Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Article in The Times: The Indian Tourist

Delhi Times

Oh bother, it's an Indian tourist!

Going by a recent survey, the ugly Indian tourist is loud, untidy and doesn't believe in tipping the waiters. DT on why the cash-rich Indians fail to score on the etiquette meter . Indians are travelling abroad like never before. Far East, Europe, Australia - the world is their oyster. But are the people of the countries that Indians are visiting appreciating this tourist invasion too? The answer, as provided by a recent survey by Expedia, is a clear and resonant no. According to this survey, Indians are the world's second worst tourists, beaten to the post only by the French. The parameters for the survey included behaviour, politeness, willingness to learn the local language, trying local delicacies and spending on the local economy. Indians are least likely to attempt to learn the local language, try out the native delicacies and are also very stingy when it comes to tips. They are also said to be rude and untidy. So, are Indian tourists as ugly as this survey makes them out to be?

Washing dirty laundry in NY

High fliers from India accept this charge, and then add some of their own accusations. Says adman Suhel Seth, "I have seen Indians washing their laundry and drying it on leather sofas at a posh hotel in Manhattan, NY. Some of the richest Indians stand in the lobby of the best hotels in New York and bargain for an upgrade. I have felt embarrassed on more occasions than one because of such behaviour . Once the general manager of a foreign hotel told me, 'I really admire the Indian success stories. What I don't understand is why none of them give their clothes for laundry!'"

Indians also don't have a good standing when it comes to following basic rules related to noise, hygiene etc. Says Pavan Varma, director, ICCR, "We need to work on our etiquette and mobile manners. Mostly, the demands Indians make while vacationing are unfair and the interaction is crude. Decorum often takes a backseat with the nouveau riche. But I must say, I have seen people from other nationalities behaving rudely, and taking advantage of their fair skin. Indians are not half that arrogant."

A tip for the travellers

Heena Akhtar, the COO of a travel agency, agrees with Varma. "Indians are adaptable and take care of the protocol of other countries. Even if they behave badly in India, they improve their general behaviour when abroad," she says.

However, there are certain issues that act as a flashpoint for Indians. "Indian travellers are very finicky about food," says a source from another travel agency. "Indians, with their love for spicy curries, find the European food bland. Also, they find it difficult to settle for beef and pork. To make sure things go fine, some frequent fliers take cooks along."

Another front where the Indian traveller does not score is tipping. "Indians are a hesitant lot when they have to tip at hotels or restaurants," adds Akhtar. As a airhostess with a leading airline adds, "Sometimes, you come across Indian travellers who are looking for a freebie and consider service staff as menials."

Some complimentary hospitality?

However, Indian travellers get a thumbs up from the Indian hospitality industry. They describe the cash-rich Indians as discerning travellers who settle for nothing but the best and can be a little fussy on that account. Parveen Chander, resident manager of the Taj Mahal Hotel says, "Indians know what they want and are very particular about getting their money's worth. The South-East Asians are the most difficult to please. They spend a lot of time to check everything. The Britons also have high expectations and are not very easy to please."

Kshitij Deopuria, a rooms division manager, maintains that the behaviour of Indian tourists is improving. "Sometime back, Indian travellers were known to throw their weight around but now it is not the same. They are very well-behaved, not very finicky and concentrate only on the services. However, they still look out for discounts."

Demand for freebies is one problem that hotels here also face from Indian travellers. "Sometimes, Indian travellers demand complimentary services," says Eros group director, Avneesh Sood, adding, "But then they also spend a lot."

Japanese Americans Swiss

France India China

I have my reservations on Americans being the Best tourists. They do seem to throw around the most amount of money, but general perception in Europe & elsewhere of American tourists isnt very positive.

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