Picture above: The CM Shri Shivraj Singh Chouhan, addressing the audience at the inauguration.
IT WAS MY first time in Bhopal. I was excited to discover a new city (and the many gems around it). More than the destination, this time I was curious to discover what all is in store for the Madhya Pradesh Travel Mart 2016. I was invited as the online partner for this annual event related to tourism in Madhya Pradesh. As me and my fellow Press colleagues rested in the comfort of the luxurious Marriott, I anticipated in silence what next day has to offere to us. But before the main action began, we were treated to an extravaganza at the Jehan Numa palace. It is more than a hotel. It is a heritage building. The architecture, the hospitality, the exquisite food and the décor transported me to a bygone era of Nawabs and Begums (Read: Royals). MPTM sure started on a pleasant note.
The pianist filled the air with old Bollywood melodies,my favorite being ‘Chowdahvi ka chand ho’, wine flowing, delegates from across the world intermingling, candles lighting up the gardens. Films like Rajniti have been shot here. Madhya Pradesh, I loved the way you treated me and many others from 28 countries and 54 Indian cities. Approximately 70 hosted buyers from 28 countries, 175 domestic buyers from 54 Indian cities and a total of 61 Exhibitors, out of which 50 Sellers / Exhibitors being from Madhya Pradesh, participated in the third edition of M.P. Travel Mart. Presidents of major National Travel Trade Associations like IATO, ADTOI, ATOAI and ITTA also attended the Mart.
“In Madhya Pradesh, it’s very easy to fix the appointment with the chief minister and the tiger!” The CM Shri Shivraj Singh Chouhan, said to an amused audience. The next day, after the inaugural function, the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, the second largest state of India, presented the awards to the stakeholders in tourism industry. “MP tourism is getting lots of awards and we decided to give awards to those who are helping MP achieve all this.” 30 awards were given in 22 categories with Pugdundee safaris bagging 3 of them. The speech was flambouyant and laced with humour and wit, not something which I had expected. As the CM passionately engaged the audience with his vision of tourism in MP, I could see why Madhya Pradesh is doing so good in the tourism sector (and other fields too). MP is great for wildlife tourism. 25 wildlife sanctuaries, 9 national parks, 6 tiger reserves and an untamed landscape qualifies MP as ‘The Africa of India’. Most of these National Parks have world class facilities and some of the most luxurious resorts and hotels in India.
The discussions on the stage centered around the achievements of Madhya Pradesh in the field of tourism, the future plans and the still untapped potential of the many ‘hidden gems’ in the state. After all, MP has much more to offer apart from the best National Parks of India. Think the heritage legacy of Orchcha,Mandu, Gwalior, the famous erotic art on the temples of Khajuraho, Tribal belts, the 7000 years old rock art and paintings in Bhimbhetka, the Sanchi Stupa which dates back to the times of Emperor Asoka, the great!
Post the address by the CM, the buyers, sellers and the media interacted with each other in a comfortable environment. More than 1900 business meetings took place over 2 days in the kiosks set up in the lawns of Hotel Lake View Ashok, Bhopal. In the capacity of a travel blogger/write/photographer, I met many resorts owners, stalls of the Travel Magazines like National Geographic Traveler India and Discover India and even tourism boards like MP tourism board, Telangna Tourism Board, Gujarat Tourism Board etc.
We were treated with another grand dinner in the lawns of the luxury property Sayaji Hotels. Good food, nice choice in mocktails and cocktails, tribal song and dances, even a live DJ made it a memorable night. My fellow blogger friend Parnashree Devi did not want to leave. I was accompanied by Ms. Sailaja Revur and Mr. Rahul Bhatia who regaled us with stories and adventures from his travels of many decades.
On the morning of the 3rd day, we were taken on a Heritage walk in the old part of the city. I was surprised to discover the rich history of the unassuming city. The poha paradise that Bhopal is I loved bingeing on the Poha, black jalebi and special tea of the famous Raju Tea Stall during the Heritage Walk! The next day we geared up for the FAM trips (Familiarisation trip) to the jungles of Satpura and the hill station Pachmarhi. Since I have always had an inclination for the offbeat, I chose these two out of many tempting destinations which MP tourism Board offered me. Again, great company, good animal sightings, a stay in Colonial heritage hotel and a pleasant weather had me hooked. I was very curious to see more of Madhya Pradesh, so I made sure I don’t leave the state without paying a visit to Bhimbhetka, Sanchi Stupa and a very interesting detour to Sehore, a village near Bhopal which is making all the difference in the ‘Clean India campaign’. I will be writing all this in separate blogs. Stay tuned for the exclusive stories, videos and pictures. !
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