Fiona Fernandez: To err or tour?

Since Mumbai doesn’t have a dedicated official website, tourists keen on exploring the city have to instead rely on the inaccurate and error-prone state tourism website

A couple of weeks ago, we learnt that a city-based heritage tour operator had launched an open jeep service to explore the city. The intent, according to its founders, was to aid large groups and also ensure that older enthusiasts enjoy a comfortable trail rather than having to trudge on foot. While we are yet to test the jeep safari, we found it to be a novel and inclusive idea in the tourism space. After all, it’s been ages since any new, exciting initiative has been introduced to showcase Mumbai.

This brings us to our area of concern. It’s the start of Mumbai’s peak tourist season and we have nothing to shout about tourism initiatives for the city.

An opportunity lost, once again. With civic authorities and the state tourism board showing zero interest (forget the Mumbai Darshan tours) in creating a comprehensive, year-long itinerary of walks and excursions around the city, tourists and locals have to rely on private groups and individual guides to take them around the city.

Step into any world city, and the first stop that offers a range of options to discover the city is its official website. Take for example, the Visit London website. A browse through its homepage will make you want to stay outdoors for your entire time in the UK capital. In comparison, the choices that a tourist has to explore Mumbai are appalling. The focus on the city is lost somewhere in the poorly designed state tourism website. The lesser said about this project, the better. Isn’t it an embarrassing and also a serious lapse that Mumbai has no separate official tourist-friendly website to boast of? Hasn’t this struck any of our babus? A Google search for ‘Mumbai city’ throws up a mix of options from a football club to the city collectorate on the first page. By the time one moves to the following page, first-timers, especially overseas tourists, would have realised that the Lonely Planet website is the most reliable bet.

The more we dug up, the more disappointing our Sunday afternoon got. In fact, as we scrolled on the ‘Top Attractions’ (the Mumbai section on the state tourism website), that suggested 11 sites, we spotted Elephanta Cave (yes, they believe it’s just a single cave) repeated twice. There were typos and grammatical errors. Sample these: Discount and offer/ Brochures, Booklet & Leaflet).

According to one mention, the city is known for the ‘British style of architecture’. Who knew! By the end of this mini investigation, we couldn’t help but wonder how many tourists — Indian or international — keen to visit Mumbai would have changed travel plans based on this awful browsing experience.

With such a pathetic state that shows no sign of improvement or intent to swiftly modify affairs, it’s important that we support and laud private initiatives and efforts as the more suitable ambassadors for Mumbai. May their tribe increase.

mid-day’s Features Editor Fiona Fernandez relishes the city’s sights, sounds, smells and stones... wherever the ink and the inclination takes her. She tweets @bombayana. Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

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