Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation is setting new standards in the Indian tourism sector. Smt. Valsa Nair Singh, IAS, Principal Secretary, Tourism and Cultural Affairs, Government of Maharashtra has taken innovative steps to weave entrepreneurship with tourism and has successfully undertaken several initiatives towards empowering women around various tourist spots in the State. She has encouraged many SHGs to undertake production and selling of handicrafts in a systematic manner leading many to successfully turn their lives around. She was recently conferred with ‘Celebrating Her’ Award at ITB Berlin 2016 in recognition of her work and being an epitome of women empowerment in the tourism sector. She is also actively involved in skill development initiatives in the industry. In a chat with Archana Sinha, Smt. Nair talks about her work in the area of women empowerment.
Skill India is an important drive. Is MTDC equipping its employees and communities with better skills to be at par with international standards?
The government’s flagship scheme incentivises skill training by providing financial rewards to candidates who successfully complete approved skill training programmes. MTDC is closely working with the scheme’s objective of skill certification and reward to enable and mobilise a large number of Indian youth to take up outcome-based skill training, become employable and earn a livelihood. We are facilitating the Ministry of India’s
What are the initiatives you have taken to empower women in the tourism sector &the community in which your CSR work is going on?
Special initiatives have been made in the Tourism Policy for units run by women entrepreneurs to give them more exposure in this field. Special awards have also been given to them at Maharashtra Travel Mart in recognition of their contribution.
There is a lot of scope in developing art and craft industry and cultural affairs as an ancillary industry to tourism for sustainability and livelihood generation. Are you also doing something in these areas for women empowerment?
The SHGs run by women entrepreneurs are a big source of the Bread & Breakfast (B&B) scheme promoted by the department. They also contribute to authentic souvenirs which reflect the culture of Maharashtra. We are also promoting Maharashtrian cuisine through these groups. More and more such groups and individuals have come forward with ideas to contribute to the development.
We are facilitating the Ministry of India’s Hunar Se Rozgar Tak programme. In association with hospitality institutes like IHM-Mumbai, MTDC has carried out various hospitality courses comprising of six to eight weeks duration such as food production, food and beverages, bakery and patisserie, and housekeeping utility
Hunar Se Rozgar Tak programme. In association with hospitality institutes like IHM-Mumbai, MTDC has carried out various hospitality courses comprising of six to eight weeks duration such as food production, food and beverages, bakery and patisserie, and housekeeping utility. This initiative enables the underprivileged youth to opt for a free of cost certified training course and enter the hospitality sector with more confidence and exposure. In another initiative, training has also been provided to SSC-passed youths as drivers and tour guides to make them employable in the tourism sector. Under this scheme, we have provided monetary reward to trainees who are successfully trained, assessed and certified in skill courses run by affiliated training providers. These initiatives give them certification and polish their working skills helping making them more productive and provide better service in the industry.
Is this scheme also implemented in communities and villages that are located near tourist spots?
MTDC has conducted various courses at Pune, Nasik, Baramati and Nagpur regions under the ‘Hunar Se Rozgar Tak’ scheme which has benefitted thousands of students belonging to low socio-economic strata. Students from remote villages around tourist places which hold some of the key tourist attractions of Maharashtra have also enrolled for this scheme.
Employment generation schemes are also possible in the resorts and hotels of MTDC. Are these also included among your initiatives?
There is no specific employment generation scheme conducted at MTDC Resorts as of now. But the Hunar Se Rozgar Tak initiative facilitated by us ensures that each candidate is well skilled to secure a job in this industry. We have recruited few candidates at our resorts post completion of their certification courses.
You were conferred the ‘Celebrating Her’ Award at ITB Berlin 2016 in recognition of your work on women empowerment in the tourism sector. Share with us more about this.
The International Institute of Peace Through Tourism (IIPT) India awards ‘Celebrating Her’ 2016 in partnership with ITB Berlin, UNWTO, WTTC, PATA, SKAL International, ICTP and MITM focused on women achievers across the globe. It is a great honor to receive this coveted and prestigious ‘Celebrating Her’– Global Award For Empowered Women In Tourism at ITB Berlin 2016. This award intended to acknowledge and celebrate exceptional women in the field of travel, tourism and hospitality will further motivate me to persistently contribute to the tourism sector with utmost devotion. Receiving this award sends out a positive message to women not only pertaining to hospitality or tourism industry but also to women working in different fields that we are capable of being financially, socially and economically independent and are great multi-taskers. Armed with focus and determination, women can conquer any challenge or hurdle to reach the pinnacle.
What were the guidelines for the selection process? How tough was the competition?
Individuals who have demonstrated strong personal values and determination to make a difference were chosen and recognised. They also need to be celebrated as role models for the younger generation. The process of the awards nomination was very stringent and had been styled on the basis of the UNWTO’s mechanism of scouting for achievers across diverse activities who have, in their unique way, created innovative products and services that can be considered exemplary towards helping others whilst setting up and managing a business professionally and in line with the best international practices.