Madhya Pradesh presently sees great potential in domestic tourism to cover some lost ground during the pandemic. The first segment of the travellers they are looking to attract are people from neighbouring states interested to visit their popular wildlife, heritage, religious and adventure tourism sites. They are surrounded by five states and it is very easy to travel by car from neighbouring states to Madhya Pradesh because of a good road network. Yuvraj Padole, Deputy Director (Event & Marketing), Madhya Pradesh Tourism talks to TTJ on the latest development in tourism and other initiatives in the state.
Madhya Pradesh Tourism Board has opened up various tourist destinations pertaining to wildlife, heritage, and pilgrimage, owing to their huge potential. This will also give a sense of ‘returning to normalcy’ for them. They have also reopened its state-run hotels and resorts, along with several private hotels at tourist destinations. Most of the historical monuments protected by the Archaeology Survey of India (ASI), from a list of 290 have reopened for the public. With the same, authorities have sanitised and fumigated the premises of all such sites and are ensuring all hygiene and social-distancing norms and SOP issued by the Ministry of Tourism are followed.
Yuvraj says, “All tourist destinations, sites of Madhya Pradesh are fully prepared and ready to welcome domestic tourists while hotel policies (check-in, check-out, room service, room allocation, safety and hygiene), destination policies, travel policies, etc., have been prepared. SOP’s have been issued and instructions to follow the safety and hygiene guidelines have been circulated. Hotel staff, travel agents, tour operators, tour
guides, drivers have been intimated accordingly. Importantly, we are following all the circulars and implementing all the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health regarding safety and hygiene and also of the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India guidelines regarding re-opening of tourist destinations with the precautions to be taken from time to time.”
As per the combined data of various survey agencies, domestic tourist footfall in the state for April 2019 was over fifty-seven lakhs, and for May 2019, it was around fifty lakhs, while the numbers from the same months this year demonstrated a washout in the wake of COVID-19 lockdown. In April 2019, as many as 30309, while April this year recorded no new footfall.
Even as it seems premature to talk about tourism figures in the post-COVID world, the state aims to use this reset period for retrospection and to make strategy for future tourism activities when normalcy returns. Anticipating a better tomorrow, Yuvraj shares, “We are in the process to build the confidence and trust amongst the travellers through social media platforms and handles and by ensuring that all the norms for safety against COVID i.e. wearing of mask, social distancing, hand sanitising, temperature checking and other safety measures to be followed, Hotel Rooms are allotted on even and odd basis and presently restaurants are running with 50 percent seating capacity. To inform and motivate domestic tourists of neighbouring states to visit Madhya Pradesh, small travel circuits have been designed and itineraries prepared for short and enjoyable road trips. Special weekend all-inclusive packages are also being offered to keep the momentum.”
Madhya Pradesh offers an assortment of attractions to everyone who loves to travel. It is the state with the forest area cover of approximately 77,700 sq.kms filled with Sal trees and bamboos. It has numerous wildlife hotspots with 11 National parks and 24 wildlife sanctuaries such as Ratapani Wildlife Sanctuary and Chambal Ghadiyal Sanctuary. The UNESCO World Heritage sites at Khajuraho, Bhimbetka, and Sanchi are the iconic sites in the state. Madhya Pradesh has re-gained the tag of being ‘The Tiger State of the Country’ by having maximum tiger count (526) in the state.
It’s only a matter of time till domestic tourism bounces back as everyone adapts to the new normal. Domestic tourism is what Madhya Pradesh has to count on to regain their numbers given the state’s diverse tourism offerings.