On the morning of October 12, I was at the Wild Mahseer resort in the Balipara area of Assam with Dan Robertson and Mark Mercier when I read something very appalling in a 2006 issue of Tea Today – a monthly magazine published in India:
“In theory, India should be one of the most sought-after tourist destinations in the world. The Himalayas, the beaches, the deserts and the forests with the history, culture, dance, music and cuisine, India has it all. But the reality that hits the tourist on arrival is something else. Noise, dust, confusion, the tendency to be ripped off and not least, the hostile petty official who delights in making life difficult for everybody else often makes it an unpleasant experience altogether. There is an attitude problem here which is one of the reasons why single cities like Singapore, Hong Kong, London or Paris get more tourists than the whole of India put together.”
Sadly, even in 2012, much of this is the truth. Our efforts to promote tea tourism need more serious planning and preparations. Insurgency, terrorism, a declining infrastructure, poor healthcare, and food production issues must all be addressed. Planeloads of people are ready with packed suitcases and fat purses to visit India, but we are not prepared to receive them. Mark Mercier was one of them. With a travel background (with Air Canada) he had come to soak himself in India and understand its potential, but unfortunately, he fell ill and had to cut his visit short.
“Ten Thousand Tales of Tea” would be an appropriate title of a book to lure the tea traveller to the lands of tea – Korea, Japan, Taiwan, China, India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka – where the potential for a booming tea tourism industry is enormous. Tea tourism could easily augment the incomes of tea plantations. Many of the old tea bungalows and other buildings on tea plantations stand vacant, just gathering dust and waiting for these avid tea lovers.