From agro to sustainable tourism... Here's how Maharashtra is reinventing the idea of tourism amid the Covid-19 pandemic

With the idea of making tourism environment-friendly and sustainable by utilising the natural resources, the Maharashtra government can serve as an example for other administrative bodies for the revamped tourism scenario

Hema CUpdated: Tuesday, March 22, 2022, 08:42 PM IST
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Maharashtra, the third-largest and the second-most populous state in India, is one of the most attractive destinations for tourists across India. Not just it is known for being home to all the celebrities and business tycoons but also for the picturesque beauty, water bodies, safety to women, and its inclusive culture that welcomes people from every part of the country and makes them feel at home. And to continue to offer the best of experience to tourists and the residents of the state, the Maharashtra government is leaving no stone unturned to push policies that enhance the growth of the tourism sector in the state.

If you are living in Mumbai, you may often spot Maharashtra Tourism Minister Aaditya Thackeray on the streets. The Shiv Sena scion has been tirelessly working with a concrete plan to improve the city’s looks. With several beautification projects, driving the Brinhanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) — touted to be Asia’s richest civic body, with a budget of Rs 39,000 crore for 2021-22 — to implement his ideas.

Aditya has often been quoted saying that the tourism industry would act as a sponge to absorb the highest number of jobs and generate revenue for the state in the post-Covid world. There is no doubt that the tourism landscape has shifted radically after the vaccines have emerged. More and more travellers are approaching tourism differently and choosing their places that are safe and easy on restrictions. Governments on the other hand are trying to attract overseas travellers amidst a drop in COVID-19 infections in India and Maharashtra is at the forefront of this movement to boost tourism in the state.

Soon after taking over in November 2019, Aaditya launched a project called the South Mumbai Heritage Walk, to encourage tourists to visit heritage structures. In the years, for the first time, he opened the doors of the iconic BMC and high court buildings for tourists. Reportedly, the usual two-three days to Mumbai has changed to a three-four day vacation within the city — thanks to the wide range of tourist spots and activities. In addition, the state is also attracting people for work from home opportunities. Places like Karjat, Mahabaleshwar, Matheran and even Konkan have become favourites among people working from home and they are extending their stays for five to six weeks.

Prioritising sustainable tourism

To make the state an attractive tourist destination for all age groups, the Maharashtra government has been developing different tourism circuits like fort circuit, Buddhism circuit, the Bhakti circuit complementing popular destinations like Shirdi, Siddhivinayak, three and a half Shaktipeeths, and Pandarpur, Ashtavinayak and Shegaon. “I can say that we have a very optimistic and futuristic atmosphere to invest in Maharashtra as well as to visit Maharashtra,” said Milind Borikar, Director, Directorate of Tourism (DoT), Maharashtra Tourism, in his statement and added that the government is working towards a policy that is environment friendly and that talk about deploying cleaner sources of energy like solar energy, wind energy, and electric vehicles. “Wherever we are going as tourists what we are seeing is the deterioration of our surroundings which is most dangerous for our future generations,” he added.

On the other hand, considering a wide variety of destinations to attract domestic and international tourists, which will further the economy and employment, the government has cleared that the state needs more tourism spots. The government has also expressed the wish to develop tourism around flowers on Kaas Pathar in Satara like Amsterdam’s Tulip Garden. And given the time due to the pandemic, the department has come up with several policies and also eased processes of granting clearances. According to the officials, the forest sector is also picking up and people want to go into the wild and explore. “Caravan tourism has picked up. Agro-tourism is doing well in Maharashtra as we have seen in Tuscany. Wineries in Nashik, strawberry farms in Mahabaleshwar, mango farms in Konkan, just staying on a farm is an experience because they are safe and being in nature, as opposed to being in a crowd in a hotel. The Agro-tourism concept is catching on like wildfire. Wherever we have space and where farmers can expand their homes, agro-tourism is developing,” Thackeray added in his statement. 

Streamlining adventure tourism

Maharashtra is the fifth state in the country in terms of organising several adventure tours so invariably; the state is expected to be on top with its policies for boosting the adventure activities with safety. Therefore, the state is boosting the activities like mountaineering, trekking, bungee jumping, mountain biking, cycling, canoeing, scuba diving, rafting, kayaking, zip-lining, paragliding, hiking, exploring, canyoneering, sandboarding, caving, and rock climbing to boost tourism in the state. 

As the state offers several sea sports and trekking opportunities, modern amenities have been introduced at the MTDC’s Sinhagad property. In addition, the government has also tied up with Maharashtra State Institute of Hotel Management and Catering Technology, Pune for skill development training of the MTDC staff. “These initiatives are aimed at promoting Maharashtra as a most sought-after tourist destination and promoting its unique cultural identity to the world,” said Aaditya Thackeray in his statement.  “There were no rules related to adventure tourism and accidents were also happening. The policy is an attempt to streamline the activities by covering all the three mediums of adventure tourism — land, water, and air. It will cover all tour operators that organise adventure tourism. It means they will have to follow all the rules while organizing adventure tourism tours for amateurs and tourists,” Aaditya further added his statement.

The minister also added that the state government’s priority is to save the lives of the people. “We want to encourage adventure tourism and send a message that it is safe for them. We want Maharashtra to lead in tourism once the Covid pandemic is over,” he said.

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