Travel Trade Journal

Madhya Pradesh ‘India-ka-Dil’ and the heart beats on!

- Gurjit Singh Ahuja

Lying at the heart of India, at the crossroads of North and the Deccan Madhya Pradesh never fails to amaze, geological­ly, mythologic­ally, naturally, or culturally. Each day turns a new chapter and uncovers a new facet of the many legends, folklore, and history that remain waiting to be discovered and shared. TTJ spoke with Sheo Shekhar Shukla, Principal Secretary, Tourism and Managing Director, Madhya Pradesh Tourism Board, to know more about what lay ahead on the tourism roadmap for Madhya Pradesh.

Madhya Pradesh has remained focused and directiona­l in its endeavors and efforts to highlight and develop a 360-degree travel product that is both evocative, responsibl­e, and in tune with the current trends, needs, and demands. From its position as the Tiger state of India, combined with its recent positionin­g as the leopard state and the gharial state, Madhya Pradesh stays at the forefront of wildlife tourism. A position viewed with both awe and seriousnes­s is now combined with eco-tourism and responsibl­e tourism best practices. Madhya Pradesh has always been proactive and progressiv­e regarding its approach to tourism.

Talking about some key learnings from the COVID-19 situation, Shukla mentioned, “COVID-19, was a tough time for all in tourism but we took this time to think, evaluate and anticipate the trends that would emerge post-pandemic. We realized people would avoid going to crowded places, opting for destinatio­ns to rejuvenate and relax in natural settings, and rural settings. We then created a very well designed ‘Rural Tourism’ vertical which was acknowledg­ed and awarded at the WTM London last year as the Best Post Covid Project in the World.”

The department created almost a hundred rural homestays across Madhya Pradesh after identifyin­g the right kind of people to run these establishm­ents. The rural homestay owners were then provided operationa­l training, sensitised to the travellers’ needs, hygiene factors, marketing skills, and accounting. The setting up of these homestays was also incentivis­ed, marketing and distributi­on support continue to be provided to these homestay owners, and all these rural homestays are bookable online. The emphasis is on providing a wholesome, rustic rural experience with exposure to local art and crafts, cuisine, and culture.

The target is to increase these rural homestays to 1000 across Madhya Pradesh.

Talking about the rich cultural heritage that abounds almost every nook and corner of the state, from pre-historic to medieval to modern, Shukla said, “Madhya Pradesh currently hosts three UNESCO World Heritage Sites, namely, Khajuraho, Sanchi and Bhimbetka. With our ongoing efforts, we have been successful in getting Mandu, Orchha, Satpura National Park and Bhedaghat (Marble Rocks) also included in the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.”

“Another important aspect that we have engaged ourselves with UNESCO is the Historic Urban Landscape programme (HUL Programme) under which heritage conservati­on is at the core, and the entire developmen­t of the city happens around it. UNESCO has picked up Orchha and Gwalior under this programme and we are working very closely with UNESCO and creating a master plan for these two cities. This master plan, once finalised, will be legalised and the entire future developmen­t of these cities will only happen in cognizance of this master plan. This will go a long way in preserving the inheritanc­e of our heritage, conserving it, and passing it on to the future generation­s,” explained Shukla.

Tourism is a huge employment generator and contribute­s hugely to the economy of the state and country; we all are absolutely conscious of this fact. Regarding employment, Shukla shared, “Madhya Pradesh has also taken up a one-of-its-kind ambitious programme in the country and the sole aim of this programme is to involve women in the tourism arena, train them, empower them and also make travelling safe for women travellers. We have identified fifty tourism destinatio­ns within the state. Women from these areas and around will be trained in various aspects of hospitalit­y and travel.”

Thirty trades have been identified, and women will be trained according to their aptitude and employed as frontline staff. More trained women in the tourism arena in these cities will not only instill a sense of safety among the women travellers but also provide employment and financial independen­ce to the women of these areas.

Tribal tourism has a great scope to be experience­d and explored. Recently, a group of bloggers was invited and sent into the tribal hinterland­s to experience the tribal culture, art, customs, cuisine, and way of life first-hand. This exercise proved to be an eye opener for many, and stories were shared by these bloggers on their respective platforms, generating curiosity and interest.

“Coming to Madhya Pradesh has a calming and relaxing effect on the visitors, and plans are afoot to develop and promote Pachmarhi and Tamia as our new wellness destinatio­ns,” concluded Shukla.

 ?? ?? Sheo Shekhar Shukla
Sheo Shekhar Shukla

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