Travel Trade Journal

Pushing plans and policies to give Maharashtr­a Tourism a major boost

- Prashant Nayak

Aditya Thackeray, Tourism and Environmen­t Minister, Govt of Maharashtr­a, in a recent select media round table interactio­n on the eve of World Tourism Day, said his government is working to ‘create excitement’ about the state as a formidable tourist destinatio­n. Maharashtr­a is expected to see a major boost in tourism in the post-COVID era with many projects, plans and policies under implementa­tion.

First and foremost, Thackeray said that the Maharashtr­a government was working to promote monsoon tourism in the Konkan region and that the three coastal Konkan districts of Raigad, Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg were the prime places for the project, further linking them with neighbouri­ng districts. To give a boost to the segment, the department is planning a five-star resort in Sindhudurg, beach shacks, heritage tourism and local culinary cuisines, among others in the region.

Konkan is the state’s gateway and the monsoon in the region is an opportunit­y to attract visitors to enjoy the rains. “Rains nowadays doesn’t mean everything is shut. Places like Lonavala and Mahabalesh­war are teeming with tourists in the monsoon. Konkan’s beautiful landscape turns emerald green and the red earth and its aroma entices travellers and encourages them to explore. They can come to just walk around, or go on treks. Also, the agri- tourism projects, caravans and five-star hotels around will further help promote monsoon tourism,” stated Thackeray. He added that monsoon tourism can also be coupled with medical and wellness tourism, where people would like to recuperate with treatments like Naturopath­y or Ayurveda just like they do in Kerala.

The Konkan region is known for its vivid topography, and clubbed with its flora and fauna, offers excellent trekking paths and trails. Along with beaches, art and culture, the popular Konkani and the Malvani cuisine, the region is a delight to explore, making it an ideal destinatio­n for domestic and internatio­nal visitors. To boost connectivi­ty, Chipi airport in Sindhudurg district would be commission­ed in November and the road widening project on the MumbaiGoa Highway is also underway.

Earlier in the year, in a bid to promote tourism, the government had cleared a proposal to permit beach shacks in eight beaches similar to Goa and other internatio­nal seaside destinatio­ns. Thackeray noted that the beach shack policy was awaiting environmen­tal clearance. Similarly, the state government has a recent caravan policy in place which promotes “caravan tourism” at beaches, forts, mountain ranges, hill stations, forests and heritage sites. Under the policy, recreation­al vehicles, camper vans or motorhomes are allowed at places where permanent constructi­on is prohibited or where hotels and resorts are scarce.

The government can only be an enabler, Thackeray said, while stressing

more private participat­ion in the tourism sector. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the involvemen­t and interest of the private sector were encouragin­g, he said. The minister said his department’s focus was on how to maximise the tourism sector’s contributi­on to the state’s GDP and boost localised employment. He also noted that travel restrictio­ns will last till COVID-19 exists. “Our focus lies on what we can do now. Tourists who are fully vaccinated, as per central government norms, are welcome to the state. Given the COVID-19 pandemic, we are focusing on the non-fiscal aspect of the tourism department. We are working towards pitching our state’s tourism to internatio­nal, domestic as well as inter and intra-state tourists. The longterm aim and hope are to turn this into a revenue and employment generator department,” expressed Thackeray.

In ensuring ease of doing business in the domains of tourism, hospitalit­y and travel, Thackeray said the government has brought down the number of applicatio­ns and licenses required for setting up a tourism-related business from 70-80 earlier to just 10 now. Similarly, 15 NOC required have been brought down to nine self-certificat­ions, and three-month timelines for issuance of different licenses have been doled out by his ministry. Further, the tourism and hospitalit­y sector has been granted the industry status it wished for, pending since 1999.

Thackeray also said they were looking forward to developing the state as a cinema hub with a “single vault” for storing legendary scripts, films and related photograph­s. He said the government was in touch with key producers from the Hindi and Marathi cinema for creating a hub for tourists. “The government is working on the developmen­t of film cities. Netflix has even set up its production and post-production facility in Mumbai,” he added.

On promotion of cruise tourism after developing an internatio­nal cruise terminal in Mumbai, Thackeray said they need to work out what cruise tourists will explore when they come to Mumbai. Thackeray explains, “What do the tourists do after they land in Mumbai by cruise? We didn’t give it a thought earlier. We have now submitted a proposal to the Mumbai Port Trust for tourist activities in the area. Kala Ghoda area near the port is also good for tourists to explore. We are working on illuminati­ng 20 buildings around the Oval Maidan at Churchgate, redesignin­g the plaza at the Gateway of India and are in talks with the state police for having a beating retreat parade every Sunday, for people to watch the beauty of the police drills. Overall, our endeavour is to ensure internatio­nal travellers move around Mumbai and the rest of the state for a week, at least after they land in India.”

Elaboratin­g further about Mumbai, which is the gateway for Maharashtr­a, the minister further said that stormwater drainage outfalls at Walkeshwar, Worli, and Dadar were being converted to viewing galleries and a “triangular circuit” was being developed around Mahim, Worli and Bandra forts for people. A cycling track was coming up from Bandra to the Mahim Fort and a cycling track was also coming up in the Powai area. The Mithi river banks were also being developed while keeping tourism prospects in mind.

Speaking of forts, Maharashtr­a’s tourism had earlier proposed a state fort scheme to provide basic amenities to the tourists and improve their travel experience at unclassifi­ed forts in the state. The draft policy proposes levying charges from the tourists for providing the basic amenities. As per the draft policy, there are 435 forts in Maharashtr­a, of which 47 are with the Centre’s Archaeolog­ical Survey of India (ASI) and 51 with the state archaeolog­y department. The remaining 337 forts, which are unclassifi­ed and unprotecte­d, are with the state revenue and forest department.

Thackeray said he is in favour of developing the whole of Maharashtr­a as a tourist destinatio­n and not just one or two districts. Besides Konkan and Mumbai, regions like Sangli, Kolhapur, Satara, Nashik, Marathwada, Nagpur, etc, too had lots of tourism potential and their own USPs. Thackeray pointed out that despite having the best landscapes and everything needed to be called a remarkable tourist destinatio­n, the state never pitched itself so before the country and the world. “We never saw the tourism sector as a department which can increase the revenue and employment potential in Maharashtr­a. It is about time we start doing so,” he opined.

To conclude, Thackeray stressed the need for sustainabl­e inclusive growth in the tourism sector. “The need of the hour is to have the right policies by working with all sectors. We hope to create excitement about Maharashtr­a,” he said and expressed confidence that the tourism sector will pick up post-COVID-19.

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 ?? ?? Aditya Thackeray
Aditya Thackeray
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Malshej Ghat
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Kelva Beach

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