Mumbai: The Maharashtra government was working to promote monsoon tourism in the Konkan region and to develop the state as a cinema hub with a "single vault" of legendary films and scripts, state Tourism Minister Aaditya Thackeray has said.
During a select media interaction on Saturday ahead of the World Tourism Day on September 27, Thackeray said the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government was working to "create excitement" about the state as a tourist destination.
The government can only be an enabler, he said, while stressing on more private participation in the tourism sector.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the involvement and interest of the private sector was encouraging, he said.
He noted that travel restrictions will last till COVID-19 exists. "But, the focus is on what we can do now. Tourists who are fully vaccinated, as per central government norms, are welcome to the state. We are looking at domestic, international, inter-state and intra-state tourists," he said.
The minister said his department's focus was on how to maximise the tourism sector's contribution to the state's GDP and boost localised employment.
"Our endeavour is to ensure international travelers move around Mumbai and rest of the state for five to six days after they land for the first time here in India," he said.
Thackeray lamented that despite having the best landscapes and everything needed to be called a tourist destination, the state never pitched itself so before the country and the world.
"We never saw the sector as a department which can increase the revenue and employment potential in Maharashtra. It is about time we start doing so," he asserted.
Thackeray said though he is in favour of developing the whole of Maharashtra as a tourist destination and not just one or two districts, Konkan is the state's gateway and monsoon in the region is an opportunity to attract visitors to enjoy the rains.
"Rains are not meant to be a situation where everything is always shut. Konkan's beautiful landscape turns greener and the red earth is a natural wonder which people should be encouraged to explore. Let people come to just walk around, go for trekking. The agri tourism, caravans and five-star hotels will help promote monsoon tourism," he said.
The Chipi airport in Sindhudurg (located in Konkan region), which will be inaugurated next month, will also help boost tourism in the area, he said, adding that the beach shack policy was awaiting environment clearance.
The minister said each district in the state has tourism potential and should be promoted as locals can transform themselves as entrepreneurs.
He said the government was in touch with key producers from the Hindi and Marathi cinema for creating a hub for tourists and developing a "single vault" for storing legendary scripts, films and related photographs.
"The government is working on development of film cities. Netflix (OTT platform) has set up its production and post-production facility in Mumbai," he said.
The minister stressed on the need for sustainable inclusive growth in the tourism sector.
"The need of the hour is to have the right policies by working with all sectors. We hope to create excitement about Maharashtra,'" he said and expressed confidence that the tourism sector will pick up post-COVID-19.
The importance of tourism sector in the state's economy is beyond statistics. "The statistics will be recast post-COVID-19," he added.
On promotion of cruise tourism after developing an international cruise terminal in Mumbai, Thackeray said they need to work out on what cruise tourists will explore when they come to Mumbai.
"What do the tourists do after they land in Mumbai? We didn't give a thought to it earlier. We have now submitted a proposal to the Mumbai Port Trust. Kala Ghoda area is also good. We are working on illuminating 20 buildings around the Oval Maidan at Churchgate, redesigning the plaza at the Gateway of India and are in talks with the state police for having a beating retreat parade every Sunday, for people to watch the beauty of the police drills," he said.
The minister further said that storm water drainage outfalls at Walkeshwar, Worli and Dadar were being converted to viewing galleries and a "triangular circuit" was being developed around Mahim, Worli and Bandra forts for people.
A cycling track was coming up from Bandra to the Mahim Fort, he said, adding that the Mahim beach has been restored.
A cycling track was also coming up in Powai area without changing contours of a lake located there. Besides, the Mithi river banks in the city were being developed while keeping tourism prospects in mind.
A zoo conservation programme is also in place. The penguins (at the zoo) are multiplying and the civic body is earning good revenue, he said.
Thackeray said tourism was among the worst-hit due to the pandemic as it is the least essential sector.
"But, it did all what the COVID-19 pandemic required. Many hotels became quarantine centres and COVID-19 care hospitals. Hotels and restaurants provided meals to patients, as well as health care and frontline workers. The sector adapted to the new challenges well," he added.