The recently sworn-in Union Minister of State for Tourism, K.J. Alphons, has called for innovative ideas to promote the sector in the country. To get things going, Alphons made what appears to be a unique proposition: When asked whether the lynchings by cow vigilantes and the restrictions on beef in large parts of the country would affect tourism, the minister said that “They (tourists) can eat beef in their own country and come here.” On Monday, though, Alphons had taken umbrage to the “propaganda” that his government was trying to impose a dietary regime on the country. “Goa is a beef-eating state and shall continue to be a beef-eating state… Kerala is a beef-eating state and it shall continue to eat beef… BJP doesn’t have a problem.”
It may seem that the age-old adage that “the customer is always right” will be upturned by the new minister. But then, a double standard already exists when it comes to non-Indian tourists. India is one of the few countries that charges different rates of admission for foreigners and nationals at monuments. So while “atithi devo bhava” continues to be an oft repeated phrase, when it comes to non-Indian atithis, it is the gods who have to fork up an extra offering. On beef eating though, a question remains: Since Kerala and Goa are among the states that receive the largest number of foreign tourists, does the injunction to fill up on steak before crossing immigration hold there too?
Tourists would do well to heed Alphons’ words. “We have to love our history and country… the world should come and see us,” he said. Surely, foreign nationals can sacrifice their dietary preferences for all that India offers. They can chalk up the abstinence as yet another entry fee in a country that hasn’t yet figured out that to get tourism, you have to be hospitable to tourists.