Madhya Pradesh – An off the wall destination

Through ‘responsible tourism’ — which secures the interest of environment and indigenous population and provides visitors an immersive experience — Madhya Pradesh has lent new dimensions to the tourism industry

With easing travel restrictions and a surging trend of revenge travel, the tourism industry is witnessing a sharp recovery post the pandemic. As goes our collective lived experience, an increase in the number of visitors across tourist destinations is bound to have a massive impact on natural resources, environment and local communities. Enters the concept of responsible tourism — a paradigm shift in the way the traditional model of tourism operates. The idea of responsible tourism seeks to limit negative environmental and socio-economic consequences of tourism while providing more enjoyable experiences for the tourists, including the differently-abled and the solo women travellers. It also attempts to accrue greater economic benefits for local people and develop niche markets for local arts, crafts and cuisines. Besides, it endeavours to instil cultural sensitivity among the travellers and fosters deep connection between them and their local hosts.

Having forced the tourism industry to change its conventional tactic and embed greater responsibility towards nature and indigenous people in its functioning, the pandemic has brought the spotlight upon the concept of sustainable and responsible tourism.

The Madhya Pradesh way
As the concept of responsible tourism is gathering steam, no stakeholder can afford to ignore it; neither can Madhya Pradesh. Tucked away from the bustle of mass or traditional tourism, one would find the state displaying its commitment towards Responsible Tourism through its projects like Rural Tourism, Safe Tourism Destinations for Women, Responsible Souvenir, Clean Destination and Humsafar. For an insightful knowledge sharing, the state has inked MoUs with Ecotourism Society of India and UK-based International Centre for Responsible Tourism to promote environmentally sustainable practices; with UN Women to promote gender-responsive tourism; and with Responsible Tourism Mission-Kerala to promote rural development through tourism.

Armed with a vision of responsibility to make better places for people to live in and better places for people to visit, Madhya Pradesh has something to offer to everyone on the lookout for new and unique itineraries.

Connection with local culture
Restoring tourism to what it originally was, discovering local cultures and broadening our horizons, rural tourism forms the cornerstone of responsible tourism in Madhya Pradesh. The state has identified around 100 villages across six cultural experience regions — Baghelkhand, Bundelkhand, Chambal, Malwa, Mahakoshal and Nimar, which offer travellers a unique & culturally fulfilling experience of staying at rustic homestays, gram-stays and farm-stays.

Rather than being passive observers, the tourists are made active contributors to the local customs as they get a first-hand account of the local cuisine and cooking techniques, traditional modes of transport, indigenous arts and crafts, and folk dances and songs. Bullock cart rides, angling in village ponds and wheat threshing on farms offer unparalleled experiences. Village panchayats are also being engaged in the project to give the local community a greater say in the tourism industry.

Economic benefits for the hosts
The distinctive tribal arts and folk craftsmanship of Madhya Pradesh is renowned all over the world, be it the bead jewellery of the Bhils, dhokra figurines of the Gonds, iron-ware of the Agarias or the Baiga tribal paintings. The Chanderi, Maheshwari and Bagh handlooms of the state are GI-tagged and so are its bell-metalware and leather toys. Banding these crafts together with tourism, the project Responsible Souvenir seeks to develop market linkages for such arts and crafts and training of the local artisans and craftsmen. Bring these graceful souvenirs home to adorn your living room as a reminder of your unforgettable sojourn to Madhya Pradesh

Safety of women
Safety and comfort being the prerequisites in travel itinerary of a solo woman, Madhya Pradesh assures women-friendly infrastructure, transport and public utilities under its Project Safe Tourism Destinations for Women. To vouch for a fearless atmosphere, a series of safety audits of tourist destinations and IEC campaigns for women safety have been carried out. As one spots a bigger presence of working women and girls at tourist destinations as e-rickshaws or taxi drivers, tour guides, forest guides, souvenir creators and location managers, the credit goes to the state’s effort to upskill and train the local women as hosts.

Spotless destinations
A litter-free tourist destination leaves a lasting impact on the travellers. The state is living up to its reputation as a tourism hub in the heart of incredible India, and one would witness utmost hygiene and cleanliness at tourist destinations in Madhya Pradesh. Indore has already established the gold-standard of cleanliness in the country, and other tourist destinations are emulating it. Under Project Clean Destinations, tourists and local communities together contribute to cleanliness at all national parks in the state.

An all-encompassing inclusivity
It is a human rights imperative to ascertain universally accessible, usable and inclusive tourist spaces, and Madhya Pradesh is thoughtfully working upon it under the Project Humsafar. To ensure the commitment of equitable destinations, an accessibility audit has also been undertaken. So, while exploring the select barrier-free spaces at destinations like Orchha, Mandu, Maheshwar, Omkareshwar and Bagh, do chance upon hospitality workers who have been sensitised on the issues of accessibility and inclusivity.

Shouldering the responsibility
Travelling is much more than just sightseeing; it is a deep and permanent way to open our minds to the world — its diversity, culture, heritage and environment. Responsible tourism is not only the future of tourism but is also the responsibility on the part of tourists to bring back memories, leaving nothing but footprints. So, take the road less travelled and get a taste of responsible tourism in Madhya Pradesh. Many visited recent tourism festivals in the state — Jal Mahotsav in the tent city of Hanumantiya till January 29, Narmada Mahotsav in Amarkantak from January 27 to 19, and Gandhisagar Floating Festival at Mandsaur from February 1 to 5; and became an ambassador of Responsible Tourism in its truest sense.

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