‘Our endeavours will spiral state’s tourist graph’

For 2024, plans are up the sleeve to connect at least 10 offbeat destinations with the mainstream tourism, says Sheo Shekhar Shukla, Principal Secretary, Tourism and Culture and Managing Director, Madhya Pradesh Tourism Board

It was in 2017 that Madhya Pradesh Tourism Board, also referred to as MPTB, was established with the objective to promote tourism in the state. The core objectives of MPTB include development of tourism with public, private partnership in sustainable manner, investor facilitation, skill development, publicity / promotion of tourist destinations nationally and internationally and identification and development of tourism infrastructure in the state.

In an exclusive interview, Sheo Shekhar Shukla, Principal Secretary, Tourism and Culture and Managing Director, Madhya Pradesh Tourism Board, shares his plans in place for revival of tourism in the state, initiatives for inbound tourism and transformative changes in MP’s tourism landscape.

Developments and achievements

A diverse and multifaceted approach led MPTB cater to the 360-degree interests of the tourists. The state is an offbeat multispecialty destination of first choice and the introduction of new circuits, festivals and setting of luxurious tent cities at offbeat destinations, providing rural experiences were some of the hallmarks of 2023. “The first editions of Kuno and Chanderi festivals got a good jumpstart while the Mandu, Jal Mahotsav and the Gandhi Sagar Floating Festival made novel ways to attract visitors including the sprawling ultra-luxurious glamping experiences around these destinations. A unique initiative of transforming the state into an adventure hub with air-based activity like Skydiving Festival in Ujjain and Khajuraho is one-of-its-kind as diving aficionados get an opportunity to dive from 10,000 ft,” shares Shukla. Forthcoming events enlist Queens on the Wheel for women bikers, the first-ever marathon at Khajuraho before 50th Khajuraho Dance Festival, Pachmarhi Monsoon Marathon, Tawa Madai cycling for fitness enthusiasts and a lot more.

MP Tourism Policy and fostering entrepreneurship 

Madhya Pradesh Tourism Policy envisions to promoting Experiential Tourism, Community-based Agri Tourism and Sustainable Tourism for socio-economic development. “It establishes MP as a comprehensive tourism destination and encourages incentives for resorts, eco-tourism projects, wayside amenities, etc for infrastructure development and manpower training to create a ‘tourist-friendly’ image and enhance employment opportunities to ensure skill development, capital subsidies, land allotment policies, ease of doing business measures as financial support, promote niche tourism like wellness, adventure, rural and tribal experiences for diversification,” informs Shukla. 

The policies impact on entrepreneurship is another benchmark as it inculcates handsome incentives and simplified procedures for starting tourism ventures easily, opening innovative ventures, trainings and sustainable tourism. The Board is anticipating more tourism enterprises across Madhya Pradesh, especially in rural and remote areas, creation of new jobs and economic growth within the tourism sector, enhanced tourist experience with diverse offerings and improved infrastructure and positive impact on local communities and cultural preservation.

Safe Tourism Campaign

Safe Tourism Destination for Women (STDW) is being implemented by Madhya Pradesh Tourism Board for making tourist destinations safer and comfortable for women travellers. The project activities are under implementation at 50 tourist destinations, under 20 clusters in 33 districts. “Ten thousand women who are being engaged in the skill development programme and around 30,000 girls from each destination, schools and communities have been given self-defence training. Till January 2024, more than 29,387 girls and women got trained and active as social capital at their destinations to support the tourism and cultural events. Ten thousand women in project area are being trained and 48 job roles to engage at the destinations to maximised women workforce. A total of 6,591 women have been trained and linked with livelihood opportunities at tourist destinations,” he says. At many destinations, women are coming first time for taking skill training in several job roles like Gypsy drivers, sailors, forest guides, security guards and other hospitability services.

Plans for revival of tourism 

In an effort to boost tourism, Madhya Pradesh government has mapped an innovative strategy for 2024. “We have a buoyant plan for Cruise Tourism in 2024. The main attraction will be the nearly 130 km inter-state cruise on river Narmada from the Statue of Oneness in Omkareshwar to the Statue of Unity in Gujarat. The multi-option, multi-destination cruises will be punctuated with rural experiences in between the two destinations. Madhya Pradesh has successfully transformed into a hub for ‘film shooting’ and multiple projects including feature films, TV serials / series, TVCs and reality shows,” informs the Managing Director, Madhya Pradesh Tourism Board.

The 108-feet-tall ‘Statue of Oneness’ of Adi Shankaracharya at Omkareshwar and Mahakal Lok at Ujjain, he adds, were masterstrokes of government to cater to the expectation of travellers fond of visiting spiritual destinations. “Gwalior and Orchcha have been selected by UNESCO as a part of a Historic Urban Landscape Recommendation and UNESCO has selected Gwalior under the Creative City Network for ‘Music Activity’,” shares Shukla.

Initiatives for inbound tourism 

Unfurling immense opportunities in infrastructure and hospitality sectors, India assumed the G20 presidency on December 1, 2022, articulating the theme of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. Madhya Pradesh showcased its folk culture, cuisine and hospitality in three cities – Bhopal, Indore and Khajuraho in over nine meetings. “Continuing the efforts to increase inbound tourism, the state is participating in major international tourism fairs and roadshows to connect with the international tour operators and about 1,400 delegates from across the G20 member nations who attended these meetings in Madhya Pradesh,” he says. 

Post-Covid19, the tourism industry has undergone a significant transformation, with the government’s focus on improving infrastructure, promoting sustainable tourism and showcasing the country’s unique attractions to the world. Madhya Pradesh also reaped the benefits of this by increasing inbound tourists. “Social media plays a major role in increasing inbound tourism. The Tourism Board keenly promotes cultural festivals like Khajuraho Dance Festival for international tourists,” he adds.

Transformative changes in MP’s tourism landscape

Shukla informs the state tourism introduced safe culturally rich rural and wellness destinations like homestays, gram stays and farm stays under Rural Tourism which got accolades on the international stage. “The year 2023 was remarkable for MPTB as its Responsible Tourism mission achieved the set goal of eco-friendly stay options for tourists and providing safe tourist destinations for women travellers alongside fostering entrepreneurship. In 2023, 64 new homestays were built in 28 villages and 313 homestays are under construction in 67 villages. As of now, 226 units are registered and 450 rooms are available for tourists,” he says. 

In 2024, plans are up the sleeve to connect at least 10 offbeat destinations with the mainstream tourism. The process for tapping the offbeat destinations had kick-started in 2023 and in 2024, this will take a more robust shape to ensure a memorable Wellness Tourism experience for visitors.

Collaborative efforts with private partners 

To boost sustainable development, Madhya Pradesh has associated with private stakeholders to develop tourist destinations, expanding amenities, facilities, products and services to tourists and host adventure-thrill-based festivals like Gandhi Sagar Floating Festival, Kuno Forest Festival, Chanderi Festival and Jal Mahotsav. “In a bid to enhance connectivity between various destinations, the tourism department is working to reintroduce small aircraft under PPP. The 2024 calendar will have retreats for yoga and meditation. Wellness retreats will have a number of creative offerings too and the plan is to host 12 such retreats in the first year, followed by 24 and 36 in second and third years. The retreats will be hosted in select hotels owned by Madhya Pradesh State Tourism Development Corporation. I’m confident the endeavours will spiral the tourist graph of the state,” he ends on a positive note.


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