What had the MTDC planned for Ganapati celebrations this year? Has there been an increase in the number of foreign tourists visiting Mumbai during the festival?
Looking at the overwhelming response received last year, when more than 300 international tourists participated at Girgaum Chowpatty during idol immersion, MTDC and BMC have made special provisions for foreign travellers. A separate pavilion is being constructed at the Chowpatty that would accommodate 300 foreigners to observe the immersion ceremony. The pavilion comprises special facilities such as AC decks, mobile toilets, clean drinking water, bus transport and refreshments.
The MTDC has started registration for international tourists on its website for the September 23 ceremony. Last year, 55 tourists from Thailand had participated in the immersion ceremony at Girgaum Chowpatty by taking part in aarti. We are looking forward to making Ganeshotsav an international event.
How does MTDC encourage tourism in the state’s hinterlands during the Ganpati season?
During the Ganeshotsav, MTDC is promoting Ashtavinayak tours through its registered travel and tour operators, providing one an opportunity to enjoy the celebrations at various places in Maharashtra. Ashtavinayak is a pilgrimage site that includes eight Ganesh temples, including Moreshwar Temple, Morgaon, Siddhivinayak Temple, Siddhatek and Ballaleshwar Temple.
What are the emerging travel trends in Maharashtra in the past years?
Maharashtra has an array of activities for all the demographics, including promoting Asthavinayak circuits and adventure, agri, Bollywood, mine and wine tourism. The MTDC has created awareness about various tourism hotspots through local events. Maharashtra is a leading state in terms of foreign tourist arrivals and solo women travelers and the places which have registered growth in terms of bookings are Mahabaleshwar, Matheran, Bhandardara, Chikhaldara and Tadoba.
What new initiatives are being undertaken by MTDC.
Currently, we are encouraging the Buddhist Circuit in Aurangabad, Pune, Nashik, Mumbai, Satara, Kolhapur, Raigad and Nagpur. It is a pleasure to get new UNESCO heritage sites like Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensembles. These locations will open new doors for overseas and domestic tourists to discover the diversity of Mumbai. Recently, Mumbai has got its third such site in the list of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus and Elephanta Caves. MTDC is planning to add this site in its package soon.
We have also started Tourism Entrepreneurship Accelerator Programme, in association with Airbnb — the global hospitality online aggregator — to develop one hospitality micro-entrepreneur in each village across Elephanta, Ratnagiri, Sindhudurg and Palghar. Thos would improve the income of the local communities. Almost 35 homes from Elephanta Island, the UNESCO Heritage site, has been identified under the programme and we are in process of identifying several homestay facilities in other regions.Tourism Minister Jaykumar Rawal speaks to Neha Kulkarni about the new initiatives that MTDC has taken up and the rise in the number of foreign tourists visiting Maharashtra during Ganeshotsav