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Maharashtra to convert 25 forts into heritage hotels, wedding venues

As the first step in this direction, the state-run Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) has identified about 25 forts across the state that will be offered to heritage hoteliers and hospitality chains on lease.

Sources said that the government has already mapped the development potential of the forts it wants to lease out in the first phase. (File)

WITH HERITAGE tourism becoming popular even among domestic travellers, Maharashtra is looking to convert some of its forts into heritage hotels to promote private investment into the tourism sector.

As the first step in this direction, the state-run Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) has identified about 25 forts across the state that will be offered to heritage hoteliers and hospitality chains on lease.

Clearing decks for the leasing out of these forts, the state Cabinet on September 3 had sanctioned a new policy that allows the MTDC to lease out state-owned forts that do not exist on the protected monuments list and government land allotted to it.

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Besides residential hotels, officials said that the plan is to convert some of these destinations as venues for weddings and entertainment shows. In recent times, palace and fort hotels have become popular as venues of destination weddings.

Sources said that the government has already mapped the development potential of the forts it wants to lease out in the first phase.

“The Cabinet has approved the new policy. We have plans to promote heritage tourism,” said state Tourism Secretary Vinita Vaid-Singhal.

Following the Cabinet nod, the tourism department will soon invite expression of interest (EOI) from heritage hotels and chains to shortlist partners on a fort-to-fort basis. On September 3, the Cabinet had permitted the department to execute long-term leases based on a revenue sharing model. The lease tenure will be spread over 60 to 90 years.

While Maharashtra has 353 forts, about 100 are listed as protected monuments. With heritage tourism already big in neighbouring Rajasthan and Goa, the state is now hoping to cash in on this trend. A study commissioned by the MTDC had earlier found that there was a lot of potential in tapping the niche tourism segment.

Besides developing tourism and attracting private investment in tourism, the government is also hoping that the new policy will help in generating resources to preserve these monuments. To ward off any opposition from conservationists and historians, the government has said that the aesthetic value of the forts will have be retained. It plans to disallow any new permanent construction at these sites.

Further, to develop an “ecosystem” for tourism promotion in Maharashtra, the MTDC has decided to let out land and buildable properties it possesses across the state. Set up in 1975 to build tourism, the MTDC at present runs 23 resorts and some other restaurants. It also possesses several undeveloped and partially development land parcels, all of which are leased by the state government.

After the revenue department officials raised questions over the sub-leasing of the land on long-term basis, the tourism department had approached the Cabinet, which converted all such leases into allotments made to the MTDC on occupancy rights basis.

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