Tourism of ideas
The Elephant House, a café off 21 George Bridge street, Edinburgh,is a nondescript eatery serving coffee and cake, like many others in its vicinity.
But when an unfortunate fire broke out, consuming parts of the place, it made national headlines in the United Kingdom.
The BBC showed live images of the fire intercut with shots of people gawking in disbelief.
While trying to make sense of the maze London streets are, it is more than likely that one would encounter groups of people determined to locate a particular address. 221B Baker street.
The Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, France is one of the most widely visited cemeteries in the world, more than three million people visit this place annually.
An Anglo Saxon town Wessex, finds a new lease of life in popular imagination, from a series of books written during the late nineteenth century. It is a fictional landscape but that doesn’t stop people from considering it as real.
These episodes may appear random and disconnected, but a careful scrutiny reveals a strong undercurrent of sameness in their thematic appeal.
It is to do with a process, where a seemingly commonplace area, a city or a town becomes exceptional due to its association with an idea or with the person who propagated such an idea.
The scope of tourism has seen a paradigm shift in recent years. The diversification of tourist demographics has led to the eroding of the traditional idea of tourism which is mainly focused on standard sightseeing and museum going itinerary.
Now the stress is more on an immersive experience, that can build inspired connections and lead to some sort of discovery and inside.
In other words, it is not only the tangible objects ( like a monument, weather, scenic beauty etc) that attract tourists , but the promise of an intangible or an abstract idea can be equally appealing.
The Elephant House, a run of the mill cafe, shot to fame for being the birthplace of Harry Potter. It was here J K Rowling wrote her first Harry Potter book in longhand.
221B Baker Street is the London address of the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Since their debut in Study in Scarlet, both Sherlock and his assistant Dr Watson, had occupied the flat in Baker street. Though in reality there isn’t any 221b Baker street, it has not dampened the spirits of Sherlock fans, who would look around entire London in search of the address.
Jim Morisson, the American singer, poet and songwriter who was the lead vocalist of the rock band the Doors was laid to rest in the Pere Lachaise Cemetery. For rock music enthusiasts the visit to the cemetery is nothing short of a pilgrimage.
Academics has categorized this phenomenon as Literary Tourism. It originates when the popularity of a literary depiction or the stature of an individual author or a poet is such that people are drawn to visit the places that the author wrote about or was associated with. This kind of tourism in fact sits on the crossroad of cultural and heritage tourism.
The enduring thrill of being amidst the same surrounding in which an author was inspired to write or a singer to compose, is a call very few can resist. It changes a mundane landscape, into a kaleidoscope of awe and emotions.
The pan India appeal of Dr Bhupen Hazarika is unmatched and unchallenged. Assam, beside being the land of immense natural beauty, unrivaled wildlife, diverse culture, is also the land that made Bhupen Hazarika who he is. His philosophy of humanism, his soulful compositions, his poetry of change has been nurtured by the soil of this land.
The Luit or the Brahmaputra, through the bard’s eyes, is an experience not to be missed. The length and breadth of Assam, along with its socio-political milieu finds vivid expression in Dr Hazarikas composition. Most places of Assam have memories connected to his life and works . An experience built around these recollections, with a few touristy things thrown in is the need of the hour.
The towering figure of Assamese folkloric tradition is Lakshmi Natha Bezbarua. His retelling of the stories, legends, and beliefs of this land gave a new lease of life to the Assamese language. The construct of his writing, the flow of his sentences are worth imitating to create a narrative to attract the modern day traveler. Lakshmi Nath Bezbarua’s, stature in world literature is nothing short of a genius. This itself is enough to create an urge to travel to Assam.
The term film tourism is being interpreted as opening up the beautiful locations of the state for film shooting. But this sector hasn’t really picked up, mostly owing to the lack of trained manpower and other logistical deficits. But cinema has a glorious history in Assam.
Jyoti Prasad Agarwala the pioneer of Assamese cinema, not only produced and directed the first feature film but had also built a cinema hall to show that film. His life and works are sure to be endeared by the cinema lovers of this country. Tezpur, the Bholaguri tea estate, and other places associated with his work and memory, has the potential to become the hub of cinematic tourism.
Assam in fact has produced numerous such literary, artistic and musical geniuses, whose stature, work and ideas can open a completely new vista in the Tourism sector. What is required is a sustained and informed marketing strategy based on data collected through a scientific methodology that gives us a fair idea about the emerging trends and markets.
Exclusivity and uniqueness are major benefit of literary or Tourism of ideas. The tourist cannot find the same activity in another destination and cannot have similar experiences. The Brahmaputra of Bhupen Hazarika can be found only in Assam, Buri Aair Xaadhu can emerge only from the folklore of this land and the Chameli Memsaab bunglow can only make sense standing amidst the mist smeared undulating tea gardens of enchanting Assam.
[Already published in The Assam Tribune]
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