy falls is quite safe and there was no thick jungle around the falls.

The next day we wanted to go to the Silver Cascade. Silver cascade is a waterfall that is very famous. The cab drivers quoted a price of 600 rupees (12 dollars – oops is 12 dollars the standard price in Kodai?). We refused and took the bus. The bus charged us 20 rupees one way for four people (40 US cents). Shocking example of not providing even the most basic amenities.

Kodai has beautiful locales but is marred by the noisy and intrusive vendors. They crowd the tourist attractions and in many cases the attraction is hardly visible due to the number of vendors surrounding the tourist attraction. There is lot of noise and tourists are pestered by demanding photographers wanting to take a snap that will freeze the moment for posterity. 

A tourist attraction called Guna caves is totally covered by iron grills. The tour operator proudly proclaimed that he would be taking us to the famous Guna caves (made famous by a south Indian movie which was filmed in the caves). It was a big disappointment to see the caves covered with a grill.

Kodai has not marketed itself well. There are no Kodai Tee shirts, no Kodai souvenirs, no Kodai tea cups, no Kodai magnets nothing. The tourists have to buy Nilgiri tea and coffee or forest produce. Nothing of value that can be displayed in the showcase. Kodai has missed a trick.

Yes Kodai chocolate is available and is tasty. But the display is shocking. Chocolate is piled as slabs and sold like vegetables. The visitors who buy in bulk are bemused to see that the chocolate is packed in disposable containers that in India are used to pack curry.

Just imagine gifting a box of Kodai chocolates to a friend. He would think that you have mistakenly brought him your afternoon lunch!

The only saving grace are the bicycle lenders around the Kodai Lake. They offer the visitors bicycles for an hourly rent of only 20 rupees (forty cents). They ask for no identity proof or do they take any advance. It is a great pleasure to take the bicycles for rent and peddle around the glorious Kodai Lake. It was a very nice sight to see many visitors riding the bicycles and enjoying the ride. Kudos to the bicycle lenders of Kodai.

I think that the management of Kodaikanal needs to brush up its functioning and learn the tricks of the trade of how to market a hill station. That way they would ensure more pleasant memories to their visitors and also enrich their coffers. 

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful blog & good post. Its really helpful for me that you have written about Kodaikanal yes is definitely a one of the best tourist place in south india. everyone should visit and enjoy its nature.