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Rural and wellness tourism areas to be our new tourist offerings: MP Tourism MD

The tourism sector in Madhya Pradesh has been observing rapid developments and it is the state’s diversity and commitment to sustainable tourism that is extracting real opportunities from its rural, heritage, culture and wellness segments. Indeed one of the firsts to mobilise and establish a Responsible Tourism mission (RTM) after Kerala, Madhya Pradesh has steered the way forward for sustainable tourism, working towards making tourism worthwhile for local communities, small businesses and its tourists.

“The state of Madhya Pradesh has been a pioneer in the aspects of Sustainable tourism with the ambition of providing tourists with an all-around experience,” said Sheo Shekhar Shukla, Principal Secretary, Tourism & Culture, Madhya Pradesh & Managing Director, Madhya Pradesh Tourism Board.

“The long-term goal is to promote balanced and sustainable tourism which will contribute to socio-economic development and establish Madhya Pradesh as a destination that provides a complete 360-degree tourism experience,” he added.

Shukla shares how the state’s initiative towards Responsible Tourism is based on the idea to minimise the negative environmental, economic and social impacts and increase the participation of local communities, further encouraging a fruitful relationship with the guests and visitors. The reason why the state’s contribution has been recognised on the global level, including three WTM awards in 2021, London, along with four Golds and 1 Silver ICRT (International Center for Responsible Tourism) award in 2022.

“MP Tourism Board with the support of its Responsible Tourism Mission (RTM) has been rigorously working to empower the communities as well. A total of 100 villages have been identified to develop as tourism villages out of which 32 homestays have started hosting the guests across 11 villages and 116 homestays construction is going on in 33 villages,” informed Shukla.

The recently appointed Director of Tourism for Kashmir, Fazlul Haseeb, shares details on newly identified destinations in J&K, publicity initiatives by the government and the benefits of promoting rural tourism while generating employment for local youth. Haseeb further states that the ‘offbeat’ project is expected to enhance the visibility of J&K as a filming destination.

In the villages identified for development, a 40 per cent grant for the cost of homestay construction/upgradation will be provided. A maximum of INR 2 lakh for the construction of the new homestay and INR 1.20 lakh for upgradation will be given to the owner. “The objective of RTM is to give tourists an experience of our culture, the tradition of arts, crafts and heritage and also to provide sustainable income for communities through homestays, gram stays and farm stays,” he further asserted.

“Rural, sustainable and wellness tourism areas are our focus as new offerings to our tourists.”

Wellness tourism is another segment that has been attracting a lot of interest from the state’s government lately. Aiming to re-brand the state as an ideal wellness and mindful tourism hub, MP is now seeing a spike in interest of the tourists towards destinations like Pachmarhi where the tourism department had already set up a wellness centre.

Shukla shares that Pachmarhi, being a destination abound with rich flora and fauna, has the presence of rare Ayurveda herbs and naturopathy. “We want to attract tourists to stay here and embrace the possibilities of living in the lap of nature, in a pollution-free environment which will revitalise their minds and bodies,” he highlighted.

The forest and climate around Pachmarhi also make the destination ideal for tourism activities surrounding wellness. Being home to rare varieties like khatua, tendu, chunna, khinni and char as well as to medicinal plants and herbs, Pachmarhi Park has been included by UNESCO in its list of Biosphere Reserve in May 2009.

In his message on World Tourism Day, PB Nooh IAS, Director, Kerala Tourism highlighted how the state’s ideals of promoting responsible tourism coincide with this year’s ‘Rethinking Tourism’ theme. The state also bagged the “Hall of Fame” at the National Tourism Awards 2018-19 for being the Best State/UT in the category of ‘Comprehensive Development of Tourism.

Going forward, in the next phase of development, the state will also see an array of wellness tourism activities being introduced at the hotels in/around Pachmarhi followed by other sprawling properties at exquisite destinations. These include yoga sessions, spa facilities, bird watching and sky gazing, meditation therapies and more.

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