The state has effectively used the lull of the pandemic to develop quality infrastructure for the coming revival of the tourism sector.
Minister of Tourism and Environment Aaditya Thackeray announced several new plans to develop tourism in the state, which include policy reforms and a modern approach. “We want to make the Ministry of Tourism a ministry of youth and a ministry of the future,” he said, explaining the multi-pronged efforts on the anvil. These plans were shared at the event organised by Maharashtra Tourism, Government of Maharashtra, to celebrate World Tourism Day at Mumbai’s Sahyadri Guest House at Malabar Hill on September 27, 2021.
The chief minister of Maharashtra, Uddhav Thackeray, presided over the event, which also had Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat, Principal Secretary of Tourism Valsa Nair Singh, Managing Director of MTDC Jayshree Bhoj, and Director of the Directorate of Tourism Milind Borikar, on the dais.
A major boost for the tourism sector
Deputy CM Ajit Pawar said, “Most of the proposals brought in the cabinet get a green signal because they are well thought and made from the development point of view. We have recently approved a budget of Rs 250 crore for the development of tourism and we will continue to support the tourism sector in future as well.”
Maharashtra is the first state to award industry status to the hospitality sector, which will allow the tourism sector to soar to new heights. “Reforms under our Ease of Doing Business programme has brought down licenses required for opening new hotels in the state from 80 to 10. Instead of 15 NOCs (No Objection Certificates) that were required in the past, it’s now nine self-certifications. Would-be hoteliers won’t have to wait too long for these permits either, as we have created ‘timebound permissions’ that are granted within three months after application,” said Aaditya Thackeray, delineating how obstacles would be eased.
He said, “Not just Mumbai and Pune, but several districts in Maharashtra will now have some of the world’s top five-star hotels.” Apparently, many international chains showed eagerness to enter the state in a recent pre-bid meeting. Apart from this, basic infrastructure will be shored up and roads, ropeways, and funiculars are coming up wherever required. On October 9, the new airport at Chippi will open, offering up a whole swathe of the stunning Sindhudurg district to travellers.
Exploring new avenues in tourism
Maharashtra was also India’s first state to implement an agro-tourism policy in September 2020, with 450 farmers having undergone training. The second state to adopt a beach shack policy in August last year, Maharashtra Tourism is now planning the set-up of beach shacks and surrounding tourism infrastructure in the following places: Kelwe and Bordi in Palghar, Diveagar and Varsoli in Raigad, Aare-Ware and Guhagar in Ratnagiri, and Kunkeshwar and Tarkarli in Sindhudurg.
Reforms under our Ease of Doing Business programme has brought down licenses required for opening new hotels in the state from 80 to 10. Instead of 15 NOCs that were required in the past, it’s now nine self-certifications.Aaditya Thackeray
With tourists increasingly wanting more control over their environment while travelling, caravan tourism is being given a big push since March 2021. An aggressive Adventure Tourism Policy launched in August 2021 has already had 55 adventure tourism outfits signing up. Other initiatives include awareness campaigns across many mediums such as TV ads on 15 channels across India, a Flavours of Maharashtra programme to promote the state’s culinary wealth, digital campaigns, webinars around different destinations.
Many MoUs have also been signed, like the one with the Maharashtra Cooperative Development Corporation Ltd, another with the Indian Port Rail and Railway Corporation (for Ekvira & Raigad), and with the Bombay High Court and Mumbai University for tours through their heritage premises, etc, by accredited guides. A revival of Mumbai’s Sanskriti Festival whose motto is ‘Live Music to Save Heritage’ after its last concert at Banganga in 1992, and the organisation of many festivals to promote tourism (like the ones in Junnar and Mumbai) are also in the works.
Under the Incredible India Tourist Facilitator programme, Maharashtra’s Directorate of Tourism plans to create an army of trained tourism ambassadors who will be the face of the state’s tourism industry. Three representatives of the 127 tourist facilitators who have cleared this course as well as two winners of a recent photography contest and ‘Maharashtrache Masterchef’ contest, were awarded certificates and felicitated by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray at the event.
Expanding the digital footprint
The Directorate of Tourism has gone digital in a big way, with webinars and excellent destination campaigns, online photography and videography contest, a unique ‘virtual Bappa’ initiative, tourist information disseminated over Whatsapp and presence on platforms such as Pinterest and Quora apart from their large following on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter that now adds up to a digital community over one million.
Another special facet of the celebration was the launch of Maharashtra Tourism’s revamped website and the new mobile app by CM Uddhav Thackeray. The new multilingual website is available in nine languages, namely – English, Hindi, Marathi, Bengali, Gujarati, Telugu, French, Japanese and Spanish. The visually appealing, user-friendly website comprises detailed information of around 350 destinations that are bifurcated theme-wise. The website is also accessible to visually challenged users. Destination guides, distance calculators, and itinerary planners will all go a long way in making Maharashtra accessible to tourists of all backgrounds.