At the Hindustan Times Tourism Conclave 2019, another topic that was up for discussion was ‘Discover your cities in the quest for reimagining Indian tourism’. (HT Photo)

Today, at the Hindustan Times Tourism Conclave 2019, another topic that was up for discussion was ‘Discover your cities in the quest for re-imagining Indian tourism’.

Talking about this were Hindustan Times’ features writer Mayank Austen Soofi, who was representing Delhi, Alisha Sadikot, founder of the Inheritage Project, from Mumbai, and Bengaluru’s Aliyeh Rizvi, founder of Native Place, and they discussed why it is crucial to discover your cities. In conversation with HT Associate Editor Rachel Lopez, they discuss strategies for reimagining tourism in India. Excerpts:

Rachel began the topic with an interesting observation, she said, “No two cities are the same. A city is not just a collection of tall buildings there is much more to it, and more and more people want to know what is unique, wonderful and different about this city. What is changing about this city? And these questions have amazing repercussions for tourism.”

Rachel posed a question to Aliyeh Rizvi, who hails from Bengaluru.

(L-R) Rachel Lopez, Aliyeh Rizvi, Alisha Sadikot and Mayank Austen Soofi

(L-R) Rachel Lopez, Aliyeh Rizvi, Alisha Sadikot and Mayank Austen Soofi

Rachel asked, “Is Bangalore how India perceives it, as a Bangalorean how different is the ground reality from our perceptions?”

To which Aliyeh answered, “Archaelogical evidence shows that Bangalore is much older than 500 years old, and while we say Bangalore is a young city, say thirty years old, we are considering it since when the tech boom happened. Now this new city has sat very firmly atop the older Bangalore, if I may call it that. And so much has been knocked down in the past twenty years or so that we are perceived as a very young city. Pockets of our history can be found wedged in the modernity of the city, and our problem is the push-pull this creates. This creates an issue that what shall we preserve, what to let go of? Do we preserve only what is aesthetic, or antiquities too.”

Turning to Alisha, Rachel asked, “As someone who does the best heritage walks in Mumbai. Can you tell us how this has changed over the years?”

And Alisha answered, “I started doing this in 2004, nobody was talking about heritage walks, cut to 2015 I started doing walking tours full time, and now there is so much demand for them. I don’t call them heritage walks, I call them city tours, because I make people walk and I only monuments as a starting point. Mumbai is much more interesting if you see it on foot.”

Alisha added, “In 2004, it was only outbound tourists who would come in buses and we would have to convince tour operators to get them out of the bus. Today, it’s mostly people who are residents, not all India, but 90% of the people in my walking tours have some long-term association with the city. They already know a lot, and they want to know more. It’s not even about hidden heritages anymore either, it’s about looking at something you’ve seen twenty times, and then seeing it again for the first time. It’s about looking harder and closer. People say I now understand Mumbai, I understand my commute.”

The question posed to Mayank Austen Soofi was: Why do like walking around Delhi so much?

And he answered, “I think people don’t think Delhi is a walking city, and that it is dangerous, but I think it’s the best way. And you were saying how more and more people are moving to cities, we are doomed to stay in cities, and these are difficult cities to stay in, Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore. They are smoggy, polluted cities. You can’t fly off to Paris or Ladakh every day. So we have to live in this city, then how do you escape these cities? I like to be a tourist in my own city. I wake up every day and pretend that I don’t know this city. Then I walk around the streets, it’s not some great monument that I go to.”

He made an interesting revelation, and said, “When you are walking you see wonderful things, coffee houses, tea shops, and there are people who come to these everyday and there’s this whole social ecology, then you realise this is the city, these are its people. And they make the city what it is more than the monuments.”

HT Tourism Conclave is a unique initiative that brings together illustrious minds, visionaries and government representatives from the tourism industry to discuss strategies and growth drivers that will not only translate into meaningful change

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First Published: Sep 20, 2019 17:10 IST


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