The sector which is still reeling under the stress caused by the outbreak of COVID-19 witnessed a sense of relief in the state of Maharashtra where the government came out with different policies to uplift the tourism sector in the state. Tourism is one of the fastest-growing and largest employment generators in the state. To continue with the same trend, when the governments across states and the central government are busy tackling the COVID-19 situation, the Maharashtra government went a step ahead and continued to support the other sectors with policies that were long-awaited.
The honorable Cabinet Minister, Mr. Aaditya Thackeray in an urge to uplift the urban and rural tourism in the state has come out with different initiatives like Caravan services, Agro-tourism, industry status, and reducing the license requirement for setting up a new establishment.
With all these initiatives the government has aimed to create a balance between urban and rural development. This in turn will help promote the rural economy by promoting entrepreneurship and employment in the rural areas. The reduction in-licenses from 70 to 10 to open a business was aimed towards bringing ease of doing business and reducing the time to set up a new establishment under the tourism sector.
To keep up with the changing trends, MTDC in association with Motohom (Moving hotels on Wheels) has launched the caravan services. The initiative is primarily focused on those who like to spend their holidays outdoor and independently. This will allow people to explore the wilderness that Maharashtra has to offer.
The agro-tourism policy of Maharashtra will invigorate the rural sector and agricultural practitioners with a steady source of an alternative income and alternative employment through tourism like farm stays, local cuisines, and cultural aspects. Though the agro-tourism policy has been across multiple countries already, Maharashtra has taken a lead in India to implement such a policy.
Individual farmers, agriculture cooperative societies, agriculture research centers, agriculture universities, or farmer companies can set up agro-tourism centers. The Tourism Department will certify these centers after which they can be eligible for loans and other tax benefits. The requirements to register under the policy include owning an area of two to five acres with residential arrangements and facilities for meal supply.
The much-awaited industry status provided for the tourism sector will ensure a reduction in operational cost which can in turn act as one of the best support provided by the government during these times. In the first phase of developments, the industry status will provide a rebate in the property taxes, electricity charges as well as water charges.
All the establishments classified as hotels by the Union Ministry of Tourism will be eligible for the benefits under the newly awarded status and will be able to reap the benefits from 1st April 2021.
As of today, there are approximately 110 hotels across the one to five-star categories in Maharashtra which are classified by the Ministry of Tourism. As the classification is optional, the majority of hotel owners have not opted for it. So to provide benefits to them as well, the committee is expected to suggest norms that will be finalized by the state later on.
The tourism sector contributes nearly 10% to the GSDP of Maharashtra and is one of the biggest employment generators for the state. The move of the state government will ensure the hospitality sector sails out smoothly from the rough patch that it currently is in.