The recently concluded second edition of Madhya Pradesh Travel Mart in Bhopal highlighted the various avenues that can enhance the tourism potential of this heart of ‘Incredible India’ By Rituparna Chatterjee
Madhya Pradesh, India’s second largest state by area with over 75 million inhabitants and located in the geographical heartland of India, is home to some of the country’s biggest tourist attractions. From three UNESCO World Heritage sites and cultural pursuits to the land of The Jungle Book, Madhya Pradesh offers discerning tourists a fascinating range of touristic experiences. Highlighting this beauty and diverse tourism potential was the second edition of Madhya Pradesh Travel Mart (MPTM) held recently at Hotel Lake View Ashok, Bhopal from October 16-18, 2015. The mart was inaugurated by Shivraj Singh Chouhan, chief minister, Madhya Pradesh in the presence of Surendra Patwa, culture and tourism minister, Government of Madhya Pradesh. Other dignitaries present during the inauguration included Hari Ranjan Rao, IAS, managing director, Madhya Pradesh State Tourism Development Corporation (MPSTDC); Akshay Kumar, president, Adventure Tour Operators Association of India (ATOAI); Jyoti Kapur, president, Association of Domestic Tour Operators of India (ADTOI); Veera Rana, principal secretary, department of tourism, Government of Madhya Pradesh; Subhash Goyal, president, Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO); Sarabjit Singh, vice chairman, Federation of Associations in Indian Tourism & Hospitality (FAITH); Capt Swadesh Kumar, vice chairman, India Convention Promotion Bureau (ICPB); Jyoti Mayal, managing committee member, chairperson – Airline Council and co-chairperson – Allied Services Council, Travel Agents Association Of India (TAAI); and Tanvi Sundriyal, additional managing director, MPSTDC.
With 2015-2016 being the Visit Madhya Pradesh Tourism Year, the state government has initiated several projects to increase visitors to the state. Elaborating on these initiatives, the chief minister stated, “Simhastha, taking place from April 22 to May 21, 2016 will witness one of the biggest gatherings of pilgrims in the country and we would like to invite travel agents to promote this event. Travel agents can also leverage on the recently concluded Navratri festival to promote the state. We are planning to organise a fair on the banks of River Narmada similar to the one in Rajasthan. We will also train guides in different languages to cater to a diverse range of international tourists. We are creating a tracking system for tourists so that we can be aware of the kind of problems they are facing and can address them accordingly.” He then proceeded to highlight the need for improving air connectivity and expressed the hope of receiving assistance from Air India. While Patwa went on to mention the steady growth in footfall. Sharing the figures he said, “In 2005 we received around 60-75 lakh visitors. Last year we received 6,40,00,000 visitors. We have been careful about two aspects – safety and security and facilities for tourists.” He also shared with the audience the state’s plan to organise light and sound shows in Rajwada- Indore, Ujjain, Sachi, etc.
Madhya Pradesh has four major gateways – Gwalior, Jabalpur, Bhopal and Indore – and each of them are known for different touristic offerings. Gwalior for its heritage, Jabalpur for wildlife, Bhopal for leisure and Indore for textile and food. Moreover, Madhya Pradesh is predominantly an agricultural state. Rao stated, “The annual growth rate of agriculture for the past three years has been almost 20 per cent. The rivers of this state like Narmada, Tapti, Chambal, etc are driving this agricultural growth and have also created beautiful dams such as Indirasagar, Bansagar, Gandhi Sagar, etc and currently we are trying to introduce several water and leisure activities there.”
Rao also highlighted other tourism aspects of the state. He opined, “We have nine national parks and 25 wildlife sanctuaries and we are known as the tiger state of the country. We have three UNESCO World Heritage sights – Sanchi, Khajuraho and Bhimbetka. We have forts and palaces and we are organising the Simhastha where a congregation of five crore people are expected. We also have tribal festivals. And also beautiful roads where 248 wayside amenities will be developed in the next two-three years.”
Further highlighting the state’s tourism potential and advising on how travel agents can leverage the same, Goyal said, “You have three advantages – one, you can give your customers a new destination, second, you can make money as you are able to give your customers value for money for the packages you have sold and third, it is the centre of India and you can make Bhopal/Indore as your base. You can promote it as a MICE destination and businessmen who are visiting the state can refer it to others for investment since it has fast project clearances and investors can have 100 per cent ownership.”
The second edition of MPTM witnessed 200 registered buyers and media delegates from over 20 countries. The event had buyers coming from Australia, South Africa, UK, USA, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Bulgaria, UAE, Sri Lanka, Latvia, Greece, Ireland, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, among others. The event also enlisted the support of major travel trade and hospitality associations in India such as ADTOI, ATOAI, IATO, TAAI, Travel Agents Federation of India (TAFI), FHRAI, among others.
MPTM showcased over 100 different products of Madhya Pradesh such as pilgrimage, heritage, adventure, corporate hotels, wildlife resorts, handicrafts, among others. While the Madhya Pradesh pavilion showcased different facets of the state such as the UNESCO World Heritage sites, festivals, heritage hotels, Buddhist trails, etc.