India pins its tourism hopes to America-wide festival this summer
``India and the United States have a very interesting connection, which most people forget,'' says Dr. N. K. Sengupta, director general of Indian tourism, a man with a twinkle as well as determination in his eyes. ``It was Indian tea which was thrown overboard at the Boston Tea Party,'' he chuckles. He is talking with this interviewer about Indian travel and the 1985-86 ``Festival of India,'' a celebration starting in June which will involve many cultural events from and about India ranging from art and other cultural life, past and present politics, science and industry.
Exhibits will be offered at museums, universities, and cultural and commercial organizations throughout America, starting officially with an inaugural concert at the Kennedy Center in Washington on June 17 and continuing through 1986. There will be a similar festival in France at the same time. The event is patterned after an Indian Festival that took place in England in 1982.
Of course, Indian authorities want to improve the world's vision of India, but there is no doubt that there is another important motivation. Besides bringing ancient and contemporary India alive to the people of the US, there is a need to improve one of India's most important new industries: tourism.
The Indians hope that the focus on their country will result in an increase in American tourists. This matter is of special concern now, because, after the assassination of Indira Gandhi and the political unrest that followed it, there was a precipitous drop in tourists from America.
``In November, there was a drop of around 26 percent, but it has become a progressively smaller decline,'' Dr. Sengupta explains, ``especially since your State Department stopped advising tourists to stay away.'' Dr. Sengupta wants to make it clear that ``not a single foreigner was affected at all, anywhere'' during the November unrest.