#CongregationsIndia: MTDC Gained More in Last 6 Months Than in Last 3 Decades - Valsa Nair Singh

Industry Watch | December 24, 2020 | News

Valsa Nair Singh Congregations India Government of Maharashtra Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) EEMA

While the COVID-19 pandemic has indeed affected tourism across the world, Maharashtra Tourism has taken it as a big opportunity, revealed Valsa Nair Singh, Principal Secretary, Tourism, Excise & Civil Aviation, Govt of Maharashtra, speaking at the inaugural edition of the virtual ‘CONGREGATIONS INDIA: Government, Political & Religious Events Summit’ organised by EVENTFAQs Media on December 24, 2020.

In conversation with moderator Sushma Gaikwad, Co-founder, Ice Global & Wizcraft MIME, Singh said, “So many of the infrastructure projects and ideas we have been debating for the last 20 to 25 years have now been taken to a logical conclusion in the last seven to eight months. But for COVID, we may not have given these so much time. A lot of plans the department had in the ‘90s, and for whatever reasons, they could not be taken to their (logical) ending. Now, in the last six months, I think we have made more gains than in the last three decades.”

She quoted a recent survey by India Today magazine which ranked Maharashtra Tourism at number one – after several decades.

The Principal Secretary outlined three verticals of focus:

- Development of infrastructure for tourism

- Policy reforms and

- Partnerships and MoUs (where the events industry could come in

She outlined a Public Private Partnership approach wherein the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) would give land on a 90-year lease to private players, which had elicited interest from major global hospitality players. Underlining the importance of the move, she explained, “Take the case of Sindhudurg, the first tourism district. We are yet to have a five-star hotel there. It is not that a five-star hotel is what the tourism industry needs. But when you have a five-star hotel, it brings its own brand of marketing and strategy. And we would have a lot of smaller ones mushrooming around it. That is how Goa became a tourist destination in the ‘70s, when the first Taj hotel was established there. We hope to create the same magic in Sindhudurg.”

Unseen Maharashtra’s potential

The COVID period was also used by MTDC, revealed the official, to create a series of cost-effective destination branding initiatives on social media. These were segmented as known destinations, unknown destinations (Unseen Maharashtra) and lesser known destinations. The differentiation was that it was locals who were made to speak about the destinations lending their perspective, rather than offer the typical ministry or tourism perspective. 

“Offbeat destinations are the in-thing now. There are many destinations that we haven’t even heard of. We would like to develop those. And then there are the lesser known destinations,” noted Singh.

She added, “I would say these are the places where the future of Maharashtra Tourism is. The trends post COVID show that these offbeat places would be preferred by the traveller. We have all been locked down and would like to go out and be one with nature.”

Role of events industry

Observing that international tourism was possibly two to three years away, Valsa Nair Singh stated that the events industry could play a major role in the promotion of lesser known and unseen destinations for domestic tourism, by hosting events there.   

While on the subject of event agencies working with the Government, she pointed to the non-financial MoU route, where the Government facilitates all approvals for the conduct of an event. In some cases, it has done so in 24 hours, Singh added.

Maharashtra Tourism has also put its adventure tourism policy in the public domain and has received 100 to 150 comments on the same, according to the speaker. The policy is there to ensure that the do’s and dont’s are properly laid down so the tourists knows what they are getting into and there is no compromise on safety, explained the speaker.

According to her, while Kolad in Maharashtra is one of the best spots for white water rafting, it is Rishikesh that people think about when they think about the sport. She also mentioned Sahyadri mountains for trekking and Kamshet for paragliding as potential areas for growth. 

“We could link MICE and adventure tourism. Kamshet is probably the gliding capital. All aerosports will be looked at, at a policy level. We are taking all stakeholders with us on this,” said Singh, adding that MTDC will put this out in the public domain in a month.

Singh, Principal Secretary, Tourism, Govt of Maharashtra states that the events industry could play a major role in promoting lesser known destinations in Maharashtra, by hosting events there

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