SHEO SHEKHAR SHUKLA, MANAGING DIRECTOR, MADHYA PRADESH TOURISM BOARD, talks to Pravasi Indians about the making of Madhya Pradesh into an eco-friendly, experiential tourism hub for travellers
What has been the most successful aspect of your tourism strategy in recent times?
We have created special itineraries to promote destination Madhya Pradesh. Keeping in mind the ‘new normal’ our focus is on the destinations that fit experiential activities such as responsible tourism, activity-filled, wellness and mindful tourism. We are promoting homestays, gramstays and farmstays as safe and diverse options for guests to
experience the rural food, culture and traditions of the state, as well as healthy, non-polluting tourism.
Madhya Pradesh Tourism has collaborated with UNESCO to guide the state for heritage-based sustainable urban development in Gwalior and Orchha. The MP Tourism Board’s
objective for joining UNESCO’s HUL (Heritage Urban Landscape) project is to keep in mind the role of heritage in local development plans, devise a methodology to establish values and give recommendations for future development. The attempt is to present a community-based, holistic, green and eco-friendly model of tourism, and one that is relevant to evolving travellers.
Which new tourism products are being launched / reinvented for new age travellers?
Madhya Pradesh is already offering sky diving, hot air ballooning, jungle night safari, rock art trails, food trails, textile trails, craft trails, Buddhist trails and other activity-filled experiences. We aim to turn Madhya Pradesh into a hub for adventure tourism. More than 30 campsites operated with local community involvement offer 2/3-night packages and a variety of activities that include cycling, trekking, photography and river rafting.
Tourism is a big focus worldwide, how are you leveraging it to attract both inbound and domestic travellers?
Madhya Pradesh offers an assortment of attractions like wildlife, heritage, culture, religious and architectural sights. The state is blessed with forests, rivers, lakes, mountains, and numerous wildlife hotspots with 11 national parks and 24 wildlife sanctuaries, water bodies and hill stations. Madhya Pradesh is also known as the tiger state of the country. The UNESCO World Heritage sites at Khajuraho, Bhimbetka and Sanchi are iconic heritage sites, apart from two jyotirlingas. Architectural destinations include Orchha, Mandu, Gwalior, Burhanpur, Bhopal and others.
Any change in inbound tourism numbers? How are you promoting MP in overseas markets?
We are doing virtual roadshows and seminars. We have had one-on-one interactions with ambassadors of different countries and invited them to visit Madhya Pradesh to experience all that it has to offer, and to participate in exhibitions.
What place do ecotourism / sustainable tourism have in your plans for the future?
We have signed an MoU with the Eco-Tourism Society of India for sustainable and responsible tourism. Our aim is to create future eco-tourism warriors by involving youngsters in various activities at the nature camps spread across the state.
Madhya Pradesh has recognised it as an economic sector which can benefit the disadvantaged, relieve poverty, create employment and bring local economic development. Madhya Pradesh has based its document on the Cape Town Declaration on Responsible Tourism in Destinations, the experience of Kerala and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. But we have developed our own version of responsible tourism; the idea has been grown and adapted to meet local needs. The priorities and focus are clear: economic vitality, environmental conservation and social awareness.
Our core values are clearly stated and include respect, the promotion of intercultural understanding, economic empowerment, enhancing and conserving local lifestyles and cultural and natural heritage, and minimising resource consumption. The concept of responsible tourism has been adapted to meet the needs of the local people. The vision as
stated in the document aims to minimise negative economic, environmental and social impact; to provide enjoyable experiences for tourists through the participation of the local population; to encourage healthy and respectful interactions between hosts and guests and enhance cultural exchanges between tourists and locals, thereby ensuring the
maintenance of our natural and cultural heritage. Madhya Pradesh has a lot to offer and we welcome all those who wish to enjoy it.