To enhance its tourist offerings and attract more visitors, Madhya Pradesh Tourism is now actively promoting several new products and segments. The state has planned two upcoming festivals, the Chanderi Festival and the Kuno Festival 2023 within the next two months.
To be held from October 5, the Chanderi Festival is designed to showcase the craftsmanship of Chanderi’s handwoven textiles, its historical monuments and forts. The Kuno Festival 2023 will celebrate the state’s wildlife, with a special focus being the translocation of Cheetahs in India for the first time in 72 years. The dates for the fest are yet to be decided.
“The idea is to create a comprehensive tourist experience that combines adventure, heritage, and local culture,” said Sheo Shekhar Shukla, Principal Secretary Tourism and MD of Madhya Pradesh Tourism Board.
Besides these, the state plays host to the signature festivals like Khajuraho Dance Festival, Tansen Festival and Hanuwantia Water Carnival. MP is also preparing for the Gandhisagar Festival scheduled from October 27, known to be Asia’s first Floating Festival.
Tourism makes a comeback
In an interaction with ETTravelWorld, Shukla said that despite facing the brunt of the pandemic, Madhya Pradesh’s tourism has made a remarkable comeback, with wellness, adventure and MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions) driving the surge.
“In 2022, we ranked among the top 10 states in terms of foreign tourist arrivals. Approximately 34,138,757 tourists visited the state in 2022, marking a 33 per cent increase from the previous year,” said Sheo Shekhar Shukla, Principal Secretary Tourism and MD of Madhya Pradesh Tourism Board.
According to him, the state witnessed a substantial surge in domestic tourism recording an “all time high”.
“The pandemic had affected tourism but now it has bounced back with a vengeance. In 2023, we hope to reach pre-Covid numbers,” added Shukla.
The state, renowned for its wildlife tourism, continues to attract enthusiasts.
Additionally, religious and spiritual tourism has thrived following initiatives like the development of the Mahakaal Corridor in Ujjain and the Adi Shankaracharya project in Omkareshwar. Other religious destinations, including the Raja Ram temple in Orchha, Chitrakoot, and Maihar, have also seen a surge in tourist visits, confirmed Shukla.
50 tribal tourism villages to push homestays
Rural tourism stands as another pivotal focus for the Madhya Pradesh Tourism Board, diligently working on offering rural life experience for the visiting tourists.
In a recent development, Madhya Pradesh has set sights on establishing 50 new tribal tourism villages, with an aim of embracing the indigenous culture deeply rooted in the state. This project is now approved by the Central Ministry and in the forthcoming months, the tribal-rich regions within Madhya Pradesh, including Dhar, Jhabua, Alirajpur, Khargone, Ratlam, Betul, Tikamgarh, and Dindori, will undergo an extensive development, confirmed Shukla.
These villages will offer homestays, market platforms, and community gatherings to provide tourists with authentic tribal experiences. The tourism board will encourage and train the locals of these tribes with the help of Project Support Organizations (PSO’s) and NGO’s to cater to the needs of the tourists and provide them with authentic experiences of the region.
“These tribal villages will not only provide accommodation but also engage with tourists personally, offering local cuisine and eco-tourism activities,” said Shukla.
To develop this niche market, Madhya Pradesh Tourism Board had implemented its Rural Tourism Project to develop several villages for homestays, which are now actively interwoven in the tourist graph and have been listed as an important component of the tourist growth strategy.
In one of his previous interactions with ETTravelWorld, Shukla had expressed his vision of seeing about 1,000 homestays opening up in MP in the next few years.
In its pursuit of developing this niche market, the Madhya Pradesh Tourism Board previously launched the Rural Tourism Project. This initiative led to the development of numerous villages that now offer homestays that are now recognised as a vital element of the state’s tourism growth strategy, stated Shukla.
In his earlier interactions, Shukla had expressed his vision of 1,000 homestays emerging across MP in the coming years.
Women’s participation & safety
Going the Kerala-way, Madhya Pradesh Tourism is committed to promoting sustainable and responsible tourism through its Responsible Tourism Mission (RTM) which aims to empower local communities to participate in tourism, fostering the growth of local tourism products. The Tourism Board collaborates with various departments to ensure women’s safety and vibrant rural culture in the state.
Under the Safe Tourism Destinations Project, Madhya Pradesh Tourism is now working to create a safe and inclusive environment for women. The project is approved by the Central Ministry of Women and Child Development Department under the “Nirbhaya Scheme” and the project is being operated by MP Tourism Board.
This project involves skill development, self-defense training, safety audits, and infrastructure assessments for women in 50 tourist destinations. The project is being implemented in a phased manner by dividing 50 tourist destinations into 20 clusters in which a sustainable environment is being created for women.
“MP Tourism has already successfully trained more than 21,000 women for self-defense since the initiation of the project and more than 4,000 women have been trained to develop their skills as guides, drivers, chefs, hospitality individuals, boat drivers, souvenir producers and most importantly as Paryatan Sakhi (Tourism Consultants within the clusters),” informed Shukla.
In due time, these trained women will offer their services in significant roles in tourism like museum guides, security arrangements, temple management and other aspects where the participation of women is relatively lesser.
Global reach, collaborations & connectivity
Initiated in 2016, the collaborations with key international markets, such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe, China, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Australia, have been instrumental, asserted Shukla. To further expand its global reach, Madhya Pradesh Tourism has been actively promoting its products in international markets.
“We have signed several MoU’s to boost tourism and are constantly in touch with the embassies of all our prominent source markets through webinars and on-line meetings,” Shukla said.
Besides, the Tourism Board conducts extensive promotions, trade fairs, workshops, and webinars to connect with travel trade professionals and media.
Notably, Madhya Pradesh hosted Pravasi Bhartiya Diwas in Indore and organised multiple G20 meetings in various cities like Indore, Bhopal, and Khajuraho. These events, said Shukla, left a lasting impression on all participants and foreign delegates, who were captivated by the region’s beauty and the warm hospitality it offered.
Madhya Pradesh Tourism has also expanded its global presence by participating in renowned events such as the Buddhabhoomi event in Thailand and hosting roadshows in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
“We are continually exploring collaborations and partnerships to showcase Madhya Pradesh’s beauty and hospitality to the world,” affirmed Shukla.
As tourism in the state continues to flourish, connectivity also remains a compelling reason for travellers looking at Madhya Pradesh.
Currently, Madhya Pradesh has excellent air and land connectivity, with direct flights to major cities like Bhopal, Indore, Jabalpur, Gwalior, and Khajuraho. When asked about the immediate future plans, Shukla confirmed that the Tourism Board has had several deliberations and is working closely with private airlines and aviation centers to improve intra-state connectivity further.
“The results would be visible very soon,” he concluded on a positive note.