On Tuesday, Tamil Nadu Tourism almost drew a blank at the National Tourism Awards for 2011-12, even as a few of its officials are camping in Berlin to promote tourist destinations in the State.

The results have cast a pall of gloom in the tourism community in Tamil Nadu as its counterparts (Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh) walked away with several awards under categories such as best state, heritage city, publicity material, airports, tourist-friendly railway station, rural tourism project, wellness centre, medical tourism and bed-and-breakfast scheme. The only saving grace was an award bagged by Savoy Hotel, Ooty, as the best heritage hotel (grand).

From 2006 onwards, Tamil Nadu was often in the honours list, bagging awards for best rural tourism project, collateral publicity, heritage hotel, best friendly port and civic management of Tharangambadi. These awards, in turn, helped attract several lakhs of tourists to the State, thereby making it a preferred destination for foreign tourists in arrivals. Interestingly, the department’s policy notes from 2011 do not talk about bagging awards.

Talking to The Hindu, a tourism expert said: “It is surprising that we are unable to bag awards despite having several heritage sites and popular monuments. Probably, we have lost the race soon after withdrawing popular schemes such as tourist-friendly autos, hop-on, hop-off buses, cycle tourism, medical tourism, eco-tourism and failure to maintain cleanliness and eco-friendliness of tourist spots, among other reasons.”

Expressing surprise at the results, a former tourism official said the department was not giving adequate focus to marketing and publicity about the tourist destinations in the State for the last 18 months and was resting on its laurels. It was a wake-up call to the authorities to take a serious look at tourism projects in the State to regain the lost glory. Besides, accountability has to be fixed on officials who participated in overseas travel marts about the outcome of it.

“We have the world famous month-long dance festival held at Mamallapuram and it is surprising how the authorities fail to recognize it. The festival attracts several foreigners and some of them have agreed to showcase their skill in the next edition. Is not the time to give a special award for it?” asked a foreign tourist.

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