Narrating how the differential factors of Madhya Pradesh can reach the global audience in travel space, Priyadarshini Raje Scindia, Cultural Curator, Storyteller & the Maharani of Gwalior articulated the pivotal role of immersive storytellers.
“The audience exists, but the challenge is in bringing in adept storytellers. The eventual goal is to bring these skilled storytellers to MP, create a community like Friends of MP, involve stakeholders, and attract luxury travellers eager for curated experiences,” she said.
In an era dominated by ephemeral social media narratives, Scindia highlighted the allure of individuals like Maroof Umar, a Heritage Storyteller. “His storytelling about Lucknow’s daals feels like a series of love stories, enticing me to experience that locale,” she said.
Her eventual vision for MP, she said, was to emulate such storytelling mastery.
Recalling another session from the ET Travel & Tourism Conclave where she was speaking during a fireside chat, she pointed how an individual highlighted an interesting point, emphasizing that Indians are willing to pay the price for luxury and convenience. “He mentioned how there are those prepared to spend generously, up to two lakhs a night. The challenge, as he framed it, is how to entice these individuals to Madhya Pradesh. It’s a fascinating opportunity for us to introduce such discerning travel;ers to an exclusively curated luxury experience—a chance for them to witness the majestic wildlife, reside in opulent palaces, partake in crafting Chanderi sarees, weaving intricate carpets, indulging in handblock painting, cooking sessions, or even engaging in creative writing,” she stated.
Embracing Holistic experiences: When asked, Priyadarshini emphasised the shift from conventional luxury to boutique properties, where storytelling and personal connections prevail over opulent amenities.
“The challenge arises with larger properties possessing extensive resources; curating personalised experiences for a vast number of visitors becomes a more intricate task. Yet, the landscape of our travel preferences has shifted. Our initial stop is no longer confined to a five-star hotel. There’s been a transformation—a shift towards accommodations that aren’t just spaces but storytellers themselves,” she reiterated.
They open doors to communities, unveil narratives, and provide a gateway to world-class experiences, said Scindia, adding whether one’s budget amounts to a modest 1000 rupees per night or extends to a lavish lakh per night, the essence of the experience remains parallel.
For her, the heart of luxury lies in exploring a city or town’s flavours, engaging with locals, even a casual conversation with a taxi driver or a paan vala, giving a treasure trove of stories.
“When it comes to travel, taking a step back is crucial. It’s about exploring places that might be off the beaten path, encountering experiences beyond our daily routines, and meeting individuals with diverse backgrounds. India’s incredible diversity in language, cuisine, and values, from south to Ladakh, showcases its captivating allure,” she added.
Tailoring experiences; empowering communities: In her quest to shine a spotlight on Madhya Pradesh’s hidden treasures, Scindia also revealed her passion project, Aaranya, a Gwalior-based brand.
With Aaranya, she aimed to spotlight the vibrant culture and craftsmanship of Madhya Pradesh. “During the pandemic’s tail end when we launched the brand, we noticed incredible work happening in MP across various mediums—crafts, furniture, art—and aimed to showcase these to the world. Unfortunately, MP missed out on tourist attention, overshadowed by Rajasthan in the royal experience narrative. MP, bordered by Gujarat, Maharashtra, UP, and Chattisgarh, harbours diverse cultures from these states, each with its unique palaces and cuisines,” she said.
Celebrating these nuances is crucial for MP’s identity, she added.
When curating a luxury trip, especially for friends visiting Gwalior, it boils down to selecting the right guide. Her brand initiatives, therefore, involve training programs for guides and coaching the craftsmen, aiming to bridge the gap between local artisans and tourists. “We’re also directing certain stores and eateries to align their stories with our vision of creating a unified, welcoming narrative for all of MP.”
According to Scindia, the goal is to create a unified narrative that celebrates MP’s artistry, culinary heritage, language diversity, and overall hospitality.
Community development forms the bedrock of MP’s appeal:
Scindia, during her concluding remarks, extended a compelling invitation to the travellers to experience Madhya Pradesh through her insightful lens. She took pride in the heritage of indigenous craft brands originating from MP, showcasing a legacy that spans centuries and also including handblock printing, a tradition deeply rooted for over three centuries. Adorning the unique prints in the past, she recalled how she corrected misconceptions of their origin, proudly highlighting them as exclusive MP motifs, separate from Jaipur’s famed designs.
While also acknowledging the impressive wildlife roster—Black Panthers, tigers, leopards, Bandhavgarh’s annual migration of dragonflies from Africa and the recently introduced cheetahs, she painted a vivid picture of the state’s wildlife.
“The challenge lies in harmonising these facets, crafting an appealing 10-day experience for travellers, amalgamating the elements that define the essence of Madhya Pradesh,” she said.
“Community development forms the bedrock of MP’s allure,” she stressed. “The establishment of robust infrastructure—functioning roads, trains, and flights—marks substantial progress,” she added.
Scindia mentioned that the current focus should be on seeking collaborations from hotels and properties, eager to invest and collaborate with families across MP, which can help craft unparalleled visitor experiences in the state.
Scindia spoke candidly during her fireside chat moderated by Suhavini Singh, Founder, India Culture Hub at the Economic Times Travel & Tourism Conclave’s second edition. The event was held on November 30, 2023, in New Delhi, featured extensive panel discussions, industry reviews, and engaging fireside chats.