Interview with Jagdish Patil, Managing Director, Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation
Mr Jagdish Patil, Managing Director of Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC), tells Business Line he is upbeat on the State's prospects.
Do you think Maharashtra is realising its full potential as a tourist destination?
I would say yes, but more is yet to come on this front. Unlike other States, Maharashtra has been bestowed with nature's bounties. It is bestowed with myriad tourist attractions such as the 720-km long coastline which harbours some of the best beaches, all season hill stations, pilgrimage centres, forts that are timeless, caves dating back in time that are now heritage monuments, wildlife spread across acres of land surfeit with rare flora and fauna, adventure sports and much more.
Maharashtra is aggressively promoting all these sectors of tourism through an energised thrust in advertising, exhibitions and trade shows both here and abroad.
MTDC has set up its own resorts in the vicinity of many tourist spots. Wherever it is not possible, it has been implementing the “bed-and-breakfast” scheme, where local house owners let out their rooms to tourists at rates approved by MTDC.
Due care is taken to ensure that such rooms meet normal hygiene standards with basic facilities. More than 800 such houses have been registered and their renewal is done every five years. This has been working well with budget travellers and has generated considerable inflow of tourists and employment opportunities for locals.
Some novel schemes have also been initiated to attract discerning tourists. At beaches like Tarkarli, Aronda, self-contained houseboats have been put into service with all amenities for a luxurious stay and unique experience midstream. MTDC has also developed many recreational facilities at various resorts and is in the process of adding more.
People within India and overseas generally have Rajasthan, Kerala and Goa in their ‘must travel' list but not Maharashtra. Is this an area of concern?
This was true to an extent in the past. However, the attitude of tourists is changing. They are looking at options which offer better value for money. With our advertising campaign coupled with efforts to organise festivals and participate in exhibitions, we have made people aware of ‘Maharashtra Tourism' and its unlimited scope. Tourists now prefer to go to beaches such as Ganapatipule, Tarkarli, Harihareshwar, Alibag and Kashid instead of those in other States. This is also true for monuments and world heritage sites such as Ajanta, Ellora and Elephanta, the forts of Raigad and Sindhudurg as well as the wildlife sanctuaries of Tadoba, Melghat, Radhanagari etc.
Ajanta- Ellora and the surrounding area is being developed under AEDP phase I & II , which include restoration of monuments, providing drinking water, visitors centre, development of roads and airport at Aurangabad etc. The Elephanta festival is drawing good crowds every year. Further development of facilities at wildlife sanctuaries has also been taken up on a priority basis.
Do you plan to draw up an aggressive plan for MTDC to drive tourism further into the State?
Yes, we are into developing adventure sports in the State. Scuba diving, snorkeling and rafting as well as paragliding facilities are in place at some destinations. Experiential tourism is being promoted in villages while the Buddhism circuit is being further developed to attract foreigners.
Medical tourism is also getting momentum as the world has realised the importance of wellness and fitness with traditional remedies and natural therapies. MICE is another area waiting to be developed. On this front, we are tying up with the hospitality and entertainment industry to provide facilities and amenities for international meets, conferences and entertainment. This is an important segment fast growing in the post-globalisation era.
Could you spell out your priorities for MTDC for the coming year?
We are considering the public-private-participation model for development of tourism in the State. Extensive infrastructure development plans are also on the anvil with widening of roads, transport services and much more which will give a new thrust to further tap the tourism potential of the State.
Maharashtra already has an ecotourism policy for the coming year. In fact, MTDC has signed an MOU with the Forest Development Corporation of Maharashtra for developing and promoting ecotourism and wildlife tourism. Vidarbha will be the focus centre and MTDC has got a sizable grant from the Ministry of Tourism for this purpose.
Will some of these initiatives include setting up new resorts in prospective spots?
We plan to conduct familiarisation tours to identify new destinations. The development of these places will be on the PPP model. There is ample scope for setting up resorts on the coastline, hill stations and heritage centres.
Infrastructure is cited as one of the limitations in Maharashtra that hinders tourism. Would you agree with this view?
This is partly true. However, the State Government has taken steps to improve infrastructure facilities. These include:
* Development of infrastructure at tourist destinations in terms of basic facilities like eateries, toilets, information centres, etc.
* Development of Mumbai as a tourist destination and a water sport centre at Girgaon of international standards. Elephanta Islands will also see development of jetty, beatification of Island and signages.
* Development of Konkan: This will include upgrading various resorts under Konan reveria circuit which includes development of three major forts – Jaigad, Vijaydurg and Sindhudurg – on the coastal line. The work will be done by PWD which includes beautification, development of the jetty, street furniture, signages, etc . Under Konkan Circuit 2 & 3 various development activities like providing proper drinking water and toilet facilities, development of jetty and signages along the coastline will be done under CFA .
* Development of tourist destinations in Marathwada and Vidharbha: The world heritage sites Ajanta- Ellora and the surrounding area is being developed under AEDP phase I & II. This includes restoration of monuments, providing drinking water, development of roads and airport at Aurangabad, etc. In Vidharbha, various destinations like Lonar (the third largest crater in the world) are being developed while Khindsi, Bor Dam, Tadoba, etc are ready.