Even as we deal with the Covid-19 pandemic — and opening up has become a slow, steady standard operating procedure, the clichéd ‘SoP’ — the Maharashtra government has passed a landmark proposal to catalyse ease of doing business for opening up new hotels and restaurants. The hotel and hospitality industry has been a ‘sponge’ sector, creating more jobs each year and adding to the revenues of the nation and the state. However, this is also a sector that has been most ignored by most governments.
This is no longer the case with Maharashtra. The state is blessed — from beaches and its coastline to urban sprawls, to forts and temples and festivals, each region is so diverse, with its different foods and dialects, and histories and cultural treasures that go back in time. And yet, it is the culture of warmth that binds us all together.
While we have always been hospitable to those who want to discover Maharashtra, we still have an insufficient number of hotels to showcase our hospitality and warmth when compared to many parts of the world. While we have different cuisines that stimulate tastebuds every 50 kilometres, many have not found their way on a menu card in the state’s interiors for tourists and travellers. The biggest reason for this is that the procedure to launch a hotel or a restaurant needed almost 70 licences to be gained through almost 70 different applications and various other self-certifications.
As minister, while I reviewed this with our department, I joked that we should felicitate all hotel and restaurant-owners for braving multiple waves of the ‘SoP’ to seek licences and certifications before they established their venture in the state. There would be multiple departments, multiple stakeholders, offices, files, paperwork and applications and replies to contend with. We decided that this ‘joke’ could no longer go on.
Maharashtra has a status of its own that attracts a lot of investors in terms of industry and hospitality as well. My colleague, state minister Aditi Tatkare, tourism and cultural affairs principal secretary Valsa Nair and the entire department got to work as we held multiple meetings with various departments of the government, and decided to change the status quo and ensure that Maharashtra turns into a key investment sector for hospitality, along with being featured among the ‘easiest to do business in’ in the world.
As we stand today, after the cabinet approval, only 10 licences (formerly 70) are needed to open a hotel in Maharashtra now, via only eight application forms (formerly 70) and nine self-certifications (15 earlier).
More importantly, thereafter, the process will be time-bound, online and transparent. We are also working on deploying a relationship manager for each applicant. Indian culture has always taught us ‘Atithi devo bhava’ (the guest is like god). Simply put, if guests are indeed gods, and hotels temples, why such fuss over — and so many hurdles — building these ‘temples’?
We have now ensured that for hotels, restaurants and resorts, it’s not only facilitating ‘ease of doing business’, but ensuring that it becomes the easiest way of doing business.
The writer is minister for tourism, environment and protocol, government of Maharashtra