The state of Madhya Pradesh since the past few years has worked towards strengthening its tourism portfolio and is building its brand as an attractive tourism product for both national and international clientele. At the recently held Madhya Pradesh Tourism’s foundation day event on May 24, 2012, Pankaj Rag, secretary-Tourism, Government of Madhya Pradesh and MD, MPSTDC, elaborated on the state’s plans towards developing new tourism zones with an aim to attract foreign nationals to the state and also introduce special tourism namely caravan tourism etc. Further, the state is also focused on promoting itself amongst the film fraternity as a potential film tourism destination. Dr Mohan Yadav, chairman, MPSTDC, highlighted the state’s rich culture and tradition and the importance and global significance of the city of Ujjain, its rich heritage and culture and the scheduled Kumbh Mela to be held in 2016. Santosh Jain, vice chairman, MPSTDC and Vinod Semwal, principal secretary tourism, Madhya Pradesh was also present at the event. The following are the highlights of the state’s initiatives and future plans and agenda.
Madhya Pradesh has introduced the concept of caravan tourism as one of its innovative entries in its portfolio. Terming it as Holiday Wheels, the caravan travels on a four circuits presently, namely, *Bhopal-Tawa-Pachmarhi, *Orchha-Shivpuri-Khajuraho, *Indore-Maheshwar-Omkareshwar-Mandu, *Bhopal-Sanchi-Bhojpur-Bhimbetka. The Caravan Bay facilities are also available in various places spread over the state. The state has also announced its offer to have open bids from interested party’s to get into the business of running caravan facilities in the state.
Film tourism destination
The state has strongly expressed its intent to project and promote itself as a vibrant film tourism destination. Regions such as Bhopal, Pachmarhi, Orchha, Bhedaghat have been marked as potential zones for filming. A couple of popular art as well as mainstream cinema from the Indian film industry have been shot in Madhya Pradesh and there are ongoing projects in the state.
Intra-state air connectivity
Though the state is yet not well connected in terms of air travel from major metros of India, the state’s intra air connectivity is well structured and defined. The state is in agreement with a private company Ventura Airconnect headed by UK Bose. Through the venture cities connected include Bhopal-Indore-Gwalior-Jabalpur-Khajuraho-Rewa-Nagpur. Plans are also underway to connect other neighbouring cites to the state through the venture.
Wayside amenities (WSA) are being developed in 268 locations in the state of which 30 have received approvals from the government and 45 more locations will be developed in the coming years with a budget marked for approximately Rs 24 crore for development.
Focus on MICE
The state is keen to build its MICE infrastructure and also play host to MICE events across sectors in the state. The state has been conducting B2B meets, conferences and conventions both government related as well as private in the state capital Bhopal, Khajuraho amongst others, with FICCI, CII and other associations. Madhya Pradesh tourism meet was held in Khajuraho in 2012 and the International conference on Forest and Wildlife Tourism was held in Bhopal in 2011.
Spotlight on marketing and promotions
The state has chalked out a concrete plan towards marketing and promotions both in the national and international markets which include participation in international and national travel marts namely ITB-Berlin, WTM-London, national travel events and exhibitions.
Focus on foreign tourist arrivals
The state has chalked out a plan to bring in international clientele by organising regular road shows in key international markets. Also conduct aggressive publicity campaigns in print, radio and electronic media in the international circuit. The tourism board has organised a Madhya Pradesh Mela in London and Paris, setting up house boat facilities in Tawa and Bargi to attract foreigners, boast air connectivity and also improve train services.
Sanchi: Developing a golf course, sound and light show (SEL), improve air connectivity, development of buddhist circuit and also introduce excursion tours.
Khajuraho: Develop a golf course and an entertainment zone, excursion tours to Dhubela and Panna, introduce tourist trains, improve air connectivity. There are also plans to build a convention centre.
Gwalior: Excursion tours to Mitavli, Padavali, Bateshwar, Narwar Fort, Shivpuri amongst others. Introduce Chambal safari from Gwalior and Agra, publicise the Tansen Music Festival and build a hertiage zone around Baija Tal.
Orchha: Build a heritage plaza, heritage walk, development of river front, better signages, improve street cattle management and also sanitation solutions.
Mandu: Introduce SEL show and develop projects on the PPP model.
Maheshwar: Develop a SEL Show, water sports and heritage zone.
Pachmarhi Develop SEL Show, adventure zone, golf course, ropeway, three new hotel upgradation, meadows maintenance, street cattle management. The state is keen to develop regions on the basis of tourism concepts namely marriage and wedding tourism in Khajuraho, Orchha and Pachmarhi, heritage hotel development in Rajgarh and Datia.
Creation of land banks, 455 hectors land has been identified for tourism promotion in the state. Land parcels in six places, a fort (Govindgarh, Rewa), Khajuraho, Orchha, Ujjain, Seoni, Hoshangabad have already been leased out. An investor’s guide -`Investment opportunity in the tourism sector in MP’ is also being introduced.
Forts and palaces into heritage hotels
The department has identified 24 private owned and seven state owned garhi and forts for conversion into heritage hotels. These are as follows, Rampur fort, Rampur dist. Guna, Arjun Mahal, Narsinghgarh dist, Rajgarh, Rani Mahal, Tikamgarh, Rani Mahal, Ratlam, Sciendia Boarding house, Neemuch, Rajgarh Palace, Datia, Madhogarh Fort, Satna.
Waterbodies and islands for development: Manmade water bodies like dams and lakes in the state are identified for tourism purpose for different kinds of water sports, namely sailing, kayaking, water skiing in places such as Tawa project, Hoshangabad, Gandhi Sagar project, Mandsour, Avanti Bai project, Bargi, Jabalpur, Indra Sagar project, Khandwa, Bansagar project, Shahdol. Islands for development are, Sailani located at Omkareshwar is first to be identified for island development followed by Mala Shree island in Gandhi Sagar.
The event also hosted a panel discussion ‘MP Tourism- The Road Ahead’, which was moderated by Rajat Sawhney, general secretary, ADTOI, along with panelist namely P P Khanna, VP, ADTOI; N M Sharafudeen, VP, TAAI; Mohan Tikoo, honorary treasurer, ATOAI; Bhupesh Rathore, senior VP, strategic initiatives and government advisory, Yes Bank; Om Vijay Choudhary, chief general manager (Marketing & Operations), MP Tourism and Reema Lokesh, editor, Express TravelWorld and Express Hospitality (The Express Group). The discussions highlighted the challenges for tourism and the road ahead in the state of Madhya Pradesh. Though there is no doubt that the state is totally focused towards improvement of tourism in the state, there is a lot more to be done to improve and attract investments in the region. There were suggestions made to improve air connectivity between states into the region and also introduce interesting attractions in the state related to tradition and culture namely saree trails, adventure tourism such as biking tourism etc. It was also suggested that tourism cannot work in isolation hence it would be highly encouraging to get hoteliers, ground handlers, travel operators working as a team to present the state as an attractive tourism zone. The focus was to offer experiential tourism in a seamless fashion especially if one hopes to attract foreign clientele. However, it was highlighted that domestic tourism is the vital force and whether national or international clientele, the state needs to present itself as a perfect value for money destination. Apart from the panel discussion a photo exhibition and a musical ghazal event was organised to mark the state’s tourism foundation day.
Though there are couple of developmental issues related to tourism, namely lack of leading hospitality players establishing their presence in the state to that of air connectivity into the state’s leading cites from the country’s major metros. The state is working towards resolving the bottlenecks along with the state government and is looking at roping in greater support and investments into the state.