On World Tourism Day, here is what the district administration and Local Body have in store for visitors
Come October, the Temple City will be buzzing again with tourists. It is the beginning of a new season and the district administration, Department of Tourism and the Local Body have taken a slew of measures to welcome this year’s visitors.
Three new parks were inaugurated, at the Thirumalai Naick Palace, near the Shopping Complex Bus Stand and on the East and North Chithirai Street junction. The Eco Park at Tirupparankundram has exclusive space marked for cultural performances.
“For any big city open areas provide the breathing space,” says District Collector Anshul Mishra. “As per the rule the property developer has to allocate a minimum 10 per cent of the total layout area as open space reserve (OSR). Already we have asked the Local Body to identify all the OSRs in the city and retrieve them. The Local Body has to draw a plan to develop these open spaces into green pockets in the next four to five years.”
Creating parks alone will not suffice as maintaining them is also important. “If this is difficult then maintenance could be outsourced,” suggests Anshul Mishra. “It may look easy but it is not so in reality, as maintenance involves regular cleaning, weeding, cutting the grass, watering, ensuring adequate water supply and security.”
“We have already entrusted the job of maintaining the new parks in the city to the banking sector,” says Madurai Mayor V.V. Rajan Chellappa. “Efforts are also on to beautify the Vaigai River bund roads and a proposal has been sent to Government for laying an exclusive path for the heritage walk from Thirumalai Naick Palace to the temple,” he says.
The district administration has devised a comprehensive sanitation plan through which it will construct adequate modern sanitary complexes for tourists. There is also a plan to beautify the railway junction area.
“Madurai has become a transit point for the visiting foreigners,” says G. Vasudevan, past president, Travel Club and Director, Fortune Pandiyan Hotel. “They come on an afternoon flight, visit the Temple, stay here overnight and leave for Thanjavur or the neighbouring hill stations the next day. Our effort is to retain them at least for a couple of days.”
“It would be great if we have an exclusive eating-out area with cultural programmes scheduled in the Thirumalai Naick Palace, where we can serve dinner for our guests staying in hotels,” suggests Vasudevan. “When palaces in Jaipur and Mysore are converted into hotels why not a small space in the palace be allotted?” he asks.
The programmes organised by the Tourism Department should be communicated well in advance, he feels. “They travel in groups and their itinerary is fixed,” he says. “They don’t like any change in their schedule. Planning has to be right in place and well ahead, only then participation will be better. We have been stressing for calendar of events of the Meenakshi Amman Temple at least six months in advance. A small museum could be developed inside Pudhu Mandapam with proper lighting facilities showcasing the brilliant architecture.”
The district administration is in favour of organising cultural programmes at the Pudhu Mandapam once the traders vacate the area. It has also sent a proposal to revive the Street Corner Festival, a series of folk performances which became so popular with tourists as well as the public. The Department of Tourism has also planned to organise one-day tours to Rameswaram and Kodaikanal.
There are many historical sites with Jain sculptures and rock-cut beds around the city, and an exclusive Jain circuit is likely to attract tourists. “It is a good idea and I will look into this matter,” says Anshul Mishra. “We have planned to bring out a coffee table book on Madurai and will also open a website for Department of Tourism, Madurai.”
Once the local community is sensitised on the historical significance of monuments, they will take care of them for life, feels Vasudevan. He also wants the district administration to involve all the stakeholders of tourism at the planning stage. “We will be happy to cooperate with the administration and beautify the heritage walk path along with the local shopkeepers,” he says.
With the buoyant hospitality industry enjoying a 7 to 10 per cent increase in city room bookings compared to last year, it is time the district administration and Local Body execute their plans.
Says Anshul Mishra,“To mark the World Tourism Day, the Department of Tourism will organise a heritage walk from the Thirumalai Naick Palace to the temple.”