Over half-a-million Indians visit Hong Kong every year, either on a business or leisure trip. These visitors include families and business delegates. The Hong Kong Tourism Board now plans to increase this number from India and wants to invite young couples and youth. It has launched a special campaign, 'Hold My Hand', which uses a romantic novel to promote tourism in Hong Kong.
Cynthia Leung, general manager, corporate affairs, Hong Kong Tourism Board, speaking on the reason behind choosing a romantic novel over a travel guide, says, "People tend to emotionally paint pictures of the places they read about in a novel and are more attracted to it as compared to what they see in a travel guide. According to our research, a large number of people across India read novels while they travel to their work places, so we thought it would be a better idea to go the novel way than any other."
Hold My Hand is a story about Deep, a young Indian who travels to Hong Kong for studies and falls in love with Ahaana, who has been in Hong Kong for the last two years. Though blind since the age of five, Ahaana has been around the city with her father or a guide and has marked the places through their smells and sounds.
The interesting aspect of Datta's novel is that the female protagonist (Ahaana) takes Deep around the city and shows him different places, which she herself has never seen but can recognize from her senses.
Datta says, "As Ahaana knows the place by sounds and smells, Deep (the male protagonist) listens and connects with what he is sees and what Ahaana tells him. The phenomenon helps the reader to paint the intricate details that Datta gives about Hong Kong in his book. The smells here refer to the mesmerizing scenic beauty while the sounds refer to the sky rocketing towers and fast life that Hong Kong offers."
After Hong Kong Tourism Board finalised its decision to come up with a novel to promote tourism, it invited Datta to visit Hong Kong for 10 days. Datta saw the place and then took the decision of going ahead with the book. He took nearly three months to finish the novel. He will now head to 20 other cities across the country to promote the book in the next few months.
Social media is also being used to promote the book (https://www.facebook.com/HoldMyHandDurjoyDatta). Hong Kong Tourism board has also tied up with coffee chain Barista Lavazza and will connect with readers in more than 180 cafes of the chain across the country.
Another partnership with Whistling Woods will run a short film contest that invites film students to produce snippets on Hold My Hand. The winning film will premiere in winter, a popular season for Indian honeymooners and young couples to travel abroad, to reinforce HKTB's marketing effort. The contest will kick off in September and the winner will also be awarded a trip to Hong Kong. All the films produced will be put up on YouTube to promote Hong Kong tourism.
The board will also carry out promotions through traditional media. Although the details of the promotion are not finalised yet, HKTB is interacting regularly with key players in the tourism industry of India and will soon come up with a Hold My Hand package for travellers.
Leung says, "We now want to reach out to the masses and are looking at a growth in the number of visitors by higher single digit (in terms of percentage). Our aim is to target people in the age group of 18-35 years."
As of now, the average stay of an Indian visitor to Hong Kong is around three to four nights and he/she spends nearly 4,000 Hong Kong dollars.
Datta is an engineer from Delhi College of Engineering and a management graduate from MDI and has written six books on romance and love stories. He has bagged several accolades such as TOI Young Achiever in 2009. He has been able to sell more than a million copies of his books and created an author community named Grapevine India with author Sachin Garg.