Madhya Pradesh’s vision 2024 targets multispecialty destination appeal: PS Tourism

2023 setting a record with an influx of 11.21 crore tourists, Buddhist circuit in pipeline, cruise tourism offerings, and strategies for global presence: Sheo Shekhar Shukla, Principal Secretary Tourism and MD of Madhya Pradesh Tourism Board shares all and more during an exclusive chat with T3.

Madhya Pradesh has witnessed a monumental rise in tourism, with over 112.1 million tourists visiting the state in 2023. This marks a significant increase from the 34.1 million visitors in 2022. The surge, highlighted by Sheo Shekhar Shukla, Principal Secretary Tourism and MD of Madhya Pradesh Tourism Board, underscores the state’s growing appeal.

“The tourist graph of the state for 2023 set a record with an influx of 11.21 crore (112.1 million) tourists. This was a huge jump as compared to 3.41 crore (34.1 million) visitors in 2022. Ujjain emerged as the most popular tourist destination in Madhya Pradesh, which attracted over 52.8 million (5.28 crore) pilgrims and tourists,” stated Shukla, reflecting on the remarkable influx.

Over the years, the tourism landscape of Madhya Pradesh has witnessed significant growth, evident from the escalating numbers of visitors, as asserted by Shukla. While in 2023, the state registered a surge marking a substantial increase compared to previous years, the growth was also seen in 2022 recording 34,138,757 tourists, 25,595,668 tourists in 2021 and 2020 observing 21,400,693 tourists.

“The state government has put in utmost efforts in infrastructure, connectivity and notably, revitalising the spiritual and religious tourism destinations. This led to eventual surge in tourism which in turn has had a positive impact on Madhya Pradesh’s economy, generating employment opportunities, boosting local businesses, and contributing to overall infrastructure development,” he added.

Vision 2024:

With accolades such as the ‘Best Tourism State Board’ in February 2024, the MPTB now aims to establish itself as a premier multispecialty destination.

“Continuing to build on the thrust and aiming to improve the tourist experience coming into the state, we will be committed to promote the state as a Multispecialty destination of first choice before the various national and international travel stakeholders as well as an offbeat place to visit. In this context, we are making efforts to boost infrastructure, bolster local economy and devise ways to preserve the cultural heritage of the state. In a bid to make a global presence, we will participate in a host of international exhibitions and conduct roadshows,”

Claiming the state is getting a better influx of inbound tourists from overseas, showing interest in cultural and heritage sites, Shukla shared that the government is making plans to get 10 news sites inscribed under tentative UNESCO World Heritage list. These sites include Gwalior Fort, the Dhamnar rock-cut caves, Bhojeshwar Mahadev Temple, the rock art site in Chambal valley, Khooni Bhandara in Burhanpur, and the Ramnagar and Mandla Gond heritage sites.

MP is already a home to several listed UNESCO sites which is highest in the country, as per Shukla. This recognition highlights the rich cultural and historical significance of these locations, enhancing their global visibility and potential for increased tourism. It will also help us put these sites on international tourism map and get more traction from overseas,” he added.

Further, Madhya Pradesh govt is also planning to establish various theme-based museums at relevant heritage and cultural destinations to enhance tourism experience. Recently, the first-ever City Museum in Bhopal was also approved. This project by the Madhya Pradesh Tourism Board will serve as a Tourist Interpretation and Citizen Engagement Centre. Within 11 galleries, the visitors will enjoy prehistoric rock paintings, ancient sculptures, royal attire, and more, with modern technology enhancing the experience.

“I believe, with varied offerings, we are very well-placed to receive the international tourists,” he further claimed.

Buddha Circuit in the pipeline; spiritual tourism on agenda

In conversation with T3, Shukla also shared that ahead of Buddha Purnima, which was nationally celebrated on May 23, Madhya Pradesh is developing a comprehensive Buddhist Circuit, connecting Sanchi with Bodhgaya and Sarnath. The initiative, funded under the Swadesh Darshan scheme with a budget of INR 70 crore, aims to enhance destinations like Sanchi, Mandsaur, Dhar, Satna, Rewa, Satdhara, Sonari, Murel Khurd, and Gyarsapur.

“We have mapped a concrete plan to connect, develop, and promote major sites directly or indirectly woven with Gautam Buddha. This includes developing meditation centers, interpretation centres, Buddhist theme parks, and tourist facilitation centres,” he shared.

Further, the MP Tourism visitor statistics also revealed that five out of the top ten most visited destinations in the state were the renowned religious sites, including Ujjain, Maihar, Chitrakoot, Omkareshwar, and Salkanpur, highlighting the growing appeal of spiritual tourism.

“As part of our multi-pronged strategies, we are developing Devi Lok in Salkanpur, Hanuman Lok in Chindwara, Ram Raja Lok in Orchha, and Sant Ravidas Temple in Sagar to bolster spiritual tourism,” shared Shukla.

Infrastructure development is also a priority, with new hotels planned in Indore, Sagar, Sarsi Island, Maharajwada, and Kuno-Palpur, alongside upgrades to existing hotels in Amarkantak, Mandla, Shivpuri, Orchha, Pench, and Panchmarhi, confirmed Shukla. Besides, the artistically designed Light and Sound shows at various destinations have a huge potential for attracting tourists, he added.

New Horizons on Water

A recent Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Madhya Pradesh Tourism, Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) and the Government of Gujarat was signed, aiming to give a fillip to cruise tourism.

This initiative includes the development of floating jetties and a cruise circuit connecting the Statue of Unity in Gujarat to the Statue of Oneness in Omkareshwar. “Two floating jetties have been sent from Kolkata to Kukshi,” confirmed the MD.

Plans also include a 120 km water route from the Statue of Unity to Chandankhedi in Kukshi, with additional jetties and a resort to boost the local economy. “The tourists will be taken by road to   Maheshwar, Mandleshwar and Mandu. Four jetties will be built – two each in Madhya Pradesh (Chandankhedi-Kukshi, Sakarja-Alirajpur) and Gujarat (Hanfeshwar-Chota Udaipur, Statue of Unity-Kevadiya). A resort is also planned at Kukshi,” he shared.