The Tourist Guide Federation of India has decided to hold its annual convention this year in Varanasi, underlining the growing importance of the city for the tourism industry since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s successful win from there. Around 400-500 tourist guides would gather in Varanasi on August 2 and 3. The theme for the convention would be ‘Clean Ganga, Clean India’. The convention would focus on ways the tourist guides could contribute in transforming Varanasi into a better tourist attraction. “We are the eyes and ears of tourists. No one knows the ground reality better than us," said Pathor Narinder, president, Tourist Federation of India. Having just undergone the experience of finding hotel rooms for political delegates in the city, the tour guides would stress on the urgent need of building a hotel inventory to attract tourists. “The stretch from the Kashi Vishwanath temple to the ghats is a tourist trail with small lanes and bylanes which are very dirty, with encroachments all over. These are the areas we should really focus on maintaining well if we want to build tourism," Narinder said. The association would mobilise its 125-odd tourist guides present across the city to figure out areas of improvement with the involvement of locals.
From spreading the message to people to conveying it to the government, tourist guides are planning to get more active on the ground. "The tourist guides community can contribute a lot as watchdogs of tourism. They can also spread awareness messages by word of mouth. And this year, they have chosen the perfect location to start such a movement," said Subhash Goyal, President, Indian Association of Tour Operators. Varanasi currently has a huge untapped potential, and tour guides in the holy city are in huge surplus. Guides here are keen to promote organised tourism during the upcoming convention, on the plank of safety and security of travellers. “There is a heightened awareness about Varanasi but there is no increase in the volume of tourists. All the important pilgrimage areas in the northern India have not been able to present themselves as upmarket destinations," said Hari Nair founder and chief executive officer of HolidayIQ.com.