In a bid to explore opportunities in tourism promotion, the Ministry of External Affairs has decided to hold the country's first SAARC Tourism Summit in Aurangabad, the tourism capital of Maharashtra in the second week of October.
The announcement of the two-day summit, also being aimed at tapping FDI under Make in India and Make in Maharashtra schemes was made by Valsa Nair Singh, IAS, Principal Secretary Tourism and Culture, Government of Maharashtra at the Sensitisation Session on Aurangabad Tourism Development Program organised by the State Government, Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) and the Confederation of Indian Industry in Aurangabad on July 4, 2016.
Highlighting the reasons behind the decision to host the summit in Aurangabad, Singh said, “The Ajanta-Ellora caves have always remained the biggest tourism attraction in the state among foreigners and Indians. The historical silk route and connect of the place with the Buddhist circuit across world, including China, is significant. Ajanta also has one of the world's best visitor centre with several life size replicas of Padmapani (sculptures of Buddha). All these are reason enough for Aurangabad to be the preferred choice. The conference aims at promoting Aurangabad and other destinations of Maharashtra.”
“The Department of Tourism (DoT) is trying to seek appointment of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to inaugurate the event. On the first day, officials from SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) countries, which include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and SriLanka, would attend the conference. On the second day, the ministers of tourism from these countries and from Indian states would participate,” Singh added.
She further stated, “The coming two years are very important for the progress and prosperity of the tourism sector. The year 2017 will be celebrated as Visit Maharashtra Year and the year 2018 we will be celebrating completion of 200 years of the discovery of the world heritage Ajanta Caves by British officer John Smith. A campaign to promote tourism destinations of Maharashtra all over the world will be undertaken aggressively under Visit Maharashtra 2017. In 2018, many events will be hosted to attract international and domestic tourists to Ajanta and other destinations of the city. There is a huge scope to organise Food Festival and Handicraft Festival in the city, apart from Golf Tourism. A proposal to set up Buddhist Centre on MTDC's 900 acres land at Ellora is under consideration."
The announcement of providing financial assistance up to Rs 50 lakh to the desirous persons in the tourism business set up under Start Up scheme was also made.
The three-day Ellora-Ajanta Festival will be held with the help of the MTDC from October 14 to 16, said the principal secretary suggesting the Aurangabad Municipal Corporation to run an excursion bus to conduct City Tours connecting all the tourist places. She also underlined the need of enhancing the air connectivity of Aurangabad with cities like Jaipur, Udaipur, Nagpur, and Pune, other than Mumbai, Delhi and Hyderabad.
Mentioning the need for hosting film shootings at Ellora, Ajanta and other important places in Aurangabad, Singh Said, “The countries like Switzerland and Spain witnessed a boom in tourism due to film shootings. A beeline was formed to see the tomb of Mastani due to Bajirao Mastani film. The shooting of one big budget film featuring big stars like Shah Rukh Khan in Aurangabad will give a major boost to the tourism sector.”
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