MP, the heartland of India, has the soul of universal appeal

Anshuman Bhargava
Tourism is one of the prime sources of revenue for Madhya Pradesh. Seeing its immense potential, MP Tourism started developing properties at attractive locations across the state to give tourists a unique travel experience.
Started about 15 years ago, today there are no less than 65 posh properties of MPSTDC that provide the best views of the locales, apart from the best food and best accommodation that rival 5-star hotels.
Many nondescript places have now come up on to the tourist map due to these facilities and the hidden treasures of natural beauty have been revealed by this government venture – perhaps the largest such organised initiative anywhere in the country.
There are many places of scenic or historical importance tourists could not visit due to the lack of accommodation and availability of proper food.
MP Tourism has dispelled this drawback by opening its excellent hotels that are clean, spacious, safe and landscaped, giving the tourist a complete and memorable experience.
The way the high standards of professionalism have been maintained over all these years in running these facilities sets a template for other government bodies as to how a government organisation can be run with efficiency once there is the right will and effort.  MP has an edge because it could locate its potential early and started off early with a well chalked out plan to promote tourism when most other states had no clear roadmap.
Today the MP Tourism website – the first interface of a prospective tourist – is one of the best in the sector that not only provides an exhaustive guideline of everything and anything related to tourism in an interactive and graphically intuitive way, but also serves as a platform for online booking of rooms, boating and other activities etc from any corner of the world.
There are very few state tourism sites in India which are so prompt and transparent in dealings. Due to its film-friendly facilities, MP has grown into a prime Bollywood shooting destination over the years. MP is the land of greats in all fields and stalwarts like Rahul Dravid, LataMangeshkar, Ashok Kumar, Kishore Kumar, Osho, Pt Ravi Shankar, Shankar Dayal Sharma, AshutoshRana, Kumar Gandharv and Alauddin Khan among others have connection with land.
Madhya Pradesh holds immense tourism potential which has not been exploited to the fullest yet. Even as the government was busy developing its properties as a step towards generating a positive feedback for MP in visitors, it forgot to develop the tourist spots in a way which could make them big draws.  Even if MP has the best of palaces, temples, rivers and natural beauty, it could not promote and spread their value in a way that could make them globally famous. Thus we lagged on two counts – one in the apt development of many of the tourist places and second, their proper branding, the way Goa or Gujarat has done for instance.
Here are the missed cues on which we still need to work. It is ironical that despite being one of the best states for tourism, MP fails to draw any major chunk of the tourist share while states like Maharashtra, Gujarat and Kerala surge ahead.
MP’s central location is an asset as it is almost equidistant from several major cities like Lucknow, Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Aurangabad, Jaipur, Mumbai and Delhi, giving it easy accessibility. The state also has excellent air, rail and road connectivity, which again, enhances its accessibility and ease of communication.
There are four major airports – in Indore, Bhopal, Jabalpur and Gwalior – apart from the one in Khajuraho – a UNESCO world heritage site. More and more airlines are adding up flights to the state connecting places like Shirdi, Chandigarh, Kolkata, Hyderabad and even Dubai.
The pace at which air travel is growing in the region, it is likely that in near future, many international flights will operate from cities like Indore and Bhopal, thereby boosting the tourism prospects of the state even further. Indore is the commercial hub and the largest city of Central India, which is known for its food and cleanliness.  It is the only city in the country to host both an IIM and an IIT, making it an education hub. I-T giants like TCS and Infosys have opened their facilities in the city to tap the market potential and provide lend opportunity to the educated youth of the state to find wings in the professional world. MP’s handicraft and handloom products are celebrated across the world.  Its Bagh and Chanderisarees as well as Maheshwari silk are highly in demand. MP has a vibrant and rich tribal population and with their unique culture and traditions, they give the state a new demographic and historical dimension.
The state also boasts of world famous national parks like Kanha, Bandhavgarh and Pench, which are home to a healthy tiger population. With over 500 tigers in the wild, MP has already got the ‘tiger state’ status. (To be contd)