Hot air balloons to help Maharashtra tourism soar

Mumbai, Oct 22 (IANS): After Rajasthan, Maharashtra will become the second state to have Hot Air Ballooning adventure tourism from Diwali-eve, officials said here Tuesday.

The first ride Oct 29 will carry eight passengers to 4,000 feet above sea level at Lonavala, a hill station around 90 km from here, said Sangram Pawar, director, Rainbow Riderss, the Sky Waltz franchisee operating the hot air balloons.

"We shall operate flights in Lonavala, Pune and surroundings, starting with two balloons. In Mumbai, we may deploy a balloon for special events or promotional only as the city has too many tall buildings to permit free flight," Pawar told IANS.

State Tourism Minister Chhagan Bhujbal, Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation managing director Jagdish Patil, Sky Waltz top executives Samit Garg and Jai Thakore and others were present at the official launch here.

Sky Waltz and MTDC along with Rainbow Riderss have tied up to make the experience of "solitary floating in the clouds" a reality in the Western Ghats.

There will be two one-hour flights daily with a total experience of three hours including how air is filled and a guided tour of the balloon for enthusiasts who can shell out Rs.12,000 per head.

Sky Waltz has a fleet of seven hot air balloons.

"The increasing tourism in the country has provided an impetus for not only development but also introduction of innovative and exciting tourism products," said Bhujbal while launching the new adventure-cum-aero sports in the state, which attracts the highest number of tourists, around six million per year.

Over 15,000 people have soared above the clouds since 2008 when Sky Waltz launched its hot air balloon safaris in Rajasthan.

Incidentally, Sky Waltz is the first Indian company licenced by the ministry of civil aviation to operate commercial hot air balloon flights across the country.


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