Marketing challenges for the state
Maharashtra Chapter Chairman of the Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO), Himanshu Agashiwala speaks passionately about the challenges in marketing Maharashtra to inbound clients.
Everyone is talking about the challenges of marketing India as a destination to the rest of the world. Perhaps what would also help is if we zoomed in to look at the problem at hand state-wise. The Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO), Maharashtra Chapter has done exactly that. Himanshu Agashiwala, Chairman, IATO–Maharashtra, speaks strongly about four main challenges that the inbound tour operators and members of IATO face when they service their overseas clients.
He says that Maharashtra has a beautiful coastline with destinations like Tarkarli, Harihareshwar and Srivardhan. “It even boasts of the best wildlife in Tadoba and surrounding places. However, marketing of this destination has proved to be very challenging for us due to poor infrastructure that is unsuitable to inbound tourists and lack of initiative from the state government despite repeated dialogue with them.” Clean toilets
He underlines the following issues that need immediate attention by the state government. “A very basic need of clean public toilets in Mumbai is still lacking despite our Swacch Bharat Abhiyaan. Once we take them out on city tours, there are no facilities available except ‘Sulabh’ which is not suitable for foreign tourists. We especially handle a huge number of cruise passengers and they are disappointed by the facilities available,” Agashiwala adds. Lack of guides
By far, the tour operators’ biggest woe has been the lack of government-recognised guides. There are only a handful of guides since most of them are non-operative. There is also a huge demand for foreign language guides as well as English-speaking guides. This has spiked up the rates that often go up to Rs 15,000– 20,000 per day, per guide. “After two years of negotiating with MTDC and the state government, they have now announced guide course to be conducted by the state. We need at least 200 more guides in Mumbai alone,” he says. Bulk tickets at Elephanta
The biggest selling point of Maharashtra is the Elephanta caves. Agashiwala adds, it is impossible to buy tickets in bulk even though they handle around 1,000 tourists arriving by cruise on a single day. The online ticket facility is possible only if we have names and passport numbers which is impossible to know in advance. “We also have to carry huge amount in cash to buy the tickets. We have suggested to sell bulk tickets in advance with a three-month validity but the ASI management has done nothing so far. Apart from this, there are innumerable problems we face at the Mumbai Port, starting from multiple checks of guests by CISF, inadequacy of Immigration officials for embarkation, no permission to park coaches near the Green Gate, and so on,” Agashiwala adds.
After two years of negotiating with MTDC and the state government, they have now announced guide course to be conducted by the state
Himanshu Agashiwala Chairman IATO–Maharashtra