In a bid to explore opportunities in tourism promotion, the Ministry of External Affairs has decided to hold the country’s first SAARC Tourism Summit in Aurangabad, in the second week of October this year. The announcement of the two-day summit, also being aimed at tapping FDI under ‘Make in India’ and ‘Make in Maharashtra’ schemes was made by Valsa Nair Singh, principal secretary, tourism and culture, Government of Maharashtra, at the sensitisation session on Aurangabad Tourism Development Programme organised by the state government, Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in Aurangabad.
Highlighting the reasons behind the decision to host the summit in Aurangabad, Singh said, “The Ajanta-Ellora caves have always remained the biggest tourism attraction in the state among foreigners and Indians. The historical silk route and connect of the place with the Buddhist circuit across world, including China, is significant. Ajanta also has one of the world’s best visitors centre with several life size replicas of Padmapani (sculptures of Buddha). All these are reason enough for Aurangabad to be the preferred choice. The conference aims at promoting Aurangabad and other destinations of Maharashtra.”
The Department of Tourism (DoT) is trying to seek appointment of PM Narendra Modi to inaugurate the event. On the first day, officials from South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries; which include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka; would attend the conference. On the second day, the ministers of tourism from these countries and from Indian states would participate.
Singh added, “The coming two years are very important for the progress and prosperity of the tourism sector. The year 2017 will be celebrated as ‘Visit Maharashtra Year’ and 2018 we will be celebrating the completion of 200 years of the discovery of the world heritage Ajanta Caves by British officer John Smith.”
A campaign to promote tourism destinations of Maharashtra all over the world will be undertaken under Visit Maharashtra 2017. In 2018, many events will be hosted to attract international and domestic tourists to Ajanta and other destinations of the city. Singh stated that there is a huge scope to organise food festival and handicraft festival in the city, apart from golf tourism. A proposal to set up Buddhist centre on MTDC’s 900-acre land at Ellora is under consideration.
The announcement of providing financial assistance upto Rs 50 lakh to the “desirous” persons in the tourism business set up under ‘Start Up’ scheme was also made.
The three-day Ellora-Ajanta Festival will be held with the help of MTDC from October 14 to 16, 2016, informed Singh, suggesting the Aurangabad Municipal Corporation will run an excursion bus to conduct city tours, connecting all the tourist places. She also underlined the need of enhancing the air connectivity of Aurangabad with cities like Jaipur, Udaipur, Nagpur and Pune other than Mumbai, Delhi and Hyderabad.
Mentioning the need for hosting film shootings at Ellora, Ajanta and other places in Aurangabad, Singh commented, “The countries like Switzerland and Spain witnessed a boom in tourism due to film shootings. A beeline was formed to see the tomb of Mastani due to Bajirao Mastani film. The shooting of one big budget film featuring big stars like Shah Rukh Khan in Aurangabad will give a major boost to the tourism sector.”