Konkan, a coastal region in Maharashtra spread across four districts – Thane, Raigad, Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg – is attracting the attention of tourists both, inbound and outbound. With a 72 km coastline, its pristine beaches and backwaters, forts and ghats (the Western Ghats which runs through the region was recently declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO), farms and fruits (the world renowned Alphonso mangoes are endemic to this region), the Konkan region is a tourist haven waiting to be explored.
Realising this, the Kokan Bhumi Prastishthan (KBP) was set up 10 years ago to spearhead development in the region and give it a definite direction. With the support of hoteliers and tour operators in the region, the KBP has taken many initiatives with the main aim of promoting the destination as well as encouraging entrepreneurial ventures like Farm Tourism Centres which will provide employment to the youth in the region. To tap the tourism potential of the region, KBP has been organising initiatives like Village Tourism Festival, Beach Festival and Global Kokan every year. Partnering with the Maharashtra government, KBP launched the Global Kokan initiative in 2011 to provide a global perspective to nature, tourist spots, industries, artists, culture and folk arts of the region. The next Global Kokan will be held from January 4 to 7, 2013 in Mumbai which is expected to draw around five lakh visitors. Speaking to Express Hospitality, Sanjay Yadavrao, president (KBP) and executive president, Global Kokan said, “Global Kokan 2013 will be historic for us in many ways. At the event we will be launching a one stop online portal www.konkanmall.com with a 24-hour helpline. Hoteliers in the region can register on the portal so that tourists can find all their needs at one spot. We will also be launching the first coffee table on Konkan tourism which will cover all tourist destinations in the region, from Dahanu to Vengurla, from Jawahar to Amboli. There will also be Maharashtra’s first Fish Aquarium and Fish Festival where we will showcase all varieties of marine life including and sea fish like bangda, bombil, surmai, etc which are endemic to the coastline of the region.” As precursor to the event, in December, the Global Kokan Motorcycle and Car Rally is being organised covering 2,000 km and a Village Tourism Festival will be held where visitors can stay in villages and experience village trekking, cultural fests, local cuisine, beach sports and fishing. In 2015, KBP plans to organise Global Kokan overseas.
Citing examples of Kerala and Madhya Pradesh, he urged hoteliers and tour operators to change their outlook and bring in more energy and channelise their efforts to sell the destination. “We should promote Konkan not just in India but also globally. We want to put Konkan on the world map. And we can do this only by upgrading our facilities and bringing in standardisation and professionalism. Konkan attracts around one crore tourists every year without much promotion. So if we work harder and upgrade all our hotels, and improve infrastructure, then tourism will flow to the region,” Yadavrao reiterated. He believed that the region should benefit from its proximity to Mumbai and Pune, which account for most of the present tourist traffic.
Vithal Kamat, CMD, Kamat Hotels India said, “We should use the case studies of Kerala and Rajasthan as benchmarks. We must strive to go beyond the standards set by these states. If we can have an Incredible India, why not a Credible Konkan? We need to develop all classes of tourism and not just ‘mass tourism’. People already know about Konkan as a region, but we need airports, good roads and good hotels to increase the region’s credibility. A tourist anywhere in the world is the same. All he needs is a good bed and a clean toilet. What distinguishes a good hotel from the bad is the quality and service. You should provide a customer what you would expect from a good hotel.” Kamat also urged the tour operators to promote religious tourism, adventure tourism and eco tourism in the region. Taking Goa as an example, he added, “We must turn calamity into opportunity. Goa played up its monsoons and promoted monsoon tourism and now tourists flock to the place during the rains. A lean season has now turned into a peak period.” He believes that hotels should be transparent in what they are offering. “If it is a basic adventure tourism resort with no TV and no air conditioning, let the tourist know about it beforehand,” he advised.
Kamat felt that planning is needed to promote niche tourism products like ecotourism. “It is not about just selling mangoes!,” he exclaimed. He also stressed on the need for training and coaching of guides, taxi drivers, etc.
Yadavrao agrees, “Every district in Konkan must have a hospitality institute. All parties concerned – tour operators, hoteliers and associations must meet every month to brainstorm and make improvements.”
He also revealed that KBP is planning a promotion campaign titled ‘No Kashmir. No Kanyakumari. No Kulu Manali. Only Konkan’ for the coming summer peak season. “We are also developing some Adivasi villages which tourists can visit. We also want to build tourism circuits within the region like from Matheran to Alibag, from Jawahar to Dahanu, etc.”