World Tourism Day 2020: Maharashtra will offer exciting new products, says Tourism Director Dilip Gawade

COVID-19 has made an impact on the tourism sector. What are Maharashtra government's plans to give a much-needed push to revive the sector?

The Government of Maharashtra and, especially, the Department of Tourism has been hands-on throughout the pandemic. Beginning with facilitating the tourists who were stranded here due to the lockdown and cancellation of flights, to the utilisation of our facilities in the hospitality sector as quarantine centres, the department has undertaken strident measures for the same. World over, this is an unprecedented time for the travel and tourism industry and our approach has been to take utmost precaution and at the same time hand-hold the industry towards revival. As a part of this, under the state's Mission Begin Again the industry has been permitted to open up in a phase wise and cautious manner so as to ensure the safety of lives and livelihoods at the same time.

Besides multiple interactions with the industry associations and representatives, we have formulated COVID protocols for the various sectors in tourism such as hospitality, destinations and service providers. Considering the newfound interest of tourists in staycations and holidays in isolated locations, the state has decidedly focused on Coastal Tourism through the recently sanctioned Beach Shack Policy and Agro Tourism through the Agro-Tourism Policy. Similarly, policies on Adventure Tourism and Caravan Tourism are also in the pipeline.

There are various other support initiatives being considered by the department in close consultation with the industry and the domain experts to ensure that the tourism industry in the state and its various dependents can remain resilient in these difficult times and come out of it stronger.

Maharashtra has a tremendous potential. Which areas will the government focus on post COVID-19 to attract domestic and international tourists?

Maharashtra has been indeed blessed with a veritable bouquet of potential tourism thrust factors. A long coastline, pristine beaches, impenetrable forts, wildlife are just a few of the areas the state is known for. However, what truly makes the Maharashtra experience stand out is the warm and inviting hospitality of our people and our various service providers.

They are indeed the backbone. The department of tourism has dedicatedly decided to focus its efforts on two fronts in the post COVID-19 scenario: Opening up hitherto unrealised tourism thrust areas such as caravan tourism, adventure activities, promoting culinary experiences and walking city tours. The idea is to offer safe, but exciting new tourism products to tourists.

Support the tourism industry stakeholders and ensure their revival through regulatory, legislative and legal simplifications so as to facilitate stakeholders in not just resuming business, but also attracting newer target tourist groupings to the above mentioned categories.

We would urge the domestic tourists and residents of the State to support the industry in this crucial time and take this opportunity to explore the many destinations present in their vicinity at a time when long distance travel is restricted.

What is the present status of the state’s tourism policy? Will it be amended considering the impact COVID has on the tourism and hospitality sector? Is the government considering some additional incentives to attract private investments?

The State government is committed to doing everything in its power to facilitate the sector. At the moment the focus of the department is to provide direct tangible benefits as much as possible to support employment and investment in the sector. As a means of incentivizing investments in the sector, the government has recently relaxed its rules for attracting private investments in government properties in the form of PPP. Furthermore, we are in the process of seeking private investment for seven properties of MTDC, to be operated by reputed hospitality operators.

Through your medium I would like to assure investors of the government's commitment to the sector and its stakeholders. Together we can rebuild and revive this sector in the post COVID-19 scenario.

How do you see the Caravan Tourism’s growth in the state?

In a scenario where people are opting for safer and socially distanced tourism avenues, caravan tourism offers a unique opportunity to undertake a trip in a safe manner. Maharashtra has been one of the first states to identify the potential in this segment by announcing it as a part of its tourism policy in 2016. As soon as the restrictions on public movement were lifted as a part of Mission Begin Again, the department, upon sensing the urge amongst today's travel friendly generation, rolled out this campervan in association with MOTOHOM. We believe this presents a unique opportunity to the youngsters to undertake road trips and explore the state in a safe and sound manner.

What measures are being taken to further ease of doing business in the tourism sector in the state?

The department of tourism is keen on facilitating tourism businesses in the state in their efforts to rebuild and revive. The department has been working steadfastly to reduce and simplify the regulatory legal protocols for tourism businesses.

We have achieved a record number of reductions in the permissions and licenses required for the hospitality sector bringing it down from the previous 70 to 15 now. The department under the able leadership of our tourism minister is keen to reduce it further with the ultimate aim of having a single window clearance system in place.

Furthermore, the department is also keen to undertake a similar initiative for the events sector in the state.

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