Aaditya Thackeray writes Maharashtra’s Safarnama on World Tourism Day
In these turbulent times, where we find ourselves confined in our living spaces, I have realised how important it is to fulfill the urge of travelling. In all these times when going has got tough, I have often found myself reflecting on my previous travels. Last year this time, I was on a State-wide Jan Ashirwad Yatra. During the course of my travels, I journeyed through Konkan’s stunning coast, addressed rallies in the backdrop of Sahyadris’ astonishing green peaks, experienced the diverse culture of my home state, had the most delectable meals, and prayed in the rhythm of the metronome of clanging bells at temples that have lasted centuries.
Fast forward to today, as a minister for tourism, I am striving to bring all these experiences to people across the world in the most seamless way.
My firm belief is, travel- tourism- hospitality is one sector which may be our biggest saviour in a post-CoViD-19 world in terms of generating opportunities for employment and bringing revenue to the state. Therefore, before we enter a post-CoViD-19 world, it’s our effort at the tourism department to ensure that we are ready for the sector’s lift-off.
Maharashtra with all its grandeur, natural beauty, and warm hospitality has been home to many from across the country, especially for those who arrive here with aspirations and ambition. Now we are getting ready to host the curious, the backpackers, the luxury seekers, the wanderers, the lazy and the athletic, the religious, the spiritual and all those who are seeking an experience of a lifetime.
To achieve this, we want to enable every segment in the travel space through policy reforms. The strategy is twofold, ease of travel and stay, and ease of doing business in the travel industry. In the hospitality sector too, we are working on bringing down licenses to as low as single digits. We’re working with the best minds and doing all in our scope to ensure that through the tourism ministry, we facilitate the tourism sector to bring world-class services to the tourists, create opportunities for employment, and achieve overall economic and sustainable growth.
In these pandemic-stricken times, we are preparing ourselves to give tourism a lifelong boost. Currently, we are doing this through policy reforms that should have ideally been in place decades ago. In the last few months, our department has made numerous policy initiatives including the beach shack policy, which will encourage our people from the beautiful coastline to offer local delicacies to the world, to water sports on Maharashtra’s beaches. We have also passed the Agri– Tourism Policy. This will facilitate homestays in farms and encourage villages to open their lands to tourists who want to engage in experiences like strawberry picking, mango plucking, learn more about the organic lifestyle, and many such activities. Besides, we are also introducing a Caravan policy to enable those, who are fascinated by the idea of sleeping under the night sky. We are encouraging adventure activities and formalising trekking circuits in Maharashtra, especially in the Sahyadris that is dotted with forts of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.
As the department, we plan to systematically move from micro-management to being enablers, so as to let the best in the business set up and operate in Maharashtra. The MTDC presides over a bunch of hotels and land parcels that occupy some of the most majestic tourist locations in the state. We want to revive these hotels and bring greater revenue to the State. While MTDC also maintains the presence of extremely affordable hotels in Maharashtra, we also are looking at expanding luxury resorts, to bring in the luxury seekers to land their chartered planes into Maharashtra.
Sindhudurg, traditionally, has been tagged as the tourism district in Maharashtra, but it never has got its due. Right after the MVA Government took over, two five star luxury hotels have already signed in. Few more are on the way, along with the Chipi airport, Mumbai-Goa coastal highway, the beach shacks, agri-tourism, and water based activities.
Tadoba, where the majestic tigers are sighted more often currently than anywhere else, is also attracting luxury hotels because of the outreach of the MVA Government’s tourism department.
These are just two examples of a multi pronged, multi faceted tourism policy we are pursuing in Maharashtra. Coastal tourism, adventure activities, trekking, spiritual tourism, health tourism, eco tourism, heritage tourism, urban and rural tourism and the list goes on.
This land of Shakti and Bhakti has much to offer to the world.
The last 9 months of our administration at the tourismdepartment has been probably its most active time in the history of the state. CM Uddhav Thackeray ji, DCM Ajit Pawar ji, Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat ji are wholeheartedly supporting each and every effort of the department to ensure that we welcome tourists to our state and take the wonders of our beautiful state to the world. This is just the beginning of our work in the quest to open Maharashtra to the world. My colleague minister Aditi Tatkare and I are firm in our belief that tourism, while helping economic growth should also go hand in hand with sustainable development, and that is the way to move forward.
As we move ahead into the near future and hopefully inch towards a post COVID world soon, we look forward to celebrating this beautiful state and its warmth with the world. Tourism is like a sponge, it can go on absorbing more revenue, employment, and capacity, unlike any other sector. In a world that is coming so close in travel and communication, with everything on our screens, we strongly believe that experience is still an urge of human nature, and that is highly possible only through tourism. In this vast expanse of opportunities and experiences that the travel and tourism space offers, I invite everyone to join us in our endeavour to transform Maharashtra’s tourism for tomorrow.
Aaditya Thackeray is Maharashtra’s Minister for Tourism, Protocol and Environment