Madras readies for Skal 2003
FLORIMOND VOLCKAERT founded the first Skal Club in Paris in 1932 for professionals committed to promoting tourism and international friendship. Two years later, Skal became an international organisation bringing together, as Skalleagues, managers and executives from all branches of the travel and tourism industry. Today, there are over 500 Skal Clubs in 80 countries, with a membership of 25,000. A large number of them are expected in Madras in October 2003 to attend the annual Skal Congress.
It will be a glorious opportunity to `sell' Madras to those who make the wheels of world tourism turn. But is Madras ready to grab the opportunity? Apart from pre and post-Congress excursions elsewhere in India and neighbouring countries, and full programme has been drawn up for the October 19-24 duration of the Congress and I have no doubt the deliberations will be meaningful, the hospitality great and the welcome warm and, hopefully, not wet. But will the city, at present in an infrastructural shambles, and the tourist destinations in and around it not in very much better shape, be ready for the discerning Skalleagues who can make or mar a city's reputation? The Indian Department of Tourism's promotional brochure for the conference appears to be but a reflection of the state of the city that's hardly likely to enthuse anyone into wanting to say, "Madras. That's where I must be next October". But there's still a year and more before us. Can we make the city glitter and brochures dazzle by then?
What's even sadder about this bit of promotional literature is that, once the Department and the India Tourism Development Corporation worked closely together and produced considerable prize-winning promotional material professionally designed, scripted by the best and printed in the most eye-catching manner.
In the 1950s and 1960s, much of this excellent printing was done by Madras's own Prasad Process, then the best printing house from Damascus to Suez, but now sadly no more. The specimen I refer to comes nowhere near those norms and I wonder whether it reflects the Government's indifference to tourism.
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