I.R.V Rao, Assistant Director of India Tourism for West Asia and Africa, has provided dedicated 29 years of service to the Indian Government, bringing him great responsibilities with power and position. He has been a pillar of strength for his government in the region ensuring strong bilateral ties between the two nations.
I.R.V. Rao’s passion for travel, cordial and social attitude and philanthropic nature led him to begin his career with the Ministry of Tourism as the Information Officer as it would ensure him job satisfaction as well as professional growth. Now, as Assistant Director, I.R.V. Rao’s role is most challenging as he has to compete with different countries. Backed by the unique offerings of India Tourism, Rao and his team at the Dubai office have made both the ministry and the country proud.
Rao, for 10 long years, served the government and tourists and earned a lot of appreciation. He began his professional career in Manipur in the North East region of India. Once his tenure was over there, he was transferred to Goa. There are quite a few noteworthy incidents in his career that adorn his reputation.
Back in 1990s, he successfully helped trace the missing son of a German tourist from Stuttgart, even when there was no technological support and Rao and his team had to base their investigations on human interactions and relations, and wired telephones. For this, the then-Director General, Ashok Pradhan, gave him an appreciation letter.
Then another incident happened during his stint in Goa. Two ladies from Australia were looking for a hotel room in Goa on New Year’s Eve, but they couldn’t get any as that is the peak time for tourism in the state. Rao became the man of the hour and got the rooms through his cordial relations with key industry players. “We should help foreign tourists get well equipped with all the information so that they are safe and secure in our country all the time. We conducted a programme ‘Safe and Honourable’ tourism to download this same value to all the stakeholders of hospitality and travel and tourism industries. This MOT-initiated programme turned out to be one of their most well received ones,” Rao states.
His subsequent posting was at Aurangabad (Maharashtra, India) where he served for five years and then he was sent to Canada for a period of three and half years. Upon his return, he was promoted to the post of Assistant Director and was posted at Mumbai for two and a half years.
Rao was re-posted at Aurangabad for three years and then sent to Dubai nearly four years ago. He operates out of India Tourism office in Dubai but overlooks West Asia and Africa as well. Here, Rao’s role involves promoting India as a preferred tourist destination in the West Asia and Africa regions and even encouraging the travel trade and media to organise India-centric roadshows and familiarisation tours to encourage all, be it locals or expats, to experience India. India Tourism also bolsters the travel agents by providing brochure support, joint advertising, online advertising and other tourism promotional material to promote India. ‘Know India’ seminars are also conducted in various GCC countries for tour operators and airlines.
His Highness Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, was the Chief Guest at India’s Republic Day this year. This strengthened the bilateral ties even further and according to one of the MoUs signed, Indian passport holders with a valid US visa or Green Card will be granted visa-on-arrival in the UAE from May 1, 2017. This facility was only available to Japan until now. About 161 other countries need to apply online and receive approval before visiting the country.
Changes in the tourism industry
In the 1990s, Indian tourism industry boomed after ‘Visit India Year 1991’. This was a turning point in the Indian tourism industry. All stakeholders worked together to promote India both internationally and domestically. Earlier, they had very few approved travel agents and tourist guides in India but after this tourism boom, the ministry started its own institute IITTM in Gwalior to produce more trained manpower required for the travel and tourism industry. After the IT boom and launch of Internet services in India, it became quite easy for tourists to book their tours, hotels etc. on their own, saving time and money. India offers a wide range of unique tourism products which are not available in most countries in the world. For example, Yoga originated from India and many flock there to learn the actual art. Then there is Ayurveda is one of the oldest modes of treatment recognized by the world. India is also the only country with over 6 luxury trains and 77% of Himalaya mountains. Adding to these is rich flora and fauna spread in all corners of the country and all these are still just some of the things of what India can offer to visitors from all over the world.