Hindustan Ka Dil Dekho; MP Ajab Hai; and now bobble-heads crooning MP Me Dil Hua Bacche Sa. The Madhya Pradesh tourism department comes up with some of the most brilliant commercials to attract tourists to what it calls, the Heart of India.
The large central state is indeed bestowed with nature’s bounty — three world heritage sites, nine national parks, 25 wildlife sanctuaries and major pilgrimage hubs. The goodness ends there.
Foreign tourists are just a trickle
Madhya Pradesh’s foreign tourists are just a trickle and faith-driven pilgrims make up the bulk of domestic tourists. The state has failed to market its potential the way, say, Rajasthan and Kerala have done.
Poor connectivity, especially air connectivity, and infrastructure deficit remain the main hurdles despite the state government spending millions of rupees to attract private investors in the tourism sector. Perhaps some amount of neglect and lethargy is working against the push to attract tourists.
A prime example is the rail connectivity to the world heritage site, Khajuraho, a major tourist attraction. The rail link was inaugurated just two days ago.
State has just five of the country’s 125 major airports
The state has just five of the country’s 125 major airports, most of which, barring Indore and Bhopal, are not at all connected with the rest of India.
Dilapidated roads are another bugbear that keeps tourists away from the attractive but off-the track locations.
‘MP is still perceived as a hinterland destination’
The tourism department’s annual plan for 2016-17 says: “The overall relatively smaller foreign tourist arrivals, as compared to some states like Rajasthan, Goa or Kerala, are due to the fact that MP is still perceived as a hinterland destination which lacks adequate connectivity.”
The percentage of foreign tourists visiting the state is a mere .54% in 2015. It has not changed much since 2010, when compared to 3.83 crore domestic tourists, the number of foreigners visiting the state was just 2.5 lakh.
“MP is a big state. Unless air connectivity within the state and outside improves, the number of foreign tourists is not going to increase,” said Sangik Sengupta, who runs Mowgli Den in Pench.
Accommodation shortage during peak season is common
Accommodation shortage during the peak season is common in major tourist destinations such as Pachmarhi and Khajuraho. This happens despite the state having around 13,500 hotel rooms, including nearly 900 of the Madhya Pradesh State Tourism Development Corporation (MPSTDC).
To do away with the infrastructure deficit, the tourism department has set a goal to double the number of rooms this year.
Govt trying to woo investors who can set up resorts and hotels
Against this backdrop, the government is trying to woo investors who can set up resorts and hotels on 500 acres in 22 land parcels earmarked at tourist spots across the state.
In September, a month ahead of the global investors’ summit in Indore, the government unveiled its new tourism policy. The policy allows incentivised investment in the tourism sector across the state, unlike in the past when only 13 special tourism zones were open for investment.
The MPSTDC’s tourism promotion unit director, AK Rajoria, said the objective is to increase accommodation facilities. “If needed, we have to increase hotel rooms to at least 25,000. For this, we need investors who can build hotels and resorts. Some investors have shown interest. We are hoping more people will invest in the tourism sector in the global investors’ meet,” he said.
The large central state is bestowed with nature’s bounty but the goodness ends there. Madhya Pradesh’s foreign tourists are just a trickle and faith-driven pilgrims make up the bulk of domestic tourists. The state has failed to market its potential the way, say, Rajasthan and Kerala have done.
Domestic tourists: 531 lakh
Foreign tourists: 2.7 lakh
Total tourists: 534 lakh
Domestic tourists: 631 lakh
Foreign tourists: 2.8 lakh
Total tourists: 633 lakh
Domestic tourists: 636 lakh
Foreign tourists: 3.1 lakh
Total tourists: 639 lakh
Domestic tourists: 778 lakh
Foreign tourists: 4.2 lakh
Total tourists: 783 lakh
HOW MP IS TRYING TO WOO INVESTORS
For minimum investments between Rs 50 lakh and Rs 20 crore, a subsidy will be provided between 15 to 40%.
Land to be made available to private investors at a reserve price of `10 lakh per hectare in the urban areas and Rs 5 lakh per hectare in rural areas.
The state properties will be offered on lease for 30 and 90 years. Land given on lease for tourism projects will be exempted from paying stamp duty and registration charges
Tourism projects will be allotted land in industrial areas, industrial parks, industrial city, IT Parks on industrial rates.
Wayside amenities will be developed on national /state highways and other major roads after every 40 to 50 km distance in a planned manner through Brownfield, Greenfield and franchise model.