Tourism development in India has passed
through many phases. But it was only after the 80's that tourism activity gained
momentum. Prior to that it was being conducted on a very small scale in various parts of
the country for pilgrimage.
The name Maharashtra is believed to be originated from Rathi, which means chariot driver. Maharashtra entered the recorded history in the 2nd century BC, with the construction of its first Buddhist caves. The name, Maharashtra first appeared in 7th century in the account of a contemporary Chinese traveler, Huan Tsang. According to the recorded history, the first Hindu King ruled the state during 6th century, based in Badami.
Initially, tourism in India meant going on pilgrimage tours. The practice of pilgrimage in India is so deeply embedded in the cultural psyche and the number of pilgrimage sites is so large that the entire subcontinent may actually be regarded as one grand and continuous sacred space.
In Maharashtra, taking pilgrimage tours was started by Mr. Dahyabhai, Ambika Yatra in 1950. Mr Pratapbhai Bhatia and Mr Dahyabhai Singhadia were the owners of this venture. Though they expected the Gujarati Community to go with them in large numbers, the fact was that their Pilgrimage tours comprised of 80% Maharashtrian’s and 20% Gujrathi’s.
Later Tours to Char Dham were started in 1957 by Datta Digambar Yatra Company, a Travel venture by Mr Dattaray Digambar Kulkarni. At that point in time, the only mode of transport available was rail. Railways used to assign specially designed coaches for these tours. Capacity of the coach used to be 38 to 42 passengers and included a kitchen, toilet and bathroom. These coaches were called as CTT - CLASS TOURIST THIRD and later upgraded as CTS - CLASS TOURIST SECOND. The backbone of this industry was our Indian Railways who took initiative to promote tourism and offered railway coaches for maximum 30 days. They were flexible and supportive and did extend the duration if required in few cases.
This was followed by a series of similar ventures. One of them was Kishore Travel Services in Pune started by Mr P W Alias Dada Pakhode in 1958. In the year 1960, focus shifted from pilgrimage tours a bit. H K Lala Company ventured into school groups and became the main player to initiate tours to various destinations.
Another area that opened up was Leisure tours. Mr Raja Patil started Raja Travels in 1959 and started family tours to Kashmir & various other parts of India. Around the same time, Mr D M Kirane started Jai Lakshmi Yatra Company and Mr. Joshi started Maharashtra Travel services in Pune with the same objective. In 1964, Royal Tours, Bharat Darshan, Santosh Tours and Aradhana Travels started conducting tours to various destinations.
One of the first tours to Amarnath was conducted by Mr Pakhode , Kishore Travel. Since the destination was accessible only during a particular period and the facilities were limited, it was not an easy task. All tours had the concept of a mobile kitchen that is they moved around with cooks and a full stock of groceries to ensure hygienic and quality food that suited the palates of its travelers.
The year mid 60’s saw a boom of tour operators in the market. All of them used the medium of advertisement in local newspapers to attract tourists. These advertisement campaigns were very interesting and quite competitive. As the market grew and tourism expanded, the demand for railway coaches started increasing. It became very difficult to get rail coach booking. Due to this situation, all agents approached Hon. Balasaheb Thakre to ease out the booking process. This was the first agitation against the railways and took place under the leadership of Hon Balasaheb Thakre, Mr. Raja Patil & Mr. Lala. The agitation was successful and the railway authorities confirmed coaches for all Tour operators within 2 days. This success united the agents on a common platform.
Since all tour operators realized the advantage of being united, all Maharashtra tour operators came together to form the "Maharashtra Tour Organisers' Association" (MTOA) in the year 1969. Shri. Bhagubhai Shah was appointed the first President of this Association. In the subsequent years, this post was handled by Shri. H K Lala, Shri. Balubhai Shah, Shri. P W Pakhode, Shri. Raja Patil, Shri. Kishore Guruji, Shri. Atul Mohile, Shri. Sudhir Patil & now Shri. Prabhulal Joshi.
The objective of the MTOA was to take up issues related to tourism in the various parts of India and provide improved facilities and amenities to the tourists. The Association also took up the railway issue whenever it cropped up. The person who contributed the most in this effort was Shri Bal Saheb Mane - Member of Parliament at that point in time.
In 1994, the Maharashtra Tour Organisers Association was registered as a "Trust" and obtained Registration no. - F16477(Mumbai). The founder members were Shri. Raja Patil, Shri. Kishore Guruji, Shri. Atul Mohile, Shri. Arvind Jog and Shri. Sudhakar Mahajan.
During same time Mr. Kantibhai Patani from Patani Travels conducted inbound Jain Pilgrimage group tours to India from Kenya and South Africa.
During the past years the MTOA handled different issues with various State Tourism Boards such as Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Kerala and various other state and central authorities from time to time.
MTOA has been growing gradually and has added various members from 1980 onwards viz. Contours Travels, Madhuchanda Holidays, Kesari Tours, Heena Tours & Travels, Tanman Tours, Santosh Tours, Girinath Tours, and many more have been added to the MTOA list of members. All these tour operators have been in the industry from quite some time and are contributing majorly in both Domestic & International Tourism.