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Tuesday, 07 February, 2017, 16 : 31 PM [IST]

Maharashtra’s Loss, MP’s Gain...

disha During my recent visit to the Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra, I encountered a couple from Kenya who were on a visit to India only to witness the Royal Bengal tiger. Having failed to spot the big cat on two occasions, luck favoured them on the third attempt. I was amazed that despite having seen the Big 5 from close quarters, they were gung-ho about their safari experience in Tadoba because of the probability of witnessing the majestic cat. While this is encouraging for Maharashtra, a prominent destination on the tiger tourism map of the country, the state authorities need a reality check.

Despite a 12% growth in population of the tigers in Maharashtra in 2015, Maharashtra lags behind its Madhya Pradesh counterpart in terms of offering a world-class product. The rural feel of the safari and the romance of seeing the tiger fall flat when a visitor is not offered an opportunity to connect with the jungle. While exploring the rustic beauty, whether one spots the tiger or not, a tourist relies on the knowledge of experts who act as messengers of the forest and its native fauna. These experts are the safari jeep guides, the torchbearers of tiger tourism. Therefore, in most cases, guides are appointed from the local population because of their inherent knowledge about the forest and its daily life. The entire safari experience can turn into a disaster if the guide isn’t able to share his knowledge on what the jungle has to offer.

Maharashtra, particularly the Vidarbha region, is touted as the destination for tiger tourism and Nagpur as the tiger capital of India because of its close proximity to a host of reserves and national parks. With the growing popularity of tiger tourism domestically as well as among foreign tourists, and Nagpur being on the international aviation map, it is imperative that the state undertakes concerted efforts to offer an experience at par with its peers. There is need to provide proper training and launch skill development programmes for guides to inculcate in them a professional approach while interacting with the visitors. Also, to support the tiger tourism initiative, it is essential to improve road infrastructure and basic signages have to be displayed at regular intervals to guide tourists visiting these tiger hotbeds. The jungle experience needs altogether a different approach considering it is a natural playground, and therefore there is need for proper management to satisfy a visitor’s expectations and offer an exceptional experiential product.

The continued disregard for improving basic services of guides and the lackadaisical attitude in promoting tiger tourism on the national and global levels would divert visitors to the improved and professionally managed reserves, crushing the opportunity that Maharashtra is sitting on. What the state needs is a definitive strategy in place to promote tiger tourism as one of its many facets.

Disha Shah Ghosh
Chief Sub-Editor
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