Ahe Maharashtra Tourism department has launched few policies during the pandemic to ensure the growth of tourism in the state. We observed some unique travel patterns or trends among these tourists. These trends were focused on experiential tourism. Our department has segregated them as follows:
Adventure activities like paragliding, scuba diving, trekking, water rappling, etc. are already being conducted across Maharashtra. The state has around 48 airstrips out of which 11 are used for scheduled flights, while others aren’t being used to their full potential.
We have plans of utilising the unused airstrips for non-scheduled flights like charters and conduct air-based adventurous activities like para-motoring, sky-diving, parachute diving and others. Some of the locations these activities can be conducted are Yavatmal, Latur, Karad, Phaltan, etc.
As the name suggests, Agro tourism involves agricultural-based activities for which tourists or travellers have to visit farms. With the availability of vast and several agricultural lands in Maharashtra, the state has immense potential in this sector.
Tourists or travellers will experience riding bullock carts, milking cows, bee-keeping, fishing, fruit plucking and everything that a farmer engages in his daily life. This also includes being a part of the rural games like ‘viti dandu’ and ‘laghori’, savouring delicious home-cooked food like ‘ghavne’, ‘amboli’, ‘pitla-bhakri’, ‘maswadi’ ‘thalipeeth’ etc. either as a spectator or a participant.
Under our agro tourism policy, around 400 agro tourism centres are registered with us who are willing to provide such homely experiences to tourists along with providing them with accommodation.
Glamping in caravan
This is a new term in tourism which is a combination of glamorous and camping. It is a form of camping that involves more luxurious accommodation and facilities as compared to the traditional form of camping. Here, caravans serve the purpose.
In the past few years, the government has focused more on wildlife sanctuaries and forest conservations. Eco tourism and wildlife tourism have enough potential and can be a prominent segment with 50 wildlife sanctuaries in the state. Every sanctuary has its own peculiarity in terms of wildlife, biodiversity, geological features etc.
Urban heritage tourism
We have several heritage structures including churches, temples, railway stations, buildings etc. in cities that citizens/tourists, in their daily busy life, fail to notice. These structures have historical and architectural values that deserve the attention of tourists, which they are getting.
A couple of examples are the heritage walk of Bombay High Court, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation building, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus building, old fort etc. being conducted for tourists. There are old villages in Mumbai like the Kothachiwadi that are also gaining popularity among tourists and citizens. As more curious and learned tourists are visiting cities, the scope of urban heritage tourism has increased.
Plans for the future
Focusing on unique products: Every state has their unique tourism products like Rajasthan has heritage tourism, Kerala has backwaters, Uttarakhand has mountains, and we have sea forts and caves that are ancient and fascinate all types of tourists and travellers. Maharashtra is home to nearly 800 caves at 65 different locations.
Caves like Pandavleni at Nasik are from as early as the first century BC and a cluster of 32 rock-cut Buddhist caves at Ajanta, that are recognised as UNESCO world heritage site, are popular all over the world. These caves were carved about 1500 to 2200 years ago. We are also focusing on the uniqueness of Maharashtrian culture and festivals like Wari and Ganesh Chaturthi, local dance forms like tamasha, lavani, koli nritya, povada, waghya-murali, and lezim.
Role of stakeholders: Earlier there was no ecosystem of stakeholders like accredited tour operators, hoteliers, tour guides etc. We have begun the process and hope to soon complete it. Once that is in place, through our stakeholders, we will not only sell individual destinations (products) but also tour packages including long itineraries that would cater to long-duration tours like six to 10 days.
We will be participating in roadshows, travel marts etc. along with the co-exhibitors and keep them engaged in continuous activities. Additionally, we are organizing FAM tours for stakeholders, media and influencers to take them around and show them the true potential of Maharashtra.
Connectivity and accommodation: With more than three lakh kilometers of roadways, 11 operational airports, 18 national highways, and enormous rail and metro networks, Maharashtra is the most accessible state in India. We also have huge accommodation inventories of all categories ranging from five-star hotels to budgeted ones like B&B, homestays and tents.
Marketing and promotions: We are focusing on our strengths with the support of all our departments namely market research, marketing, digital marketing and publicity. We will be aggressively using digital platforms for marketing compared to the traditional forms. We will be running programmatic advertisements on digital platforms.
We are living with the fast-paced digital world by advertising on OTT platforms, using social media to the fullest, collaborating with micro and macro influencers for content creation and cross promotions etc. Soon 360 degree videos of UNESCO heritage sites in Maharashtra will be created and given access to tourists to give a better look and feel of the sites that will compel them to visit them. All our campaigns will target other Indian states and neighbouring countries.
(Dr Dhananjay Sawalkar is Joint Director, Department of Tourism, Maharashtra)