In an exclusive interview on the occasion of World Tourism Day, Maharashtra Joint Director (Directorate of Tourism) Dr Dhananjay Sawalkar explains the government’s strategy.
Q: What is the status of implementation of the tourism policy, caravan policy, adventure policy, beach shack policy and agro-tourism policy
A: So far, 13 Caravans have registered under the policy. Under the new adventure tourism policy, more than 25 different adventure activities, including paragliding, trekking, water rappelling, river rafting, biking, rock climbing, and scuba diving, are covered. Over 800 adventure tour operators have registered themselves under the policy. These are a mixture of land, air and water activities. Registration is mandatory for all adventure tour operators who conduct any of the 25 activities mentioned in the policy. At present, our adventure tourism committee is in the process of inspecting the sites and distributing temporary certificates to the operators.
We are yet to begin registrations for setting up temporary beach shacks at several beaches. Applications will soon be called for Guhagar, Arevare, Kunkeshwar, Tarkarli, Varsoli, Diveagar, Kelva and Bordi beaches in the first phase, where ten shacks will be installed on each beach.
For agro-tourism centres, over 800 applications have been received, out of which 435 units have been registered.
Under giving "industry status" to the hospitality sector, we have received around 450 applications from across Maharashtra and the first phase of hotel inspection in Pune has culminated. By month end, the inspection of other regions will also begin.
Q: Despite these initiatives, why is Maharashtra still lacking in attracting tourists?
A: The response we have been receiving from tourists from all over India is very positive. When it comes to the conservation or development of a destination/location, as they come under other departmental jurisdiction, we cannot take any steps. We do face such situations several times, but we also know and see the potential the state has and accordingly take efforts by proposing different projects, keeping the respective departments in the loop.
We are creating an ecosystem of stakeholders, which wasn’t done earlier. This will help in building a network of stakeholders and selling our products to a wider audience. Similarly, we are also focusing on creating luxurious basic amenities at various destinations.
We are doing everything possible to improve the infrastructure wherever required and expand our reach. I am sure that in a couple of years, Maharashtra will be in the position it deserves.
Q: What are you offering more to make Maharashtra the favoured tourist destination?
A: We have proposed several projects that will soon be approved by the government. A few of them include providing basic amenities at various forts so that more tourists visit them and learn about our history and tradition. We will be illuminating 13 iconic & historic monuments in Mumbai for promoting night tourism. Under PPP, we have facilitated the development of luxurious properties all across Maharashtra to attract more tourists.
The recent archaeological discovery of a cave site in the forests of Sindhudurg, approximately 10 km from the Koloshi village, by the Directorate of Archaeology, Government of Maharashtra is phenomenal. Archaeologists have found several stone tools that could be anywhere from 10,000 to 48,000 years old. Such cave sites are rarely found in India.
Our Konkan plateau is a treasure of archaeological sites whether they are the petroglyphs (rock carvings) of Ratnagiri or these recently discovered cave sites.
Apart from this, we have sea forts, beautiful unexplored beaches and so much more to see in Konkan. The five-star property, which will soon be coming up at Shiroda and the coastal highway joining Mumbai with Sindhudurg district, will be significant in boosting tourism here.