BRAND: Ministry of Tourism, India & The Incredible India’s Atithi Devo Bhavah Campaign ( Case Study )

BRAND: Ministry of Tourism, India

Campaign Title: Incredible India’s Atithi Devo Bhavah Campaign

Strategic communications challenge?


The tourism industry is one of the most profitable industries in India and is also credited with contributing a substantial amount of foreign exchange. It is the largest service industry in India, with a contribution of 6.23% to the national GDP and 8.78% to the total employment in India. India witnesses approximately 3 million annual foreign tourist arrivals every year.

(Source: Wikipedia)

The tourism industry also helps growth in other sectors as diverse as horticulture, handicrafts, agriculture, construction and even poultry. Both directly and indirectly, increased tourism in India has and will create job opportunities in a variety of related sectors. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, India will be the world’s leading tourism hotspot, having the highest 10-year growth potential. Some of the factors contributing to this growth are:

  •  Growing disposable income in India
  •  Growth in IT and outsourcing industry in India that is leading to a growing number of business trips by foreigners, who often add a weekend break or longer holiday to their trip. The upcoming Commonwealth Games (2010) in Delhi are further expected to add significantly to this growth.

However, in spite of an incredible wealth of Tourist spots, Cultural Attractions, Natural Wonders and Destinations for the soul, India’s is still not amongst the top 15 tourist destinations of the world. While India had 3.3 Mn international visitors last year, Singapore had 7 Mn, Thailand 9.6 Mn and Malaysia 11.5 Mn.
(Source: Ministry of Tourism)

Two key factors contributing to this are:

  •  Security and safety of international tourists
  •  Defacement of the national heritage monuments and tourist spots

And the prime reason for both these factors is the attitude of the Indian citizen at large—a low level of empathy for the tourists, and low or no sense of pride for our culture and heritage.

The challenge was to change this perspective and ensure that the tourism industry in India realises its true growth potential.
The one line brief from the Ministry of Tourism to the agency was “We’ve lost touch with the hospitality that we were famous for. Now its time that we make an effort to make it part of us again.”

The key objective of the campaign, therefore, was awareness leading to a behavioural shift— sensitising people to the need to behave responsibly towards tourists, national monuments and our rich heritage and culture.

The campaign was designed to complement the Incredible India campaign. Its long term objective is to re-instil and re-enforce the confidence of foreign tourists towards India as a preferred holiday destination.

The big idea?
Driving the audience to be part of a drive to make India tourist and tourism friendly by reconnecting  the TG with a prominent part of Indian Culture—Guest is God

How did they arrive at the big idea?

The arrived at the big idea by juxtaposing the core of the medium (internet) and our culture:

Interactivity and Hospitality. Given the objective of awareness and behavioural change, it was imperative that they ‘involve’ the consumer and not just ‘broadcast’ the message to him/her. Guest is God is a prominent part of the Indian culture. This was translated into the tag line of the brand campaign Atithi Devo Bhava (Guest is God).

As an agency, they believed it was the best route because

  • – Its part of the culture and therefore there is some amount of inherent acceptance
  • – Imbibing the concept would ensure higher empathy and a more responsible behaviour towards the tourists
  • – This would also prompt them to take care of their ‘home’ that the guest is visiting—their monuments and tourist destinations

Aamir Khan was roped in as the brand ambassador for the campaign. This added further impetus and mass appeal to the activity.

Bringing the idea to life?
After a detailed agency research, they managed to  figure that the key audience where the  need was to drive a behavioural change is the youth. This was because the incidence of graffiti on monuments, eve teasing, molestation etc. was highest in the age group of 18–30 years. Having zeroed down on this TG, They then looked at the activities that this audience is involved in the digital space.

In line with the audience media consumption, they looked at e-mails, social networks, blogs, entertainment sites, community websites, technology and travel genres for spreading our message. At the heart of the activity was an eye-catching yet simple microsite ( that hosted an interactive forum, especially developed to empower the audience to contribute their ideas on how to tackle graffiti and tourist molestation. The brand ambassador, Aamir Khan, was the spokesperson on the website as well. The website also provided ideas and how to tips to the audience on how to be more responsible both, to the tourists as well as the tourism destinations.

To drive awareness about the campaign and traffic to this website, the agency conceptualised a Pan India campaign, comprising engaging interactive banners. The engaging banner ads asked viewers to write a love message for their beloved on India’s magnificent monuments (The Taj, Jantar Mantar, Sanchi Stupa, and Gateway of India). When the user tried to do so with a mouse, the monument dodged the pencil—this was followed by a message from Aamir telling the user to protect the monument.

The campaign ran on over 2,600 youth-centric websites including Orkut, YouTube, MusicIndiaOnline and Gmail. These sites were shortlisted, keeping in mind the above media consumption habits of the TG and were shortlisted on the basis of three key factors—reach of the website (measured in absolute numbers), audience skew (share of our target audience in the overall traffic on the website across audiences) and site stickiness (time spent by the audience on the website). Given the audience and their consumption of the internet medium, social media and search played a crucial role in the overall campaign. They extended the core creative idea into Emailers, Desktop Calendars, Google Text Ads and press releases, all of which struck a deep chord with the youth.

The key objective of the campaign, as discussed, was awareness leading to a behavioural shift— sensitising people to the need to behave responsibly towards tourists, national monuments and our rich heritage and culture. As a long term objective, the campaign was to supplement the main campaign of the tourism ministry—Incredible India.

In terms of the first objective: awareness, They far exceeded their internal expectations. As highlighted earlier, at the heart of the Atithi Devo Bhavah activity was the microsite ( The campaign ran between February ’09–May ’09 and the various activities that we did around the campaign (social media, banners, mailers, PR etc.) led to a huge
boost in the traffic on the website. According to Google Analytics (refer screen shot below), the website  garnered close to 5 Lakh visitors in the campaign period and 90.91% of these visits were new visits. This was much higher than the expected traffic of 3-3.5 Lakhs.

The Media Plan:

The media plan generated 181 Mn (1,81,921,968) views (Source: Agency Ad Serving Software) The social media activity also contributed to high reach and awareness of the campaign. The team got close to 8.5 Lakh video views on You Tube alone (Total number of video views in the campaign across the various video websites was 9,29,228. (Source: Agency Research)

The second objective of the campaign was to drive involvement so as to aid the behavioural shift. Close to 8.19 Lakh visitors clicked on our banners and mailers to visit the microsite and be part of the Atithi Devo Bhavah initiative. (Source: Agency Ad Serving Software).

Given that the long term objective of this campaign was to supplement the main campaign “Incredible India) and that 85% of the travellers research online before booking travel; we further used our social media activities to ensure that the Indian tourism website (www.incredibleindia,com) gained visibility through Google Search engine results as well. From a zero visibility, the website now ranked amongst top ten searches on highly searched keywords. E.g.:

  • 5th on for “Goa India Travel”
  •  6th on for “ India Travel Information’
  •  Amongst top 10 on for keywords such as ‘India’, ‘Vacation India’ and ‘Plan India Tourism’ 

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